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How global payments will change

Risk management is now so complex in banking and payments that it is almost impossible for even the largest players to work on their own without partnerships and collaboration.  The boards of most banks are only partially aware of the total risks they are exposed to.  Just look at the spiraling complexities of cyberattacks alone.  Many CEOs have been shocked by private warnings recently from Secret Services about what is about to hit them.

Benchmarking risk really risky

Benchmarking is toxic to risk management – when risk managers benchmark their own bank against actions by competitors in the same industry, the end result can be an entire industry walking blindly over the same cliff.  That is exactly what happened in steps that led to the sub-prime crisis.

Here’s an example from manufacturing.  Almost all the largest memory chip manufacturers made the same risk assessment, and decided it was safe to locate most of their factories in the same nation – not only that, but in the same flood-plain.  When Thailand was hit by very heavy rain, around 70% of memory chip production was lost.

Need for Agility and Speed in payments industry

Our world is changing faster than you can hold a board meeting, and risks evolve at the speed of light. That is why you are going to hear a lot more about agile strategy, agile leadership, agile decision-making and a more dynamic and resilient approach to risk management.

Customer emotion really matters - trust in payment methods

So what does all this mean for the payments industry?  Consumers are driven not just by technology, price and convenience, but also by emotion.  Trust is fundamental to the payments industry: reputation, safety, security, reliability. You can have a great innovation, but if customer emotion is not engaged, you have a problem.  We have seen that with the introduction of chip and pin in the US, and also in near-field technology to for “swipe” payments across Europe.

Most payment systems are still far too slow

Speed is becoming mission critical.  Most audience members tell me they press the back button on a web browser if a web page takes longer than 5 seconds, and hate being asked to press buttons when they phone a call centre.  Every second counts.  So an increasing risk in future is technology failure: websites crashing, back-end payment systems broken.

Online banking still takes far too long – even though 28 million people are using it in the UK.  The new Paym system is better but still too slow – and will probably handle a billion payments a year by 2020.  Over 100 different payment platforms have been introduced in the last 5 years but most are not fit for purpose.

Migration and urbanisation are driving payments innovation 

The biggest driver of mobile payments globally is migration – people sending remittances home to members of their family.  A billion people will move from rural areas to cities in the next 30 years.  This is urbanization on a gigantic scale.

Until recently, most mobile payments were in Africa, and most of those were on the mPesa network in Kenya, trading more than a third of the nation’s GDP on mobiles.

So the old model, of people opening bank accounts, then starting to use credit cards and then mobile payments, has been turned upside down. 

1.7 billion with no bank account will have mobile payments soon

1.7 billion people have no bank account but they use a mobile phone.  Most of them will gain access to financial services for the first time through using a phone, usually a smartphone.

So retail banking in regions like Europe and North America will be deeply affected by innovations that began in Africa and then spread to Asia.  In the meantime, there is a payments revenue crisis coming in the EU.  The market is saturated so there is hardly any money to be made these days selling new types of credit card.  Competition is fierce and regulation tight, and both are affecting profits – and that is before you get hit by huge fines for systems failures.

Cash still has a great future!

So anyone reading all this might think that the days of using cash are over, but this is far from true.  The amount of cash in circulation in the EU is still increasing every year by around 3%.  Quite simply, cash has never been so popular – in some parts of the community.  Cash has a bad reputation with governments as a way of avoiding tax and committing crimes or using the proceeds of crime without being detected.  But people also like cash because it is physical stuff. They know what they have in their wallets.  People like cash because it is anonymous, simple, convenient and fast.

We will also see new kinds of virtual cash – like Bitcoin althought the future of Bitcoin itself remains uncertain, with the value of each coin falling dramatically since the peak in late 2013.

Payments and growth of e-commerce

We are still in the earliest days of e-commerce with around $1.5 trillion traded online each year.  In the UK and some other nations it is already the case that most e-commerce sales are on mobiles – so forget about the idea of an offline or online world.  In the universe of mobile, both online and offline have fused into one.

Location-based marketing is next Big Thing

That is way location-based marketing is the next Big Thing:  knowing where the customer is, where they have been, what they usually do when, who they pay for what.  That means Big Data combined from both telcos and banks.  Hence we will hear a lot about TelcoBanks – organsations that are set up to provide a total mobile and banking service.  And when you have the full picture, it means the end of old-style marketing messages, shouted randomly at millions of irritated people.  Instead it means whispering just-in-time personal messages to people as the pass along the journey of life.

Expect rapid innovation in biometric security on mobiles

Together with this we are already seeing rapid innovation in biometrics on mobiles – fingerprints now, iris recognition to come, together with face recognition.  Take a look at Face++ - a cloud-based face-recognition system that can be installed in your company or on your website in a couple of hours.

Banks using retinal scanning have reduced waiting times at teller desks from 4 minutes to 1 minute for a wide range of tasks.

Mega-targets for the biggest hacking crimes ever known

Now when you add Mobile Payments to the Internet of Things to Big Data, and put all that in the Cloud, you land up with a mega target for every hacker in the world – whether criminals or people acting for a foreign state power.  So expect to see astonishing levels of investment to keep these things secure, and some very worrying headlines to come about mass attacks.

Why banks are being overtaken by events

So how on earth can a middle-sized financial institution hope to keep pace with all this techno-change.  The answer is that they can’t – not alone.  Even the largest banks in the world are being rapidly overtaken by FinTech.

Many banks are spending maybe 45% of their entire IT budgets sorting out legacy problems from banking mergers some years ago.  They spend a further 15-20% on compliance and new regulations, and maybe 20% on security.  We can debate the exact percentages but one thing is clear: in most banks in the world there is not much left for customer-facing, radical IT innovation.  A large bank may find it has less than $50-100 million a year to spend on call-centre upgrades, mobile interfaces for customers and so on.

Collaboration, partnerships, joint innovation, technology alliances

Compare this with the Cloud-based company SalesForce, which spends around $3 billion a year on innovation, mainly on next-generation call-centre technologies.  You can see that most banks are being out-gunned, out-manoevred, and have not a hope of catching up with their own customer’s expectations, let along getting ahead of them.  

That is why collaboration, partnerships and innovation alliances are going to be so critically important in the payments industry.  Do it together or face slow oblivion alone.

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