Apple isn’t interested in payments

 

Shift Thought recently completed a set of interviews where we spoke to experts from a range of industries and parts of the world to get their gut reactions on the state of the payments industry and what to expect next.

In this post I share highlights of my discussion with Roy Vella, Digital Services Evangelist and Entrepreneur with a rich experience across a wide range of organizations in EMEA and the U.S. Roy reflects on what for him were some highlights of 2014 and shares his thoughts on what to expect this year.

 

Roy, thanks for your time today. I would like to start by asking what, for you has been the most innovative service you’ve seen over the last year, at the intersection of mobile/ online and financial services?

 

applepayFor me, Apple Pay has been the most significant. Once again, they did what they do so well. They take something messy and refine it. Just as they did with iPods/iTunes and the iPhone, they’ve created a great customer experience by making a few key changes. Apple tends to be able to take things off the shelf but then simplify and get the experience right.

When they launched the first iPhone, arguably they did it with what could already be bought off the rack in China. It’s not what they deliver but rather how they put it all together, to make it simple, intuitive and delightful. That is the innovation! It is not making something radically new but it’s making something truly simple.

 

But in order to make it simple, they’ve managed to bring together a lot of different technologies for the first time, to allow a simple “press the button” experience.

 

True, they had to bring together Passbook, Touch ID, NFC capabilities, encryption, tokenisation and more. Apple is probably going to kill the business proposition of a lot of providers accidentally, even though they don’t actually care about payments. All they care about is bringing together those three things that you, I and everyone need before we leave home: your keys, your wallet and your phone.

Apple simply wants to put it all together. They want to get rid of your wallet. And they’re making progress on this with Apply Pay, the Apple Watch, with their work on access to hotel rooms and security. I’m sure they’re talking to major hotel groups, luxury car manufacturers and others, to make big changes in how people gain access to all sorts of places and things.

 

What are the pain points that providers encounter when they try to bring out Payments Innovations?

 

What they find difficult is what Apple does so well. It’s essentially the battle of getting people to adopt something new. That is what Apple is good at – changing consumer behaviour, getting people to change the normal way that they do things.

For any infrastructure play the most difficult thing is that most people don’t want change. And innovation is hard because key stakeholders, regulators and others also often don’t like change.

Actually people often talk about achieving “mainstream adoption” but that’s not what concerns Apple. They want those premium customers. That is their segment. The top 15-20% max really.

 

But if Apple is solving for the 15-20% premium customers, who is solving for the rest?

 

Before Apple Pay we had similar solutions on the Android, 9 months to a year earlier! Google, Samsung, PayPal and others offered quite similar services as Apple Pay. But did anyone take notice? We did not see them move the needle – then Apple announces and boom, consumers sit up and we have change.

 

Who for you are the winners of 2014? Which categories of players impressed the most?

 

I don’t think mobile operators as an industry were able to do that much. Sure, we’ve heard of various partnerships between banks and operators or other categories. However it was not ground breaking innovations. I believe that both banks and mobile operators have taken a back seat to the big tech services, GAFA, at this point. And they’re all innovating rapidly.

The other group that’s made significant progress over 2014 is the regulators. They’re no longer spending all their time protecting the incumbents. They want more competition, entrepreneurs and a better deal for consumers. This is playing out across the US and Europe, and also worldwide.

 

Talking about regulations, what’s your opinion of Bitcoin?

 

I feel that Bitcoin tends to be misunderstood. It is a currency of sorts but more importantly a protocol, the blockchain, but often people are fixated on the first and don’t quite get the second. Reliably moving value between parties, without a middleman, is a brilliant innovation. It is not all about money. It could be any object of value or ownership – it could be a birth certificate or a lease, for example.

No matter what anyone may think, cryptocurrencies are here to stay. It’s impossible to stop them. Saying that you don’t like bitcoin or the blockchain and it should be stopped is like saying your don’t like SMTP or HTTP… it’s merely a technical protocol for value transfer that now exists and won’t simply evaporate as such, even if regulators attempt to quash it.

 

Yes, banks have not made it easier, with their massive FX scandals and other issues. Do you see this pushing people further toward P2P and innovative new entrants?

 

Absolutely! Take the example of Transferwise. I think they’ve done a brilliant job shining a light on fees and making things more transparent. Ultimately consumers care about how much they pay and what their receivers get in terms of currency. Transferwise states that in terms of what you put in and how much you get out it’s hard to get a comparable rate. Significantly, Transferwise has gotten their marketing and message right… it resonates with people.

 

Roy, from your experience at PayPal, it would be good to hear what you think about the PayPal/eBay separation – how’s that going to work out?

 

We were talking about this way back in 2004. It is something that had to happen, but back then they needed each other tremendously. However staying together is holding them both back now. I know they will be better apart. It’s going to be good for PayPal, sure, but it’s also going to benefit eBay. I think individually they could each have the same valuation as they have together.

 

You talk about the digital wave and how that is subsuming things - What really changed over 2014 thanks to mobile?

 

I think 2014 has been all about smartphones achieving deep, mass penetration. This is not just in developed countries but also in the high-growth emerging ones.

 

What do you foresee for 2015? What’s most exciting?

 

I think the chip is going into everything. Having all these devices become smart, there is an early adopter phase that is quite exciting. It is not all about payments. Payments must be transparent, just an enabler and it must make everything simpler for consumers and merchants.

 

Thanks Roy, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you. Wish you the best for 2015 and beyond!

 

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Roy Vella is Managing Director of Vella Ventures Ltd where he offers strategic advice as an expert in the Fintech industry.

Roy is special Advisor to MEF and on the board of several companies. Notable clients include Visa, Vodafone and Lloyds.

Previously Roy was Group Executive, Director of Mobile Financial Services for the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Roy also has rich experience from his work at PayPal Europe as Director, Mobile Payments for Europe and in Business Development for PayPal Inc. See more at linkedin.com/in/royvella.

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Trends in Mobile Money and Mobile Financial Services – Views from a veteran

 

The origins of Mahindra Comviva date back to 1999. Since then the company has enabled mobile operators and financial institutions around the world to address opportunities presented by money going digital. As part of Shift Thought’s assessment of the state of the market, it was a real pleasure to speak to Srinivas Nidugondi, to obtain his views on the latest trends and future directions. In this post I share highlights of our discussion on mobile money and mobile financial services.

 

Srinivas, thanks for your time today. Could you please give us a bit of background about your expertise and your role at Comviva?

 

imageI head the mobile financial solutions unit at Mahindra Comviva. For four years now, I head the entire commerce portfolio within Comviva. We have 3 verticals that include commerce, content and data, all with the underlying theme of mobility.

Within our horizontal of managed services, our fastest & largest pillar is commerce. I look at the overall opportunity, to grow our operations into a leadership position. I have a background in banking and payments, commerce and smartcards. My last position was at ICICI bank where I was Head of Internet Banking platform and Mobile Banking and worked on the launch of ICICI’s first mobile banking app 8 years ago; further I was involved in a collaborative offering with Vodafone to cater to the unbanked and under banked segments in India.

 

Could you please give us a brief background about Comviva?

 

imageWe’ve been around for 15 years, beginning with the Telecom Revolution in India and other emerging markets focussing on products that would help mobile operators, in our capacity as part of the Bharti group.

Our mobiquity® Money solution now has over 50 deployments in 40 countries, enabling over 35 million registered customers to transact approximately USD 13.5 billion transactions annually.

Over the last five years we have streamlined and also broad-based our focus. As a product company we complement Tech Mahindra’s IT services and also obtain access to new geographies, such as our recent forays into North America, Europe and Australia. Further, we have been able to penetrate into Latin America with several deployments on-going across the region.

 

Could you give us highlights of the kinds of products and services, and the kind of competition you face?

 

In our mobile financial services unit our philosophy is to leverage mobility, commerce & payment services. What this means is we do not just focus on providing payments solutions but are experts in the whole commerce process. Also we have refocused from mobile to mobility, to cover new devices that I expect will become an active part in the way people transact, for instance through wearables like Apple Watch or Google Glass.

We focus on payments behaviour within each segment that includes consumers, businesses and merchants. So we look at a diverse set of scenarios that range from under banked consumers to evolved consumers to large merchants. We are one of the largest providers for Mobile Money in the world, with services provided to pretty much every major mobile operator.

We are going up the value chain with services such as mobile wallets, mobile payments, and QR codes, BLE, HCE, NFC and Apple Pay and offering these solutions to banks, processors and retail industries apart from the traditional customer base of telecom operators. Our recent customers include banks in the North America and Asia pacific regions as well as a new age retail chain in South America. And further, we are working with a telecom operator in Europe for launching NFC based payments. Our competitors include for instance C-SAM, Toro, Airtag and Monetise.

On the business and merchant side we offer an integrated payment solution payPLUS that allows both large and medium merchants as well as SMEs to use their mobile phones as a POS, and we work with First Data and not just small & medium - there is a market for mobility based for insurance, e-commerce down to small and medium.

We are entering the US through one of the largest processors where competition is different. We don’t really see Square and iZettle as our competition as we don’t go direct to market but rather work with banks and processors. We also face localised competitions such as from Easytap in India.

 

What are some of the major implementations you’ve been involved in around the world?

 

We have over 50 mobile money implementations including a number of implementations with Airtel, Orange, Econet Wireless, Grameenphone, Banglalink, Tigo and others. In Bangladesh we are deploying with DBBL, one of the largest banks in the country.

We are working with First Data and other large processors and also with some of the largest banks for HCE, MasterPass. We are with the largest 4G operator in India for Mobile POS and Mobile Wallet. Some of our latest wins include a retailer in Chile, and US work with a processor for mobile POS, and a wallet for a bank in Canada.

 

In 2014, mobile money service became interoperable in 3 new markets. Could you tell us a bit about how this works and how effective this strategy has proved?

 

I don’t think every market could be a success. This is a function of multiple factors. In Kenya Safaricom became successful with a position of leader in the mobile business. Now Tanzania is becoming an overall leader in mobile money, but there no one operator has a monopolistic position.

Mobile money has taken off where there is low banking penetration and high mobile penetration. Agents must find it viable. Also the services need to go beyond just P2P or Cash-in/Cash-out. People must not just withdraw cash but make payments through their mobile money account. That is when profitability goes up.

It is also really important to be able to offer remittances. There is a service called Terra that is getting all the operators together for this to make the money flows easier in corridors such as Mozambique to Malawi, Zimbabwe to Malawi and South Africa to Zimbabwe.

If each operator has say a maximum of 40% market share, this means that 60% of the market is excluded, so interoperability is not a luxury but is critical for operators to explore in each market.

 

What are some of the other trends you observed in mobile money in 2014?

 

Mobile Money is used in a developmental context, where third party provides bring financial services to people who don’t have access to them.

I observed three key trends in mobile money over 2014.

Firstly, the evolution to cover more services has been recognised to be of huge importance. From cash-in/ cash-out, it is now about enabling every transaction that people have to make. So this is interoperability in the context of payments.

Secondly, there is a focus on interoperability in the context of remittances. We saw a spurt in transactions with Tigo and Airtel making their transactions interoperable in Tanzania.

Thirdly, it’s about how to build a path to offer a full suite of services, not just mobile money. We’ve had to solve for enabling payments, micro-loans, investments and insurance, so as to build a “One-Stop Shop” for all these services.

 

Did regulations have to change in order to enable these trends and new services added over 2014?

 

No I think the regulations did allow it, but it was a matter of the maturity level having grown over the last 3 years. As this grows further we’re seeing more such examples in Tanzania, Zimbabwe and elsewhere.

 

What is the outlook for mobile money going into 2015?

 

I see an evolution of the services to straddle multiple areas. From over-the-counter and one time transactions it’s now all about the mobile wallet. This needs a better understanding of the end-to-end customer journey and experience.

 

Srinivas, thanks very much for your time today. It has been a great pleasure speaking to you. I wish you the very best for your success in 2015 and beyond.

 

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Srinivas Nidugondi is Senior Vice President at Mahindra Comviva, based in Bengaluru, India and has led the Mobile Financial Solutions area in Comviva since 2011.

Srinivas brings a keen interest in financial inclusion, especially as enabled by mobile phone and digital channels and has a wealth of experience in banking, payments, Internet and e-commerce. He set up & led the business for online banking and mobile payments in a large multinational bank and has led product management & business development in start-ups and IT product companies.

 

Charmaine Oak

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

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http://www.linkedin.com/in/charmaineoak

Join me on Twitter @ShiftThoughtDM and The Digital Money Group on LinkedIn

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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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Online payments and ecommerce in India

India’s ecommerce market is set to soar to USD 20 billion by 2020 (1), with growth generated, mainly, by the use of smartphones.

 

The USD 4 billion ecommerce is being driven by cheap handsets and mobile data plans that allow consumers to buy from their mobile devices. As we say at Shift Thought, India’s payments market is 'Born Digital Money', and this demands convergent payment services of the variety we describe in our Digital Money in India 2014 Viewport, which reflects our recent market studies in India, and from which this analysis is taken.

I had the opportunity to share my opinion on the direction of the e-commerce market with The Paypers, the Netherlands-based leading independent source of news and intelligence for professionals in the global payment community.

Click here to read the whole Expert Opinion published on 19th September 2014.

 

 

Charmaine Oak

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

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http://www.linkedin.com/in/charmaineoak

Join us to explore ideas at The Digital Money Group on LinkedIn

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Why I wrote The Digital Money Game

Thanks for the outpouring of support to me, on the publishing of my first book, The Digital Money Game, now available on Amazon sites around the world. After I last shared about it, A number of you asked me what made me want to write this book, so I’d like to say a bit about this today.

DMGCoverWhen I strayed into the world of payments, after being in Telecoms for many years, it opened my eyes to so many new possibilities. This was around 2005 and it seemed to be a no-brainer for a telecoms operator to build new revenue streams from payments.

This proved elusive though. Firstly it was a personal challenge to try to understand so many new areas all at once, and then be able to position the business case to top management in a way that communicated both opportunities and risks. All of us had spent our lives in Telecoms, IT and non-Payments functions, and we had to rapidly understand Payments, E-Money, Regulations, Prepaid, Cash Networks and all this across multiple geographies.

Regulations did not help. At the time I blamed myself, thinking there was something more I could do. Ten years later, having worked with a world leading bank and the largest money transfer operator in the world, I got to understand regulations so much better. Now I KNOW there was little else I could do: One depends on regulators, who themselves have such a difficult time coping with the large number of changes, with a heavy burden of responsibility on their shoulders.

The truth is, this is all new. We are all learning. But that doesn’t take away the stress of not knowing, as so many of you across the world would agree! I wish I had had someone to tell me what was happening, how it would affect me and what I needed to know to stay ahead. I wanted practical cases I could learn from, and reassurance that this was an exciting space to build a new career.

This is my chance to make that wish a reality for others, by sharing the lessons I learnt and offering some tips from over 10 years I have spent launching services of the different kinds discussed in this book. I hope it will help you in some small way, to reinforce decisions you have to make, to help you to put your case forward to management and most of all to feel good about yourself and what you are achieving in this highly competitive and changing space.

I would love to hear your feedback. Did this book help you? What further questions did it raise?

Click here to go to the Amazon site. To your right you will see a green panel suggesting the most convenient online store for you. Do let me know if you face any difficulty getting access.

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The Digital Money Game– a multi-trillion dollar industry emerges

 

DMGCover

I have great pleasure in announcing the launch of my new book, The Digital Money Game. I describe the multi-trillion dollar emerging industry I term “Digital Money” from the perspective of very many different industries. It is not just meant for payment experts in large organisations, but for anyone who wants to understand how people pay, and how this is changing in each part of the world.

 

The penetration of mobile phones and smartphones is transforming the way in which consumers interact with brands and greatly facilitates a move towards non-cash payments around the world. To play the game properly though, one needs to understand the changes in a much wider set of fundamentals - identity, security, authentication, regulations, technologies and more, so as to create appropriate vision that goes across channels, services and market segments. That way you have a more effective roadmap with respect to new entrants, and a better chance that what you plan now will still be relevant when your projects go live. I share more about why I wrote The Digital Money Game here.

 

The book is based on Shift Thought research in markets around the world, and my interviews with experts from all the different industries that now participate in payments and financial services. I did my first set of interviews in July 2011. Four years later, the wisdom that they, and countless others shared with me has helped to shape this book. This is the first book in The Digital Money Series and we are currently working on others in the series.

Since then I have learnt so much from so many conversations that unfortunately it is impossible to thank each one of you by name – I hope you will recognize your contributions when you read the book!

 

The book is designed to help you to spot opportunities and gain confidence and insights to channel your work in a way that benefits you, and the markets you serve. It addresses multiple functional areas and levels: Chief Executives, Technologists, Business Development, Market Development and Product Development executives from Banking, Cards, Money Transfer, Telecoms, Payments, Technology, Retail, and Venture Financing Industries.

The digital money approach described in this book can help you create products and services that are secure, convenient and empowering to a whole range of consumers and merchants, across a variety of channels. The goal is to create a shift in thinking – from merely addressing the new opportunity provided by mobile phones, to launching holistic services that build solid brands.

 

My book is available on Amazon stores around the world, priced in local currency and immediately accessible as an  Amazon Kindle download that works across Kindle for PC and a host of commonly used devices. In case it says “Pricing information not available” just look to the right of the screen to select the Amazon site in your country.

In the first 2 days that the book has been available I am delighted to say that it has already been bought from many countries around the world. Thank you so very much for your support and kind words.

 

Have you bought my book? I would love to have your feedback and can direct you to further resources that may be of interest. Do drop me a line at contact@shiftthought.com.

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From smartphones to super wallets: how a new breed of applications is changing mobile banking

 

This is an interesting time in the development of the digital payments market in Poland. The leading banks are collaborating to launch mobile payment services that potentially bypass the card schemes, allowing consumers to pay directly from their bank accounts. As a follow on from our previous blog, Transforming the way people pay in Poland Charmaine Oak interviewed Tomasz Krajewski, Head of mCommerce at eLeader. SuperWallet claims to be the first wallet to combine mobile banking, mobile payments and mobile commerce services. Tomasz shares his thoughts on the Polish payments market, as well as other markets in which eLeader has been active.

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CO: Tomasz, thanks for taking the time to share with us your thoughts on the development of mobile commerce, in Poland and elsewhere in the world. To start with, could you kindly give us a short introduction on the achievements of eLeader. In which markets do you now operate, and who are your main customers?

TT: eLeader is a leading mobile software company, with experience that dates back to the origins of the smartphone industry. Our services are used in over 70 countries worldwide and clients include Grupo Santander, Unicredit Group, mBank, Danske Bank, Raiffeisen, the National Bank of Kuwait and Orange/T-Mobile.

Our innovations have allowed us to achieve a number of awards and high ranks in industry reports, including a mention in the Top worldwide mobile banking vendors report (Juniper Research, 2012), Technology Fast 50 CE (Deloitte, 2008) and the Top technology companies in Europe (Red Herring, 2013).

 

CO: How has eLeader gained such a leadership position in Mobile Banking?

TT: You can say that going against the current is in eLeader’s DNA. We launched in 2000 with mobile solutions to support employees to work remotely, from outside the office. In those days in Lublin, where we are based, few people had even heard about smartphones, and many felt that this was a crazy idea. And perhaps so it was, but the product was a total success.

We started to invest into mobile banking in 2006 and that was the time when people were speaking about the brilliant future of WAP protocol, forgotten today. Back then, few had heard of smartphones. The iPhone and Android had not yet made a mark. Nokia had a dominant position in the market. At that time, we believed that native apps would be the future of mobility also in the banking industry.

Our first mobile banking platform was revealed in 2007 and it was based on native apps for 3 platforms: Symbian, BlackBerry and Pocket PC. As far as we can tell, ours could well have been a world first solution, with native apps individually designed for all the major OS platforms, accounting for over 95% of the smartphone market.

Raiffeisen Bank became our first customer in Poland. I remember meeting with the President of the bank. Instead of showing a slide deck, our CEO, Dobromir Piekarski, handed him a Nokia smartphone with our banking app – without any instructions. He played with the app in silence and just asked a simple question: How much? After a negotiation of just one minute they shook hands on it. The legend is that this could have been one of the fastest decisions in the banking industry, ever!

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CO: What were some of the challenges you encountered on the way?

TT: The biggest challenge was our first implementation. As mentioned earlier, we started at a time when the mobile banking industry was in its infancy. There was a lack of best practices and useful benchmarks. We had to convince the clients to use our solution, without any projects in the portfolio, armed only with cold calling. Can you imagine what that was like?

We had to design a new concept of application interface, UX and security measures.

Most banks were generally skeptical about native apps at that time; many said that we are going in the wrong direction. Fortunately very soon the iPhone changed the whole industry and attitudes to mobile apps. Native apps went main-stream, and became the norm.

Another milestone was reached when we entered foreign markets. By that time we had something to show in our portfolio, but still needed to prove that an unknown Polish company was able to make great applications and that too without any branches in the client’s country.

 

CO: In what way is Innovation in mobile banking held back by compliance requirements?

TT: Did you know that when the financial crisis came to Poland none of the banks have announced bankruptcy?It seems that none of them have even been in danger of such a situation.

To some extent this is thanks to Polish banking supervision which is very strict in terms of control. However, on the other hand regulations are so far-reaching that they do not allow banks to overstep clearly defined and legally imposed limits. This extends also to the sphere of innovation. You can say that from the regulator point of view, banking is for banks, and deviations from this principle are not allowed.

For instance, take the most used mobile banking functionality – checking one’s bank account balance. Because this is considered disclosure under banking secrecy, bank should require that the user authenticates before gaining access to balance information. Some of banks will ask you to login. Other banks will show you only the percentage of funds left in your account. There is also a bank which lets users choose which of the options would suit them best. You may say this is not a big innovation, but it clearly shows that users want the simplest solutions possible.

Non-bank start-ups are not subject to banking regulations, which is undoubtedly their competitive advantage in the market.

 

CO: In what areas do you see mobile security improving over the next 3 years?

TT: The trend to watch is certainly biometrics. My voice will be my password to mobile banking. Gartner predicts 30% of organizations will use biometric authentication on mobile in 2016 so this is worth watching.

 

CO: What has caused the Polish market to develop more rapidly than some other European markets in recent years?

TT: Polish people don’t use checks, and we never did. When in the 90s Poland entered capitalism after the communist era, emerging banking industry implemented only the newest IT solutions, leap frogging the old payment systems. This is one of the reasons why today we lead in contactless payments globally, and can transfer money from one bank to another in just 30 seconds, thanks to the Elixir Express standard.

Contactless penetration in Poland is higher than anywhere else in Europe or the Americas. This is largely because Visa and MasterCard have invested to subsidize contactless readers, so as to transform Poland into a showcase market for contactless payments. We are at the forefront not just in penetration of cards with a contactless function (20 million, 57.7% of all cards on the market) but also in number of POS accepting contactless payments (in the fourth quarter of 2013 this was already 170 thousand, or 52.1% of all the devices on the market).

Other important favorable factors for Poland include the high mobile and internet penetration, the highly educated society and our continued economic growth. According to Person’s ranking our education is ranked 10th in the world and the last time we had a recession was at the beginning of the XXIII century.

 

CO: How does eLeader expect to continue to play a leadership role in Europe, and elsewhere?

TT: The year 2014 is critical for us, as it is the time for us to launch the new mobile solutions that we have developed through our focused Research & Development over the last few years.

The product we are now introducing to the market is the SuperWallet. It is a combination of m-banking, m-commerce and m-payments. The biggest innovation of these is our embedded in-app commerce services. These services allow users to, for instance purchase public transport tickets, shop for groceries with home delivery, pay for cinema tickets, order taxis and pizzas or book flights.

Our aim is to transform mobile banking into the first choice financial app for smartphone users by supporting them to perform all their daily activities. Recent SAS studies point out that, above all, users perceive mobile wallets as a way to buy goods online, pay bills and check bank accounts. All of these and much more can be achieved by one SuperWallet app.

Together with an ecosystem of integrated merchants, the SuperWallet is offered as a white label solution for banks in a PaaS (Payments as a Service) model.

This has already been successfully deployed by the biggest Santander Group bank in the CEE region, Bank Zachodni WBK, and is gaining popularity among its users. Because the SuperWallet has very flexible architecture and a wide array of capabilities, we are greatly excited to see how it will be used by banks from outside the CEE region.

I believe that the SuperWallet is at the cusp of an emerging market trend. Solutions that are similar but limited to in-app purchases can be found in ICICI Bank and PrivatBank offers.

 

CO: Tomasz, thanks for your time today!

This has been incredibly informative, and provided us with interesting insights into the payments scene in Poland. Above all, what you have achieved at eLeader is most inspiring and I take this opportunity to wish you the best of success with your plans for the SuperWallet and beyond.


Tomasz Krajewski

Tomasz Krajewski is Head of mCommerce/Superwallet at eLeader. He is responsible for development of SuperWallet, which claims to be the first wallet to combine mobile banking, mobile payments and mobile commerce services, thus adding value to mobile banking. The first SuperWallet was deployed in November 2013 in BZ WBK (the biggest bank of Santander Group in CEE). eLeader is one of the world's top mobile innovators in the smartphone business software market, used by global and national companies in over 70 countries worldwide.

 


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