Money2020 just might be the smash hit in the world of finance industry conferences. In its first iteration, in late October at the Aria in Las Vegas, it sold out, drawing 2,000+ attendees and it fielded an expo hall stuffed with huge booths from PayPal, Google Wallet, American Express and other all-stars in the sector.
Attendees, too, were power brokers – very senior executives at Discover, Visa, Walmart, Bank of America, and down a list of people who matter in shaping what money will look like in just a few years.
So what did you miss?
* Google Wallet Wants Your Business
Don’t think this product is only for the biggest banks and a few mammoth credit unions. At Money2020 Google management made a direct plea to credit unions to contact them. “You can be live in the Wallet in a week,” Google promised.
What that means is your credit card art will be uploaded in vivid detail.
Your costs? Zilch, from Google, which also does not want a slice of any payments fees (“we are not another mouth to feed,” said Google Wallet vice president Osama Bedier).
Google wants to make its money from advertising. Period.
The only drawback: Near Field Communication – which powers Google Wallet – is still thin on the ground. Very few devices have it and not many more merchants do.
But when they do, you’ll be ahead of the curve.
What if NFC flops (see below)? No worry. At Money2020, Google indicated it was looking at “bridging technologies” such as QR codes – meaning Google is preparing for a Wallet that may exist independently of NFC.
* What's Up With Isis?
Isis – the NFC-powered mobile payment system launched by AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile - announced it had opened its pilots in Austin, Texas and Salt Lake City on Day 1 of Money2020 and just about nobody cared.
The sense seemed strong that for Isis – an oft-delayed joint venture that many doubt has a chance of succeeding because the partners are arch enemies – to matter it had to wow in its pilot and that, said some experts at Money2020, seemed improbable. Only a handful of Isis ready phones are for sale. Only “hundreds” of merchants are participating, per the Isis press release. And Isis is not on the iPhone.
Call Isis’ future doubtful.
* EMV May Be In Trouble
Mike Cook, the payments guru at Walmart, said it an aside on a panel: He does not see EMV – the chip and PIN upgrade to mag stripes that many take for granted by 2015 in the U.S. –
having a role at Walmart. Ever. To Cook, EMV is just building on a flawed base, the traditional plastic credit card. He sees the mobile phone as a dazzler – it theoretically can be a powerful identifier - and that is what excites him.
He made it plain that Walmart would not spend its dollars installing system A today, then ripping it out in favor B tomorrow. When Walmart puts its money to work. it wants a system that will last and, said Cook, that isn’t EMV.
* Bluebird May Be Your Vulture
At BAI Retail Delivery a few weeks ago, right after Walmart and American Express announced the launch of the no-fee Bluebird payment account, the sense among bankers was that Bluebird would sing a dirge on Green Dot’s grave but bankers – and by extension, credit unions – had little to worry about this product that seemed to be aimed at the underbanked and unbanked.
Think again. Bluebird executives at Money2020 insisted that Bluebird is for everybody, especially anybody fed up with paying $100 and up in annual fees for a checking or share draft account, since most of those customers can find ways to get Bluebird fee free. Credit unions may have less exposure here since free share draft accounts continue to be the rule.
But remember: Bluebird is free for just about everything: mobile remote deposit capture, person- to-person payments and online bill pay.
Bluebird also will give users the opportunity to use paper checks beginning early in 2013, said executives.
Bluebird has its critics – it has no branches and no FDIC coverage – but talk at Money2020 seemed focused on how it just may force big changes in how financial institutions serve the huge middle class, and that could have wide impacts.
* “It has to be exciting”
What has held back adoption of mobile payments and mobile wallets so far? Speakers at Money2020 fingered consumer concerns about security but the other issues are that, so far, the available tools aren’t easy to use and they are not exciting.
But that day, said speakers, is coming. Soon.
Truth: right now, very few of us have bought anything with a tap of a phone or a tablet. Even at Money2020, when a speaker asked the audience how many had done so, only a scattering of hands went up. But that is changing, very fast.
Just five years into the smartphone revolution triggered by the iPhone launch in 2007, already half the U.S. population now owns a smartphone. The triumph of mobile phones at retail is inevitable, agreed most Money2020 speakers, and it will happen much sooner than anybody would have thought just a few years back.
Make mobile commerce exciting and they will come.
- ALSO at MONEY2020: Google Wallet Path to Domination
- ALSO at MONEY2020: Mitek CEO Sees Bill Pay by Smartphone Camera
- ALSO at MONEY2020: Isis Chatter at Las Vegas Conference
- ALSO at MONEY2020: PayPal, Google Gurus Fire Away
- ALSO at MONEY2020: Bluebird Takes to Vegas Stage