A couple weeks ago I attended the Mobile Banking and Payments Summit in NYC for the first time. There was an impressive list of experts from institutions such as JPMC, Barclays, Citibank, BNP Paribas, the Federal Reserve, USAA, Capital One, BBVA, and Moven, among others. I was only able to attend the final day, but it didn’t disappoint. The day focused mostly on mobile wallets, with a few main points shared below:
Mobile wallets have been challenged by industry barriers: The old rule of thumb with a payments scheme is that it needs to please three parties: the merchant, the bank, and the consumer. These products and solutions have traditionally fallen short of one or more of these objectives, essentially stalling a lot of the progress.
- There’s still plenty of fragmentation in the market: Android is an open system utilizing Host Card Emulation (HCE), while Apple is a closed system using a secure element. There are others beyond that, but it’s largely contributed to a lack of standardization and unimpressive overall adoption. We know this is largely understood by banks and merchants, and many are willing to play along for the time being.
- Consumers can misunderstand mobile wallets: Many users of Apple Pay, for example, have a poor understanding of how the system actually works, with many assuming Apple is in control of their card details. While the system is safer than traditional cards, the perception that it’s less safe is keeping many users from adopting it.
- Getting the marketing right is tough: Often, the mobile wallet really isn’t about the payment so much as the experience around the payment. It might be easier or there might be a whole host of incentives like rewards wrapped around it. The potential is there, but until recently the market hasn’t been.
- But many barriers are beginning to fall away, and there’s hope for adoption: For years, the industry has been declaring that FINALLY this year will be the year mobile wallets take off. The industry has been crying wolf for a long time, but there are some promising developments that hope to make mobile wallets a larger share of the payments universe. Currently in the US, 55% of merchants have updated their payment terminals, and 70% of consumers have chip cards. The chip card does a lot for security, but the argument is that it adds friction to the checkout experience. With the card dip taking away from the user experience, the expectation is that mobile wallets will finally offer enough UX improvement over traditional cards that consumers might opt for them during payment. It’s also reported that more than 50% of millennials have already used a mobile wallet at least once. This includes Apple Pay, Android Pay, or Samsung Pay. The growth in adoption with younger consumers is a good sign that broader adoption might not be too far behind.
My colleague Zil Bareisis has written about this quite a bit, and agrees that adoption could be driven by the emergence of EMV as well as an increase in handsets that support wallet payments.Wallets are also striking partnerships to add value, including introducing merchant loyalty, coupons, etc.The launch of Walmart Pay is a great example of a retailer applying these concepts internally, facilitating even greater adoption. For more information see any of the number of reports Zil has written on the topic.
Midsize institutions have a few paths to follow implementing a mobile wallet: Banks want to be a part of the adoption, but have so far taken a wait and see approach, unsure about the potential of existing wallets, and still trying to figure out what it means for them as the issuing bank. There are three primary ways a midsize or smaller bank can try to launch a wallet:
- Building an internal wallet: This provides the most control, customization, flexibility of functionality, and control over the release schedule. The drawbacks are that it can be a complicated task, a large investment is required, the institution needs sufficient subject matter expertise in-house, and there would be no Apple NFC support.
- Buying a turnkey white label wallet: A turnkey solution would have the benefit of being plug-and-play, there would be some customization options, functionality would be built in, fewer resources would be involved, and the vendor would provide some subject matter expertise. There would, however, be less control over the product, the wallet could be processor dependant, and the roadmap wouldn’t be controlled by the institution.
- Participating in an existing wallet: For many this is the road that will result in the largest adoption. The options are fairly universal, with Samsung, Apple, and Android offering networks here. Its plug and play, easy to get traction, includes a lot of choice, and frictionless. The drawbacks are mainly the lack of customization options or control over the direction of the wallet.
We often say that we go to these conferences so that our subscribers don’t have to. This is just a short summary of the day, and obviously there was much more detail shared. We encourage all of our readers to attend these events, but will be there in case they can’t make it.
A few weeks ago I attended Finovate Fall 2016 with a few different colleagues of mine in New York. For those who’ve never been, Finovate hosts three main events (New York, San Francisco, and London) where more than 70 fintech companies are able to present new concepts, services, or products in a rapid 7-minute format. Traditionally, the San Francisco event has catered to more of the pure start-ups, while the New York event gives larger, more established vendors the opportunity to show off their newest ideas, although typically there’s a bit of a mix between each.
As a temperature gauge for the industry, I don't think there’s a better event. The ideas generally reflect where the industry is at in its thinking, and what the major trends are for fintech. For example, 2-3 years ago the hot topic was PFM, big data, and mobile wallets. Last year, mobile onboarding, customer acquisition schemes, and AI were the most prevalent. Parsing through the hype and the reality is typically one of the more fun aspects of attending. This year I noticed a few things that caught my attention:
- Chatbots, Natural Language Processing (NLP), and general communication solutions were common: Companies like TokBox, Personetics, Kore, and Clinc were some of the more compelling examples here. These solutions were prominent in 2015, but the biggest change was the maturity of their capabilities. Last year, what stood out to most attendees were the many demos that fell flat. A handful of presentations completely bombed on-stage, and even those that made it through the process were often shaky and the inputs looked too rigid. These technologies have advanced quite a bit in the last year, and the proposition for banks is becoming much more attractive.
- PFM was hidden behind data analytics: PFM hasn't been a discussion topic in the industry for quite some time. The initial round of PFM deployments were troubled by poor execution and unmet expectations by financial institutions that piloted them. Many financial institutions we’ve spoken to become immediately sceptical of a vendor solution that even uses the term. Celent has been talking for some time about PFM merging with online banking and essentially becoming the landing page. What was traditional PFM (spending breakdowns, budgeting, savings goals, etc.) is now just digital banking. New methods of financial management demoed at Finovate, however, show PFM under disguise as platforms that leverage data analytics. MapD was one that stood out. Clean data has always been the holy grail for PFM, and it’s always been one of the biggest issues. More solutions focused on getting the data analytics right, creating financial value for the consumer, and cleverly disguising what should have been PFM from the beginning: insights unpinned by advanced analytics.
- Not many payments products or solutions leveraging blockchain: Surprising to me were the lack of payments startups as well as any startup leveraging blockchain. My thinking is that many of the solutions around blockchain are still in their early days, and probably not ready for prime time. Also, while I know of a number of startups leveraging the technology, they are more bleeding edge, and may have been attracted to the spring Finovate, which focuses much more on early-stage fintech companies. The lack of payments schemes was also a surprise, but it could be that Apple Pay has taken some of the wind out of the sails of fintech companies trying to solve very similar issues. Mobile wallets and payment products typically require a lot of industry leverage to make work. You have to satisfy the merchants, the banks, and the consumers, and most have failed to reach sufficient scale. Many in the industry said it would have had to be a larger more established firm, and indeed the launch of Apple Pay confirmed that prediction.
Finovate continues to offer great insight into where the industry is at and where it’s heading. We’ll continue to attend these events and provide some more analysis. Feel free to comment on your perceptions, if any, from the event.
- Breaking down omnichannel applications for financial services: Omnichannel within banking was a popular talking point between attendees and among presenters, and it´s obvious there´s still more than enough ambiguity around its application in the context of banking. One of the presentations used non-FI examples to look at how banks can approach integrating omnichannel into customer interactions. Home Depot was an interesting case study. The retailer combines the in-store and app experience to enhance the customer buying process. Customers can browse the app and make a list of the materials they need. The app shows only what´s in stock at the nearest physical location, and each item is given a corresponding aisle number for easy location on arrival. While in the store, customers can scan QR codes on each product to bring up specific measurements and statistics. This is the essence of an omnichannel experience. It´s not about doing everything from every channel—it´s about optimizing the customer experience across the variety of methods used to interact with the retailer (or bank).
- Community banks differentiating from large institutions: This was a common thread running throughout the presentations. How do community banks grow deposits in a climate of shrinking deposit share? Presenters proposed some solutions. One spoke of the need to market correctly. A recent study found that despite problems with megabank perception, 73% of those asked said a recognizable brand was important in choosing a financial institution. A regional bank poll of millennials found that not one could name a community institution in their area. These institutions find it hard to inform consumers about the value they provide, and often lacking the resources and experience to do so. A few small institutions spoke about shifting towards serving small businesses. Despite only having 20% of deposits, community banks are responsible for 60% of small business loans. Focusing on small businesses could be a way for small institutions to remain viable, without having to drastically alter their businesses.
- eCommerce and Merchant Funded Rewards (MFR) through mobile banking to help consumers save: During one of the sessions, a banker made a good point: consumers don´t need help spending, they need help saving. The comment reflected a number of discussions about the role financial institutions can play in helping consumers save money, but was echoed across a handful of presentations on digital commerce. US Bank discussed Peri, its eCommerce app developed in cooperation with Monitise, while other presenters spoke about card-linked and MFR propositions. These initiatives are definitely innovative, but is conflating the ideas of saving and driving commerce shaping the conversation around a fundamentally misaligned approach? First, will a bank´s eCommerce app be able to compete with the likes of Amazon and Google? Banks often do not have the customers, data, or pricing competitiveness to match big online retailers, and they seldom win on brand favourability. Second, even when these initiatives are successful, do they really help people save? For many, the data isn´t targeted enough for banks to offer deals on purchases a consumer was going to make anyway. For example, based on one bank´s demo, a customer would go to make a purchase at a retailer and the bank app would push out a geo-located card-linked offer for a nearby restaurant. This requires additional spending. Without the right data, these programs are mostly playing off impulse purchasing, not saving.
- May 22: Payments Innovation 2014, Tech UK and the UK Payments Council
- June 10-11: Digital Banking, Marketforce
- June 23-24: Innovation in Payments, Marketforce