Looking back on Money 20/20

Looking back on Money 20/20
Last week my colleague Dan Latimore and I were at Money 20/20, which in four short years has become a “must attend” event in payments and Fintech. I’ve been there at the very beginning and it has been exciting to watch it grow from about 1,000 of us in the first year to over 10,000 this year. Congratulations to the Money 20/20 team for this incredible achievement! And thank you to all of those who took time out of their busy schedules to meet with us. As I was reflecting back on the last week, I realised that it’s no longer possible to take in all of Money 20/20. In the first year, even with parallel session tracks, you could absorb a lot of what was happening “by osmosis”, just walking the floors of Aria. As the event grew and moved to a much more spacious Venetian, somewhat paradoxically, the experiences got more individual, depending on which sessions and keynotes you attended, which booths you visited and which people you met. Here are some of my key takeaways:
  1. Perhaps the biggest and most talked-about announcement of the show was Chase Pay and its partnership with MCX. Chase is developing a wallet that will be available to all of its 94 million cardholders to use in-store, in-app and online. The wallet is not planning to use NFC at the POS, with QR codes set to be a most likely method, and as a result will be available on any smartphone device, irrespective of its operating system. On the merchant side, Chase is offering a fixed fee processing which will make merchant costs more reliable and predictable with an opportunity to “earn it down” based on volume. Partnership with MCX gives Chase Pay access to the largest merchants in the country. In addition to a stand-alone app, Chase Pay will also be available as a payment option inside CurrentC, the wallet that MCX has been piloting in Columbus OH, the results of which were presented and greeted with a tentative applause during another keynote at Money 20/20.
  2. Mobile payments market in the US is only getting more complex, with Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay already there, more “Pays” on the way (e.g. LG Pay), and now Chase Pay and revived expectations of CurrentC. Make no mistake – while most “pays” look similar, they offer a different customer experience (e.g. how to trigger payment, where it is accepted, etc.) and require issuers to adapt their processes to each of them. At the show, I picked up strong signals from issuers that they want to have more control over digital payments and are looking at various options, including HCE wallets, to achieve that.
  3. The Tokenisation panel was one of the best sessions I attended with panelists from the networks, issuers, merchants and processors sharing their views how tokenisation is going to evolve. It includes tokenisation for cards-on-file and e-commerce transactions (both Visa and MasterCard announced tokenisation of their Checkout and MasterPass wallets respectively), new approach to 3D Secure, introduction of Payment Account Reference (PAR) – a non transactable ID that ties together all the tokens, and tokenisation for DDAs which The Clearing House is working on. According the panelists, tokenisation is the much-needed “abstraction layer” that will be a “foundation for the next 20 years of innovation.”
  4. Biometrics are entering mainstream, with FIDO alliance laying the groundwork for how to deploy biometrics for authentication. Sorting through a myriad of biometrics providers and approaches (e.g. fingerprints, hands, voice, eyes, etc.) is a headache and eventually, it will be consumers that will decide which approach works best for them. FIDO alliance delivers a standard irrespective of what the consumers choose. Looking into the future, the panelists envisaged a behavioural approach where the providers use a number of data points to constantly verify that the user behaviour is consistent with a typical pattern and authenticates automatically in the background, a process called “ambient authentication.”
  5. Conversations about cryptocurrencies have matured enormously over the last 12-18 months. The focus is now very clearly on blockchain technology and how the financial services industry can best deploy it. A number of exciting partnerships are emerging in this space, from TD Bank and RBC working with Ripple on domestic and cross-border P2P payments as well as more efficient transfers between subsidiaries, to Nasdaq’s partnership with Chain, to the R3 consortium. Perhaps the most exciting demo I’ve seen was Visa’s connected car experience, where the driver could review the new leasing document on the screen, sign it, register it on a blockchain and drive off. Time will tell if this is how we will be getting to drive cars in the future, but it only shows the opportunities out there.
Finally, I’ve been asking others at the show what they thought were the key themes. Interestingly, two themes came up very consistently – innovation and focus on customer experience. The latter manifests itself in so many different ways, from making it easy and intuitive for consumers to pay to solving very specific merchant problems, whether it’s around acceptance and security (Verifone, Ingenico, Poynt), conversion rates (BlueSnap, Affirm), lending (PayPal, LendUp) or seamless integration of payments into the overall proposition (Stripe, First Data). The third theme seemed to be a little more contentious. Some said it was all about disruption, while others talked about collaboration. I actually agree with both – to me they are two sides of the same coin. The disruption in FS is real, but many find that the way to deal with it is through collaboration. Few, if any, have talked about demolishing the world as we know it today; instead, all are focused on how to make it better. I know I only scratched the surface here. For example, there were also some very interesting announcements about domestic P2P/push payments such as Early Warning buying clearXchange, Dwolla partnering with CME Group, and The Clearing House working with Vocalink. And companies like Earthport, PayCommerce and Ripple are making an impact on cross-border payments. But as I said, it’s impossible to take it all in, and no write-up can do full justice to Money 20/20 – you just have to be there… See you next year in Vegas or perhaps even in Copenhagen at Money 20/20 Europe!

Now it’s Facebook’s Turn to Enter P2P Payments

Now it’s Facebook’s Turn to Enter P2P Payments
A couple of weeks ago, Facebook announced it would bring P2P payments to its Messenger platform for customers in the US. According to a Finextra article:
“To send money through the free new feature, users start a message with a friend, tap a ‘$’ icon, enter an amount, and then hit the pay button. The first time a payment is made, people are prompted to add their Visa or MasterCard debit card details. For subsequent payments, users have the option of creating a PIN. To receive money sent to them, recipients open the conversation and tap ‘Add Card’ in the message and – the first time – add their debit card.”
Facebook’s announcement should not come as a surprise – rumours of a possible entry into payments have been swirling around since David Marcus, former CEO of PayPal, joined Facebook to run its mobile messaging business. Many other social platforms, such as Snapchat and Line have introduced P2P payments capabilities, while PayPal’s Venmo, a very popular P2P service also places social as a key element of its value proposition. At Celent, we have been talking for some time about “contextual payments”, where payments are embedded deeply into the overall context of the customer’s activity and becomes a seamless part of the customer’s digital and physical experience. Uber and AirBnB apps are often given as examples of such contextual payments. Facebook is also a provider of a unique digital experience – a social community exchanging messages, photos, and videos. Extending the service to the exchange of money is a natural next step. Consumer P2P payments are notoriously difficult to monetise – most services are free for consumers with providers charging fees typically only when loading funds from credit cards. However, if Facebook can persuade customers to register their cards, more commercial opportunities are likely to follow. The company already has a powerful analytical platform, which can help merchants reach consumers with targeted messages. Back in July 2014, Facebook said they were testing a “Buy” button, which would allow customers to buy goods directly from Facebook. Of course, Facebook is a global platform with users all over the world. Bringing P2P to its global community would represent a really interesting opportunity, albeit with significant regulatory and technical hurdles. Only time will tell the extent of Facebook ambitions. In the meantime, the US consumers are getting spoiled with choice on how to send each other money.

Google entering UK P2P payments

Google entering UK P2P payments
Last week Google announced that it will be rolling its email based money transfer system to the UK. The feature was launched about two years ago in the US and allowed those with a Gmail account to hover over a $ sign and add money to an email message like an attachment. It is expected that it would work similarly in the UK, with a $ sign naturally replaced by £. Why now? Why P2P, and not, for example, HCE-based NFC payments, ahead of the expected Apple Pay launch? We admit we don’t have insights into Google strategies (and if we did, we couldn’t blog about it), but here are some of my thoughts. P2P payments has rapidly become a competitive space in the UK. Consumers can already choose between PayPal and other “wallets” or individual bank-based initiatives, such as Barclays’ PingIt and Natwest Pay Your Contacts. Also, last year, Paym, an industry-wide solution was launched in partnership with banks. Paym recently reported having signed up 1.8 million consumers who transferred £26 million. Admittedly, it’s not much yet, but with some banks so far it’s only possible to sign up to receive payments via Paym, but not send. While all these solutions are making more consumers more comfortable with the idea of sending money based on a mobile phone or an email address, at the same time, Google will have to differentiate to stand out from the crowd. One clear differentiator is the email-based approach. While I don’t have specific numbers, my sense is that Gmail is a popular mail service in the UK, and all these customers will now be able to enjoy a new feature. Assuming they like what they see, and start sending money to each other, Google is likely to enjoy increased wallet balances, at least until the recipients are ready to cash out. I also suspect this is a customer acquisition play for Google Wallet, which has not received as much publicity in the UK as it did in the US. Every Google email user can send money, but you do need a Wallet app to accept money. Once Google Wallet establishes a customer base, it can then take on Apple Pay more directly by rolling out its full wallet services to Android users in the UK. With Android representing ~60% share of smartphone users and a growing contactless acceptance infrastructure, the UK market might prove to be an attractive opportunity for Google Wallet.