Mobile Payments in Europe: State of Play and Future Outlook

 

In this interview Christian von Hammel-Bonten shares insights on how he sees mobile payments develop across Europe, from his key position as EVP at Wirecard AG, a technology and financial services payments company that is a leader in both acquiring and issuing business across the region and world-wide.

 

Christian thanks very much for your time today. Could you please give us some context of Wirecard and what you do?

Simply said, Wirecard is a global technology group that supports companies in accepting and issuing means of electronic payments. We offer services in all roles of the payment value chain: issuing, issuing processing, payment service provider, acquiring and acquiring processing. Group operating activities in our core business are structured into key target industries: Consumer Goods, Digital Products, Travel & Mobility and Telecommunications. The idea of these verticals is to understand needs of our clients and deliver focussed solutions. In my current role, I am in charge of the Telecommunications sector that includes all products & services related to mobile payments.

 

Europe has historically had the longest history with pursuit of mobile payments. From your experience over the years how has 2014-2015 differed?

In past years, NFC was always a topic that was discussed but had not seen solutions being commercially rolled out. This changed in 2014-2015. We’ve seen launches in mobile payments, with Wirecard involved as well. Bank activities have increased with cloud based payments involving Visa and MasterCard. On top of this, the launch of Apple Pay in the US and now announced for UK, has increased awareness and interest on the merchant and consumer side.

 

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Would you say that mobile payments is converging or diverging?

I believe we are at the early stage of Mobile Payment and as I look at the early activities in Fintech we’re at the beginning of a disruptive era. When we started Wirecard 16 years ago e-commerce was below 1% of retail sales, no one would have predicted the size of retail sales online today. Looking back I compare it with the trend relating to digital cards.

The activities and discussions focussed too much on the term mobile payment. It is digital payment that may be delivered through the mobile but other device types such as wearables may be equally promising. One thing that is clear is that the physical element, namely the plastic card, increasingly disappears – it will be transformed into another form factor, digitized credit credentials.

 

But how would we extract cash in that case?

In a number of European countries we observe initiatives that are resulting in cash fading out. Take Sweden, Denmark and UK for instance. In my opinion, cash will not ever disappear in the near future but the majority of payments you receive will increasingly be digital payments going forward.

 

What are some peculiarities you observe in Europe versus your other activities in other regions such as APAC, UAE and South Africa?

Developments in E-commerce across all these regions differ, and even within Europe, countries are at different levels of maturity. E-commerce in Europe as a whole is highly developed, as we enjoy high levels of mobile coverage of good quality. Infrastructure is essential, of course, for the success of digital payments. Communications infrastructure becomes the highway for retail stores and effective communication networks are a pre-requisite.

Another factor is payment culture in various countries. The use cases and consumer needs differ. If you look at Africa it’s not NFC mobile payments that is needed, rather it is mobile money because of the lack of banking infrastructure. Across APAC again it differs widely. In Singapore there is a high penetration of cards and terminals, but in nearby Philippines this may be completely different. Similarly you can compare Germany and UK on these parameters. In Germany ELV solves merchant problems and consumers still prefer cash.

Success in payments comes from understanding the needs of players in all parts of the ecosystem. Paying with a mobile device may not be needed as a tool for financial inclusion where we have well-developed banking infrastructure, but in Western countries and world-wide, crowd funding, P2P lending and other services are rising up to meet unique consumer and business needs.

M-Pesa recently launched in Romania possibly as they identified a larger proportion of under banked, largely based on cash. This may be a viable solution in the Romanian market but not suitable for UK or Germany. Although there is a short distance geographically between European countries, there can be big difference in payments.

 

Could you share some insights from your work on mobile wallets such as with the BASE Wallet, Deutsche Telekom MyWallet, Orange Cash and Vodafone SmartPass?

We see huge differences in European markets that cause different states of readiness. In UK we have markets ready for digital payments, but Germany is somewhat behind in this respect as payment culture is different.

A good way to understand this is to study the number of terminals and the number of cards in each European market, and trace the growth of contactless in POS. Apart from UK, Switzerland is also heavily contactless. In Spain too consumers have embraced contactless payments. In other countries we have to be patient until the necessary relevance is established on the consumer side.

So we have to be somewhat patient but no one contradicts that in a few years the majority of payments will be made digitally – with a smartphone, wearable or other digital form factor.

 

Is it digital natives who are installing these apps or others interested as well?

It is really both. The ones who adopt are generally people who have an affinity to the service, but also towards technology. If you use your mobile phone today only to make phone calls you’re not perhaps someone who would adopt mobile banking and mobile payments.

Generation Y use smartphones heavily and rely on mobile banking for managing family finances. We also see that males are more predominantly early adopters of the new services.

 

Would you say there is a growing importance of the mobile number in all of this?

Yes, Certainly. Like the email address is already more important today for your communication than your postal address is, the mobile number is already a personal identifier for many activities.

The mobile number has the potential to act as a proxy for many underlying financial services. Take for example P2P transfers. It is challenging to remember bank details, more so with IBAN, so the mobile number becomes a link to your bank details in successful solutions such as Pingit, Paym or MobilePay. Also, you don’t have to remember phone numbers as the phone book does this.

 

Do you see SEPA as an instrument for achieving more consistency in payments across Europe?

At first people took some time to be convinced but today SEPA Credit Transfer and SEPA Direct Debit simplifies things for people making payments across Europe. It is a future enabler for a number of bank services and if banks want to stay competitive they need this form of interoperability.

The only thing missing is instant payments, and I hope this will come, European-wide. However banks are finding it difficult to set something like this up on their own. Really it should already have been made available across Europe, as UK already has Faster Payments. There are a number of banking innovations in the UK such as Pingit, Paym and Zapp (expected) and these are greatly facilitated by real time instant payments.

A good financial and payment infrastructure is crucial for supporting businesses and consumers. It is as important as a good road infrastructure and it is the prerequisite for innovative digital services.

 

Yes, I see how this could help to address some of the disruption to banks from FinTech, but also enable innovative new services from new entrants that compete with the banks. Speaking of this, Wirecard launched the Wirecard Smart Band based on HCE – could you please share a bit about your experience with HCE?

HCE or Cloud based payments has greatly increased the possibilities for banks, telecommunication companies and others to offer mobile payment services. In the past, almost all such projects depended on hardware-based elements such as the SIM and embedded secure elements (eSE). However, something that is hardware based has an owner who seeks control and finding collaborative models between all stakeholders delayed or prevented the launches of mobile payment solutions.

With HCE/Cloud-based payments however, such collaboration is less essential, which is its best advantage. Financial Services groups across Europe are looking closely at this technology. No solution I’ve seen is as convenient in being able to enrol users and deliver digital cards to them. Why should we buy gift cards in supermarkets, when we can just send them digitally and use gifted money through apps?

I believe the distribution of cards is about to change, and plastic cards will increasingly disappear as we have digital cards, and not just one each!

 

What does Wirecard do to help companies, say a UK-based retailer wanting to move on this opportunity?

Wirecard offers two different approaches. Firstly we help our partners to build up new card portfolios by issuing cards, irrelevant of the form factor as an issuing bank with licences for the SEPA region.

Secondly, we enable our partners to digitise their existing cards and it does not matter which NFC approach – SIM, eSE or HCE – clients prefer, we are technology-agnostic and support them all. So with respect to retailers, we enable them to issue digitized cards to their customers as part of their loyalty solution. This allows retailers to offer their customers a convenient and fast option for paying, in order to simplify overall checkout and at the same time leverage additional opportunities to engage with customers.

 

Do you also provide an app if clients don’t have one?

Yes, we have built a flexible, agile platform to cater to different environments. We offer to integrate through Software Development Kits (SDKs) with existing apps or we can provide a customized app.

All apps of our live solutions including Orange Cash and Vodafone SmartPass have been customized to meet the client’s branding and functional requirements.

 

What is the best path to interoperable mobile payments across the EU, for instance for a UK customer using a smartphone to pay in Spain, and what’s the outlook for 2015 and beyond?

Right now existing solutions are based on Visa and MasterCard specifications and may be used not just across Europe but also world-wide.

Your example is an interesting one, as travel is one of the biggest drivers for prepaid in the UK market. If you are going to Spain, instead of buying a card you can just go online, register and get your digital / virtual card, top-up and start to spend.

This is a good example of how we see the future of cards. Digitization started and progresses in many areas of our life and payment cards will be clearly affected as well. Short term we will see the first big success of a mobile payment solution with the launch of Apple Pay in UK in 2015. This will spur all activities around mobile payments in Europe and bring us closer to a world of digital cards and a cash-less society.

 

Thanks very much Christian, it has been very useful to gain your insights on mobile payments in Europe and I take this opportunity to wish you the very best for the future.


Wirecard AG_Christian von Hammel-BontenChristian von Hammel-Bonten is Executive Vice President Telecommunications at Wirecard AG. Christian has almost a decade of experience in the online payment industry. From 2002 until 2009 he was responsible for Project Management at Wirecard. Before returning to Wirecard in October 2011 Christian worked as Senior VP of Product Management for Clickandbuy, a company of Deutsche Telekom. In his current role Christian is responsible for the Telecommunications sector at Wirecard.

 


Charmaine Oak

Author of The Digital Money Game, co-author Virtual Currencies – From Secrecy to Safety

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The year 2014 was a tipping point for NFC payments says Visa Europe

Today I am delighted to be speaking to Jonathan Vaux, Executive Director, New Digital Payments and Strategy at Visa Europe. Jonathan tells us what trends impressed him over 2014, which he considers to be a really powerful year for mobile payments. We discuss the UK and European developments and Jonathan shares his views on the outlook for 2015 for digital payments in Europe and world-wide. For background see my previous blog “How payments changed in UK in 2014 and what’s next

Jonathan, thanks for making time for this discussion. Could you please tell us a bit about yourself and your remit at Visa Europe?

Contactless PaymentsReally I have two major roles at Visa Europe. Firstly, to look at emerging technologies and gauge what our involvement should be. Is this a technology so impactful we must do something about it but not necessarily be a provider? A good example of this could be authentication or identity, where it’s probably more about us adapting our product rules and frameworks to recognise emerging technologies. Alternatively, is it a service we should provide as part of our core services? A good example of this might be tokenisation, or incorporating geo-fencing into our services as a way of improving our authorisation services and improving the customer experience to approve genuine transactions and help capture fraudulent ones.

Secondly my job is to create roadmaps and conduct prioritisation exercises.

At Visa Europe my job is really to look at changes in the way people want to pay and make sure that Visa is the preferred payment method for whatever app or wallet consumers wish to use for payments.

 

How has Visa Europe recently reorganised to address opportunities from changes in the way we pay?

We’ve undertaken a major reorganisation recently that resulted in positioning us very well with respect to the changes we expect in payments over 2015 and beyond. We have created a dedicated digital business unit as a group of 150 people looking at the services we must provide and also delivering the services. This is a dedicated team currently separate from our “core” business.

We want to make sure we are as easy to integrate into new banking and payments apps as possible, creating the connectivity and seamless payments experience consumers require.

 

What are some of the key global trends you observed over 2014?

To my mind 2014 was a tipping point for NFC payments. With the launch of Apple Pay and the number of developments over the year, some technologies that had been struggling to get adoption got legitimised. There has been more emphasis on customers wanting personalised services. Also we’ve seen much more adoption of online banking and mobile banking. More than ever banks have started to engage with digital channels, as an imperative rather than an option.

We saw some important traction in the role of biometrics, with TouchID for instance, and the technologies becoming more open.

Tokenisation is another major development. Another is the evolution of players such as Stripe with an open API approach. In short, 2014 has been a really powerful year for payments innovations.

 

On the other hand we had so many negative incidents, such as credit cards being stolen, that in a way may also precipitate tokenisation, and make paying by mobile even safer than other methods?

We need to make sure we consider this as we evaluate how to scale any potential new technologies, although the issues did not arise due to mobile as a channel as such just re-emphasised the importance of security.

Also if you look at fraud ratio in Europe, thanks to implementation of Chip and PIN, the rates are relatively low as compared to US for instance. In Europe there is more nervousness about technologies that are seen as less safe.

The other important point is we need to ensure that the way to mitigate fraud does not impact consumer experience. It is all about creating streamlined, secure methods to pay with consumer experiences that are also great.

 

On the topic of focus on consumer experience, do you see digital as an opportunity for banks to safeguard against becoming commoditised and also regain consumer goodwill?

As a general point most people look to retail banks to manage funds and trust their bank to keep their money safe. If you consider core propositions in this area, the customer looks to their primary retail bank for that. I’m not sure how much the potential peripheral services, such as loyalty, have a material effect in terms of customer relationship - the crux of it is: Is my money safe? Am I protected if something goes wrong?

However, a lot of day-to-day experiences in the banking world may not be consumer friendly enough. Consumers may shift for more convenience. PayPal, for instance, have had a lot of impact as they offered such a strong customer experience.

 

Over 2014 we saw so much traction in the UK with Transport for London (TfL). Could you please tell us more on this?

A lot of the services fail as they don’t become habitual for the customer. What is fantastic about applications such as TfL is that for people living and travelling around London the use of such services becomes habitual very fast. The use of contactless payments on TfL extends and reinforces the use of that plastic card that I use elsewhere. It’s a new use case and it works as it is something I use regularly.

It is interesting to see the number of transactions and also the number of people constantly using contactless cards has greatly increased over 2014.

Visa Europe predicts that, with the launch of contactless journeys on Transport for London’s (TfL) travel
network and the introduction of mobile contactless services, Brits will make 500 million contactless payments between now and December 2015.

Any update for me in terms of the use of mobile contactless payments? Now that services are available from some of the leading mobile operators, how are these being used so far?

I am not sure how much specific data I can share on that but I would say that today most transactions are still predominantly contactless plastic cards. We’ll probably see more focus from the operators in trying to capitalise on the press attention that things like Apple Pay’s launch in the US have received to grow their share of transactions and I think we’ll hear a lot more about wearables in 2015.

 

Within Europe, please could you describe some of the unique characteristics you have observed?

The big challenge for Europe is there are still lots of local processing systems despite Pan-European discussions. In 2014 we saw domestic regulators becoming more stringent on some issues, such as data storage required to be in the country, not overseas. This is an interesting trend that’s emerging. Over 2015 we must see how much that may counter-balance the speed rollout for global brands. It may also affect the scale of roll out of digital payments, and how that differs.

 

I agree it’s not just one market. I’m wondering if you have an update for me on Eastern European (EE) markets. I’m recently back from Poland and it was interesting to see the developments there.

Yes, there are a number of benefits in terms of markets such as Poland which have been very early adopters of contactless payments. There is a really high usage of contactless there. Merchants are actively leveraging technology to drive loyalty behaviour.

Nine Polish banks have confirmed plans to commercially launch Visa Cloud-based Mobile Contactless Payment services from early this year, re-enforcing Poland’s reputation as a hotbed for innovation in digital payment services.

Banking providers ING Bank Śląski, mBank, Bank Millennium, Raiffeisen Polbank, eurobank, Getin Bank, Bank Polskiej Spółdzielczości and Bank SMART will join Bank Zachodni WBK in rolling out services utilising Visa’s Cloud-based Payment specifications, enabling customers with payment apps utilising Host Card Emulation (HCE) functionality to make contactless payments quickly and safely using an NFC-enabled Android smartphone.

Poland tends to act more as a homogenous market, with more collaboration, as compared to some of the more developed markets in Western Europe. Sometimes entrenched legacy systems can actually be a constraint. So we are seeing some of the EE markets leapfrogging other European markets. They are building shared infrastructure backed by enabling rather than differentiating technology.

 

How do you see Tokenisation evolving – what are the promises and potential challenges?

Tokenisation already exists today and works successfully in a lot of online markets. It is important to look at the different use cases, and the ways it adds value and cost. With margins coming down markedly we need to be sure we don’t add layers of cost where it’s difficult to make sufficient money to justify this.

So if you compare the EU against US, the margins are very different in Europe. My customer asks, what’s the investment case? So there is little money to cover the costs, unless it gives significant upside.

 

I suppose big markets such as India and China already have their own cards roadmap. When we were in India recently we saw Rupay debit cards being issued for 53 million new accounts opened in just 2 months. What do you see in terms of global outlook?

The important thing is how do you transition quickly? It is a case of not just issuance but creating the necessary acceptance infrastructure. Time to scale of this would be a key differentiating factor.

 

Thanks Jonathan, this has been most interesting. To conclude, what do you most look forward to in 2015?

I think we’ll start to see material changes, new use cases and increasing adoption of the exciting new technology. As some of the things start to roll out I believe 2015 will be a really critical year as the new services become the norm and pilots go mainstream.

 

Which are the new technologies you would back?

You will see NFC, HCE, QR codes and more but as Visa we are agnostic. You will see these become more frequently used methods. You’re going to have very different consumer experiences. If Tesco offers a QR code app, that will be possible, just as other use cases such as NFC or HCE must also be possible, and that’s what we at Visa Europe are working hard to ensure the necessary support.

 

Jonathan Vaux is Executive Director, New Digital Payments and Strategy at Visa Europe. Jonathan is responsible for the development and execution of the New Digital Payments Propositions Strategy for Visa Europe. Key responsibilities include development of innovation agenda, development of digital roadmap and management of key partnerships and interaction with innovation partners, including startups, incubators and accelerators.

This is part of Shift Thought’s Focus on UK Series. Shift Thought provides unique, detailed and up-to-date Country Viewports on most developed and emerging markets around the world. Talk to us today at +44 (0)754 0711 848, or write to us at contact@shiftthought.com to learn more about how we can support your digital banking, digital payments and remittances projects.

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How payments changed in UK in 2014, and the perfect storm brewing for 2015

 

We in the United Kingdom already use so little cash that we could easily have gone the way of the Nordics, where consumers have such good payment systems that mobile payments took a back seat. Yet this year the UK pulled ahead in The Digital Money Game. At the player category level too we saw major upsets to the apple-carts of more than one category of providers, and a perfect storm is now in the brewing for others.

While the acceleration happened on several levels, in this blog I focus on how mobile payments took off this year and consumers now enjoy a raft of payment services on the go. It is fortunate that the Payments Council, Vocalink and Zapp had time to get a head start, as the likes of Apple Pay and Alipay prepare to descend on the UK in early 2015.

What do British consumers really need?

ukIn the UK with a population of 64 million, we have over 84 million mobile connections and more than 72% of these are smartphones. An increasing number of ‘phablets’ are rapidly coming into use.  We have 90.5% banked and a high penetration of internet services of over 84%.

We take internet banking for granted, and have enjoyed bank transfers in minutes for years now, thanks to Faster Payments. An estimated 5.7 million mobile banking transactions take place daily in the UK. We expect to pay everywhere with cards, with over 55 million credit cards and 95 million debit cards issued over the last year.

So do we really need mobile payments? We may feel overcharged by our banks, and while we may resent surcharges on card payments at some merchants in general domestically the use of cash is more of a lifestyle choice than a necessity. I can’t recall when I last used a cheque book. Yet survey results this month claim that enthusiasm for mobile payments has skyrocketed over the last 15 months, with 44% of those polled prepared to even switch accounts to access mobile payments.

London transport goes cashless

Absence of a real need may be one reason why the promise of NFC remained unfulfilled since 2005, but neither consumers nor merchants quite invited it in- until recently. I have been closely involved in projects involving mobile payments and NFC since the early days when Transport for London (TfL) was considered to be the major prize that everyone worked hard to win. Yet it took a decade before mobile payment services on the TfL network launched and even today while it is possible to pay using mobile phones, people are just beginning to use their contactless cards. While in theory mobile payments are available on EE and Vodafone, in practice some elements of the consumer experience remain to be ironed out.

Contactless payments – here at last!

imageIt was quite a novelty to see the new Barclaycard contactless payment gloves trialled for Christmas shopping at some stores this season. The Barclaycard gloves have an embedded contactless chip that is linked to a credit or debit card to pay for transactions of up to £20. Contactless payments are also supported by the Barclaycard PayTag on London buses, McDonalds, Pret, Starbucks and many other chain stores.

We’ve had contactless payments infrastructure building up for years now, accelerated by the 2012 Olympics, attracting major investments from Visa Europe and others. Today across the UK, an estimated 300,000 terminals accept contactless cards. There are over 48.3m contactless cards issued, with a quarter of all plastic new cards being contactless-enabled. Over 2014 UK consumers are expected to spend £2 billion through contactless payments,

What does it mean for the consumer in everyday life?

As a British consumer, paying for things has now become easier. Apart from the danger of card clash, for which we have been most soundly educated, we have to be savvy to protect ourselves from a constant stream of marketing offers. From the consumer perspective, the winners are those who use the new features to shop smarter, save money and stick to their budget.

We now need even less cash, and at stores there are many more self-service checkout points that there were in 2012. You won’t have to tote around a load of loyalty cards either – Tesco has already begun to trial their PayQwiq service at 32 stores. Triallists use the online grocery service and add card details for use through the app. In store they buy up to £400 a day, sign into the app with a four-digit PIN and pick the card they want to use. A QR Code appears on their phone which the till scans to take payment and credit them with Clubcard points.

Life has become easier in many ways. Just as you can easily hail a cab and pay for it through the Uber app, something that London black cabs have not been too pleased about, expect more “Uber-like” innovations wherever there are pain points to be found.

New ways to pay: Pingit, Pay-em or Zapp-em?

paymThis April the Payments Council launched an important service called Paym. This allows convenient transfer of money between participating UK bank account holders. Earlier, Barclays supported Pingit, since 2012 as a great new way to send money in minutes using a phone, but Paym is integrated into customers’ existing mobile banking or payment apps as an additional way to pay, making it possible to send and receive payments using just a mobile number.

Customers register their phone number and the account they want payments made into with their bank or building society and people can then pay directly into the account using just a mobile number – no sort codes or account numbers are needed.

How Paym works

To send a payment, you select the mobile number to pay from your list of contacts, along with an amount and a reference. Behind the scenes the sender’s bank accesses the Paym database to confirm that the recipient is registered with the service and to retrieve their bank or building society account details.

The app helps to confirm details and receive immediate confirmation. The real magic behind this is managed by the Faster Payments Service or by the LINK network, whether or not the recipient phone is on or within coverage. In most cases the payment reaches the recipient account almost immediately and they see it in recent transactions on their account.

How Zapp proposes to work

zappZapp, announced early in 2014 now claims partnerships with major merchants including Asda, Sainsbury, House of Frasers and more. People will be able to pay for goods and services using Zapp, authorising the transaction from their mobile banking app. The payment will be made directly from their bank account, with the use of tokens to offer better security.

What is most interesting really is the effect this will have in enabling payments to small businesses. Shaving off pennies on each transaction can bring welcome relief to a number of traders and servicemen who can expect to take payments using their mobile phones.

A perfect storm brewing

If you are a provider, this is no time to be complacent. Consumers are set to “select and forget” their means of payment and many will make their choice in 2015. Merchants too are selecting their partners just now.

With Paym, banks continue to compete through P2P services that bear their own brand and can be differentiated in some ways. Zapp, on the cards for (delayed) launch in early 2015 will further put the banks in the driving seat as far as payments go.

Weve, a joint initiative of mobile operators in the UK was to roll out Pouch but has already announced it would close the wallet this year. With the HCE initiative announced by the card schemes in February this year, mobile operators no longer dictate terms with regard to NFC services, and in the UK also have the larger consideration of M&A on their minds, with the proposed acquisition of EE by BT on the cards.

applepayWith Apple Pay, already in use in the US and preparing to enter the UK market, I think we may expect a mega-battle on the cards for 2015. Google Wallet, Amazon and others are already highly active in the market.

Besides, we have not even begun to discuss the wider digital money picture. This includes a host of innovation from newly funded players including not just Fintech startups but well-funded Alipay, richer by $25 billion with the largest IPO having come through this year, and WorldRemit and Transferwise, expanding rapidly in remittances.

UK then is the place to watch. Shift Thought continues to do in-depth research on this market. Our detailed interviews with leading UK providers will shortly be published. Do drop me a line at contact@shiftthought.com if you have further questions.

Photo Credits: Promotional material from Barclaycard, Apple Pay, Zapp and Paym

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