Acceptance – Part 1

I haven’t written much on acceptance over my 9 yr blogging career for one simple reason.. I was never “in” that side of the business. Given how much is going on in here I can’t leave it out any longer. Acceptance at the POS is a big topic, I see the following areas: Continue reading “Acceptance – Part 1”

Browser Tokens – Payments in OS Part 4

My last articles on this topic were
I’ll forgive you if you didn’t see the big news out of Google I/O. There is a MUST READ article in Android Police that is spot on. Summary? Google (Chrome/Android) and Apple (Safari) are ready to integrate payment tokens in the browser.. Buy buttons will be integrated into ads, product listings, or a single “pay” button with no subsequent user information to fill out “quasi one-click”. From Android Police

Continue reading “Browser Tokens – Payments in OS Part 4”

Changing Economics of Payments

2 Dec 2015

Happy ‘After’ Thanksgiving everyone, I’m coming out of my tryptophan coma and thought I would go for a mental stretch. This is a pretty big topic, and I won’t do it justice. Thanks in advance for your comments and perspective. [Note I’m not naming the titles of my reference blogs and used only URLs.] Continue reading “Changing Economics of Payments”

2015 End of Summer Payments Update

15 September 2015

Well kids are back in school and Europe is tan. 6 weeks left till Money 2020.. and I just completed our Series A here at Commerce Signals.. wow what a summer!!

This blog is a little bit more of an inventory of things going on.. mixed with some views and general rumblings.

EMV. Its going to happen in October and the big merchants are ready. Two top processors told me that small merchants are in big trouble, particularly as the issuers will be pushing back all fraud to non-EMV merchants VERY aggressively. Think of it this way. EMV does NOTHING to help the small merchant.. currently no business bares cost of fraud in card acceptance. In October merchants must change to accept EMV or they will have the risk of fraud on their business. ISOs to the rescue? This will be a great opportunity for Poynt, Square and other merchant friendly POS/Payment providers.

Acquirers. First Data is moving toward IPO. This is a very tough business.. but as I’ve said before my bets are around companies that can be merchant friendly.. Acquirers are the entity that own the merchant relationship in a 4 party network.. so it is theirs to lose. Nothing has really taken off (incrementally here), Clovr, Card Spring, First Data’s Palantir. Why?? Acquirers have largely been put into a pricing box at the top 500 merchants with a well defined service (not much room for incremental services), and have had their reputation impugned through the ISO channels at the low end (5-7% cost of acceptance). For any Acquiring CEO reading this blog.. my action for you today is to take a look at the invoice you send to a merchant. 2-4 pages of fees that are indecipherable.. When merchants don’t trust you they don’t buy more from you. This is why I would not invest in this space without a clear understanding of the disruption.

Private Label. Rumor is that both Amex and Paypal are looking at M&A here. Makes sense for Amex particularly given need for transaction volume, 3 party model and their state of the art infrastructure. Merchants love Amex customers.. and Amex does the best job in the industry of proving the value that they bring (justifying their hefty cost).

MCX. They are set with payment infrastructure from FIS and First Data. The payment capability is there, and it takes time to build a highly scalable payments company. I just don’t see the need for stand alone app. My guess is that there will be an MCX payment instrument that sits in Apple/Google wallet… just silly to compete on “presentment”. Is the alliance fracturing? I think all participants would love to have a payment instrument that they could own and control. The issue is that there is no agreement on anything beyond payment. Mobile is too important a channel to delegate to a consortium. Also, these are fierce competitors.. The real challenge? Creating a great consumer experience, quite frankly their product team was one of the worst I’ve ever met in any company. No wonder they were considering paydiant.. one of the only options out of the DIY.

Poynt and Square. This seems to fit right in to the flow..  I love both of these companies. Why? As described above the payment industry has been VERY unkind to retailers. Poynt and Square give retailers a greatly simplified hardware, software, and acquiring solution. As a small merchant moving from 5-7% acquiring to 2.75% is a rather simple value proposition. I believe Poynt has several significant advantages over Square: 1) Square has a 6month+ certification process on Apple devices. Whenever it changes anything in its app… it has to go through recertification by Apple. Poynt is the ANDROID of Point of Sale solutions 2) By staying off of Apple AND adding a separate stand alone processor for non-payment applications, Poynt can deploy more applications more quickly and act as a platform for other services. 3) Poynt has a powerful data solution that puts merchants back in control of their data, 4) Ergonomics/Design. Just beautiful. Chip/DIP, Chip Contactless, QR, BLE, customer facing touch screen (not a swivel stand) all work seamlessly without having to pick up the terminal and try to stick your card into a slot. Well done Osama and team.

Paypal? Not much of a stock pop.. I’m very high on the Dan and Bill. But their core asset (eCommerce risk management) is being rendered moot by great mobile auth. When Microsoft (OnePay), Google (Wallet), Visa (Checkout), Apple (ApplePay) all moving into eCommerce they also risk loosing consumers. One of my biggest beefs is their treatment of Venmo volume in TPV (it is 0bps). Rumors are also that they will lose Uber within next 6 months.. and worked a special deal to keep them with take rate below 90bps (perhaps a driver of their margin drop). Merchants are a natural ally here, but Don K really mucked things up with their POS try. It will take 2 years to get things in shape here.

Visa/MA.. They are my biggest holdings.. no change in my views here. VDEP and MDES have positioned both with new power to tokenize and own the rules on mobile. I expect to see a new CNP rate for tokens within next 9 months.

Google. Big news 9/10 (See Blog). Google wallet now on all phones KitKat 4.4 and above (50-60M in US). I love it.. This is the PLATFORM FOR PAYMENT INNOVATION. The user experience is not on par with Apple (or even Samsung Pay).. but Android users are more technical (only 6% of iPhone owners have ever used ApplePay). There are some BIG pluses over Apple, I love that it shows the ereciept and location of purchase for instance (most issuers). Very surprised that Google is still looking for bi-lateral deals from issuers (in order of $10M with no bps). This is why we don’t see many issuers at launch.  What is funny is that there is a “free path” to issuers as well. If they don’t want their card art.. issuers can still just “turn it on” via the V/MA intranet tokenization route (register BINs). Funny that the big hold out is JPM.. given its data play.

Apple. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an ApplePay product announcement in October at Money 2020. Note that my track record is near perfect here so I don’t want to mess up 2 years of predictions. I know that Apple has ApplePay working in Safari, don’t know if they will roll this out our not. I also know that Apple went back to issuers asking for an “Amex like experience with eReciepts”. The issuers said “sure we can do that.. lets first tear up that 15 bps contract and talk about what you will pay me”. My sources say that beacons are a part of the next launch.. they could be just feeding me *&^*(&.  My guess on new release? 1) New Developer Support Program and rollout of Private Label/ Synchrony, ADS and Citi. 2) Improved “eReciept” process (like Amex) in order to compete with Google. 3) ApplePay in Safari (60% chance.. it is working but don’t know if they want to push yet before new token CNP rate tier). 4) Beacons at POS. Improve retail experience with beacons (40%.. again working in lab but don’t know of readiness).

The big Apple news that everyone is talking about is their plans to finance phones directly (end running carrier subsidy dependencies). As I’ve stated before, Apple’s phone is already capable of enabling a virtualized SIM. This is the one step needed before Apple enables consumers to “switch” to the lowest cost network every month.. or every day. This obviously has big implications for Gemalto as well. Google is 2-3 years behind, but is making more progress in enabling wi-fi as network option.

Innovation. Chain getting investment from NASDAQ, Visa, Citi.. is big news. I remain very positive on use of bitcoin as a disruption to Payments (see blog structural changes to payments). I also live industry specific solutions where payments are combined with something else to solve a problem. hyperWALLET for global payroll, justpushpay for construction, WEX for fleet/gas. I also love payments and data (hence commerceSignals), in this Klarna and Sofi are just tremendous ideas.

Going South

Samsung Pay. No change in my views here. What is sad is that they didn’t know that their entire application is incompatible with Android M (until they read my blog). Working with a competing app on their own phones with no registration.. just sad.

Card Linked offers. Guys don’t believe the press.. all of these things are dying. Even the most successful (cardlytics). Citibank is rumored to have called EDO to come pick up the pallet of their equipment (after 300M+ spent).  The good news is that their transactional data is in better shape for use.

Gemalto. Stock is at a 5 year low.. I told you guys to be short here. NO MCX, No GSMA NFC SWP… now Apple is pushing the SIM out of the phone altogether (or soon will).

Monitise. I want to end on a humorous note. This company did a great job at enabling online banking 8 years ago.. enabling “check your balance” functionality via a quick integration to the ATM switch. They pivoted in 2006/8 to support development on an array of handsets (Nokia, RIM, Apple, Samsung, …) with their only competition being mFoundry (acquired by FIS). But the phone complexity went away with 2 mobile OS (Android and iOS) and the rapid shift of mobile from the periphery to the center of the customer relationship. No bank will outsource the CENTER.. mobile development was a specialized skill.. now it is mainstream. As if this were not sad enough, they hired a US network exec with no EU experience, no mobile experience and no network of issuers (that liked her). Then she pushed out the founder.. only to quit last week.  Wow .. I hope the BBC can make a Silicon Valley (HBO) equiv.. only make it more of a Shakespearian tragedy.

Google Creating Platform for a New Mobile ECONOMY

16 March 2015

How can Google, Samsung or anyone else ever hope to catch Apple? It depends on what they are chasing!

My view is that Google has just begun a major transformation to the physical (offline) world with Android as the key enabling “platform” (beyond search to orchestration) for a new business network. This transformation involves 5 primary vectors:

  1. Enable Android as the secure platform (SE Linux, Trustzone)
  2. Create participant incentives for commerce “network” to invest and transact on “platform” (Advertiser, MNO, Bank, Retailer, …)
  3. Improve physical world insight/data collection to enhance targeting and attribution
  4. Capture and manage consumer identity
  5. Create/enhance consumer engagement platform for commerce

Mobile Industry vs. Mobile Economy

Apple is the #1 company in the world. (A very BIG period). Apple’s position is well earned through focus and hard work. Operating as a  consumer champion that captures a mind numbing 93% of the mobile industry’s profits.  The most obvious question to address in this blog: what could ANYONE do to dent this? (operating from a basis of under 7%). In other words, what could Google do that would possibly matter?

Answer: The “Mobile industry” is not what Google is chasing (nor are Amazon, FB, Twitter, …). “Industry” is an old world classification that does not account for most aspects of the MOBILE ECONOMY (advertising, beacons, shopping, shipping, social, payment, identity, …etc). The mobile economy is about commerce. Perhaps my favorite “stat of the year” to exemplify the impact of mobile outside of the traditional “industry” came from January in Tech Crunch. Amazon’s business has shifted from 5% mobile to 60% mobile in 5 years!! (see Convergence Blog for more detail).star network

As mobile and IOT encompass ever larger roles/touches which impact our behavior, Google is moving to support both: Android as the embedded OS (connected everything) and Google core as the center of commerce (the orchestrator).  This blog focuses on mobile commerce and I will try to outline a few of Google’s strategic moves that are redefining the mobile economy.

Google’s core is centered on connecting businesses  and consumers, delivering services to all.  At the center of this star network is the indisputable “data” utility which becomes more efficient with every insight they gain on both sides (consumer and merchant).  Today millions of businesses and billions of consumers are investing “energy” to connect to Google (all with unique incentives)

Businesses, Banks and Consumers are all wondering if the beautiful simplicity of Google’s bright shining star [network] is a Faustian Bargain, much worse than Apple’s walled garden. Google’s position today is quite a feat given its humble beginnings as a free Open Source mobile OS that Google bought in 2005.

How is Google building platform and network? Moving to a model of shared incentives and partnerships?  Before we go deep here, let me first attempt to paint the picture of Apple’s dominance (and weakness).

Apple

Apple’s success is completely driven by the consumer, logically this means their organization and investment are focused on delivering great consumer products which operate within a giant walled garden. This walled garden works well in a small world (individual’s control: telephone, music, calendar, pictures) where Apple can control, but not very well in coordinating interactions outside of the garden. Stated differently, Apple’s approach of “my way or nothing”, means it has few friends.

As I outlined 2015 Predictions blog, competition is no longer about camera resolution, storage, and screen size, that enable you to manage items in your small world.  The visible (obvious) attributes of mobile competition have become a commodity; as well as the small world problems that your phone solves.  My view is  Apple’s greatest assets are consumer trust and its unique ability to change consumer behavior (see blog Apple and Physical Commerce, and Consumer Behavior). These assets allow Apple to assume a leading role in connecting and orchestrating consumers in the real “connected” world , however they are 5 years behind Google, Amazon and Facebook in their ability to execute here.

Why is Apple falling down in IOT/Connected Commerce? Apple has 4 primary strategic weaknesses: 1) it does not partner well (closed network and proprietary standards) and 2) it relies primarily on hardware for revenue, 3) its entire organizational culture and focus is on hardware 4) it locks consumers into its walled garden. Today pointing out these weaknesses is like telling Peyton Manning that his singing was out of tune, or Albert Einstein’s flaw as dancing. These shortcomings just don’t matter in a world where Apple is 3 years ahead of everyone else in profitability, quality, loyalty, integrated OS and Hardware.

Apple’s business model is perhaps the best example of how closed networks win through the domination of a benevolent “channel master” (see iPhone 6 – Apple’s Strategic Opportunity). Cisco, Microsoft, Intel all operate in this model. Apple’s star network is much smaller (ie connected business) but its bonds are much stronger. However, their success may become a hindrance.. as merchants, banks and others want to “own the consumer” too.

Compared to Apple, Google’s world is much more democratic, it wins by delivering value through customer choice every day (search, maps, mail, play, HCE, …).  Google is a commerce enabling, which tilts toward the consumer (on the phone) and toward the merchant (in advertising). Where Apple has a walled garden; Google is a semi open platform that supports many gardens and clusters.  Where Apple’s business is driven by hardware margin; Google’s is driven by daily consumer and merchant choice. Where Apple delivers value to consumers and itself; Google delivers value to every merchant, bank, MNO and almost every consumer (even on iOS). What other businesses are enablers of consumer and merchant? My list is fairly small…

Apple’s inability to make the iPhone work outside their garden, means that they are dependent upon device only margin (currently a fantastic business model). Critics will point out that Apple runs a fantastically successful App Store Platform that is 8x-20x more profitable than Google’s (with less than one quarter of the handsets).  However this is Apple’s walled garden.. where Apple made 30% from $2B from App store sales benefiting 500k odd top app developers, Google’s US Ad sales last year were $30B driving at least 20% of $185B in US eCommerce Sales. Google’s role was much more impactful to the overall economy (and almost all businesses).

Platform is turning out to be an opportunity lost for Apple. The iPhone 6’s security has made it the first “convergence device” with the ability to broker interaction in virtual world and the physical world (NSA, CIA and everyone else are still working to break industrial grade security). Yet Apple has no plan to leverage this identity management outside of their platform (see Brokering Identity), or even use basic identity information to assist banks with identifying ApplePay fraud (until very recently).

How to combine assets in the new Mobile Economy?

We need collaboration! The last 10 years has seen every major fortune 100 build big data facilities that work with nothing else. Banks, MNOs and others have all invested billions in an attempt to build an advertising business to rival Google’s. JPM Chase has a new data division on par with the investment bank, Verizon has built PMI, Walmart has WMX. All are constrained by their partial views of the consumer. Advertisers are challenged to work within these new proprietary efforts. The market need surrounds incremental insight engaging consumers in the channel which they prefer .. which means combining data.Data options

US MNOs spent over $600M+ trying to make their NFC play work. As my good friend Osama said at a recent MNO event “in order to create value sometimes we must let go of the assets we treasure most knowing that value is only created when they are combined with the assets and interests of others”.

Google provides a massive closed market (Ad Words) with unsurpassed consumer insight and trust. No company can choose NOT TO participate in Google’s economy, after all advertisers and retailers must go to where consumers are (not where they want them to be). Google operates in discovery, awareness, engagement, selection, sales, delivery and support.

Google is perhaps the only company in the world that is both loved and feared by merchants, banks and consumers. Particularly as their traditional open source, closed market, and “do no evil” approaches become more proprietary and less transparent. Google’s insurmountable advantage is in using data and insights within its own organization, where everyone else must be diligent with sharing (externally).

Today that fear is not well placed. Few understand just how myopic Google’s current data dominance is. While Google knows most about you online (search, mail, maps), they know very little about you in the real world. Google indexed the internet to create a common directory of public data, yet it has very little insight into private data (even your actual identity).  Facebook, Apple and Amazon all have far greater consumer identity insight.  Physical world (off line) data is of far greater value than online data, and online eCommerce sales are only $185B (US) comparted to $2.4T in offline Commerce.

Google

Perhaps it’s easiest to start this section by outlining what has changed in the last 12-18 months?Google economics

As stated in intro paragraph, I believe Google has begun a major transformation to the physical (offline) world with Android as the key enabling “platform” (beyond search to orchestration) for a new business network. This transformation involves 5 primary vectors:

  1. Enable Android as the secure platform (SE Linux, Trustzone)
  2. Create participant incentives for commerce “network” to invest and transact on “platform” (Advertiser, MNO, Bank, Retailer, …)
  3. Improve offline insight/data collection to enhance targeting and attribution
  4. Capture and manage consumer identity
  5. Create/enhance customer engagement platform for commerce

Android as Secure Platform

Android is transition from open source Linux to SE Linux (which was oddly enough created by the NSA).  One of Androids major shortcomings was its dependency on OEMs (minimal say on hardware). While Apple worked to create innovations like touch ID that is stored within the secure enclave within the A7/A8, Google had to work with prime OEM vendors like ARM to build the equivalent (both Apple Secure Enclave and Google’s new equiv are based upon ARM’s Trustzone/TEE).  Android is making big bets in security, as managing information (and authenticating consumer) is key to orchestration (see  Authentication – A Core Battle for Monetizing Mobile).

Poor SamsungPay. These guys obviously don’t read my blog or they would have clearly seen the implications of Google’s new MNO deal. SamsungPay will not be pre-loaded onto Samsung’s own phone. Samsung not only lost in payments, but also in owning a proprietary security construct that secured the token (Samsung’s proprietary Arm TrustZone implementation). Even if a consumer loaded SamsungPay onto their phone, it will not work without Samsung leveraging the new Google/ARM firmware for secure credential management.

Apple’s biggest lead (with no apparent threat) is in touch ID. While SE Linux and Secure Storage are important… you must know WHO is coming in the front door. The Android approach seems to be more about behavior and forensic identification than biometric.

Incentives for participation

In 2011, the US carriers wanted an estimated $3B from Google for the “rights” to NFC (and the secure element). Google correctly responded.. “how about we figure this out together and see if we can make it work” (skin in the game approach). Last month we saw Google’s purchase of ISIS/Softcard for $60M with a new strategic partnership, with unknown revenue share, and unknown mandatory Android features (ie Wallet/Play/ ?) with the Carriers that redefines the “secure” standard of a new Android platform.

Whereas Apple has complete control over every aspect of iOS. Google has created a network for revenue/sales. Retailers advertise/engage/create, MNOs rev share, Banks manage payments.  You can only guess which platform Banks and MNOs would prefer to invest. This common platform may be a turning point for collaboration and Commerce 3.0 (my year of partnerships).

Offline insight

Google’s mission is to use the phone to cross the chasm into offline. The reason a new platform is needed has to do with offline data. For example, Mobile advertising will never work without an understanding of intent and behavior. This [private] information is locked up in millions of businesses (with a copy at the NSA).  data evolution

Today’s data business is just insane. Take a look at someone like CVS, Catalina is one of my favorite data companies (along with ADS), and Catalina works well with Nielsen to target and measure television ads. However they don’t work well digitally, thus CVS has to provide Datalogix (now Oracle) will all of it loyalty data (your SKU level purchase data) to play with Facebook (see my blog for background). Can you imagine having all of your data in multiple locations? Trusting these aggregators use it appropriately? Combining is with their proprietary models and other external data sets? What are they “gleening” from this data?

Google’s approach is to own the data and insights created from their services. Google now wants to create mechanisms to “share”.. the problem is that this “sharing” involves giving data to Google and getting customers back. This allows Google to create great experiences, but the price for data owners is loss of control.

Logically, nothing in biology or in capital markets has this amount of centralization. The title of this section is “combining assets”, is the only answer to combine assets giving them to someone else for unstructured use? This is what my NewCo Commerce Signals does: providing the plumbing for federated data where data owners retain the control over their data, determining not only who they should share data with, but also for what use (next blog). I’m fortunate to have a few big retailers, banks and MNOs that share this view (within Commerce Signals).

Capture Consumer Identity

Remember when you purchased that new iPhone? You couldn’t activate it until you created an iTunes account. That iTunes account required a credit card. What a brilliant Apple move!!  This year Google will finally catch up, as I believe a key facit of new MNO agreements is to make the Google Play account mandatory (with CCN/Token).

Knowing the identity of the consumer is important, authenticating them is quite a bit more difficult.  I believe third parties like Payfone will play a leading roll here. Payfone is jointly owned by top 6 US Banks, Amex, Verizon, RRE and a few other investors. They are tying together identity information of carriers, banks and platforms to score transactions and enrollment.

Customer Engagement

Google has many, many efforts here:

Retailers and Banks are loathe to give Google data, or let them assist directly in consumer engagement. However as long as Consumers choose Google’s services first, Google is in the driver’s seat. Companies that share data more effectively with them will reap greater benefits.

Wrap up

EVERYONE works with Google… it is where consumers are. Consumer behavior on mobile is changing much faster than anyone has anticipated. No one company can ever hope to compete with Google, they are moving fast to reshape the mobile economy.. where consumers spend 3 hr/day.

mobile_vs_tv_1_v1b-1

Android is a much easier platform to make investment. It’s a more predictable standards based environment compared to Apple (ex Sapphire glass or that darn lightening connector), with a strong partnership track record. Google’s democratic nature allows for experimentation. The path toward rewiring commerce is much easier in a Google world.

Having Google at the core of data is not without risks. Companies must work with many parties after all. How do you track the interaction between all of your partners today? Who has your consumer data? What will you share with whom? How can you accelerate trials and tests?

How do you combine your assets to create value in this new future? Without loosing control. This is the problem I am focused on.

 

 

2015 Predictions

3 February 2015

Payments, commerce, data and mobile is this blog’s focus. I’m very very fortunate to have so many great friends, customers and partners in this area. My thoughts are not my own, as I’m greatly influenced by my “environment”.

I’ve made many new friends because of this blog. The funny story that comes to mind was in August of last year when the CEO of a Fortune 50 company comes into the room and says “ahh.. the INFAMOUS Tom Noyes”…  (never a good way to start off a first date.. but we had a good laugh and thrilled he reads my blog.. ). Honest dialog has a way of creating great friendships. Thanks to all of you for providing such a fantastic environment! You make writing this thing fun.

2014 Prediction Eval

Before you bother reading my 2015 predictions you should probably see if it is worth your time. Best way is to evaluate what I projected last year in my 2014 Predictions

  • Consumer Privacy. Grade – C. Not much happened in 2014 on consumer side. I’m holding with my prediction, just not certain of timing and “tipping point”. How will we know when it happens? Imagine a Sony like incident with consumer data.. Regulated businesses like MNOs and Banks are highly attuned, Apple is the best in class here (consumer champion of privacy see Blog). The Ad industry is dependent upon tracking and data sharing in a very, very grey market approach. There is a better way… 2014 is perhaps the year of “awareness” with Snowden, DEA tracking license plates, State department keeping all of our phone records, to new super cookies on mobile. The next logical phase is ACTION.
  • Retail banking. Grade – A. Huge transformations going on. Prepaid and GPR products are segments growing at over 35% CAGR, US branch footprints are shrinking (see Blog)
  • Debit Volume. Grade – D. Not much going on here, after the DC court of appeals struck down Judge Leon’s ruling on debit interchange (March 2014).  Not much consolidation in PIN debit either. I do believe US debit will evolve to look like Canada’s Interact and Australia’s EFTPOS.
  • Mobile BEACONS. Grade – F. Nothing happening in 2014. Looks like more of a 2016 thing. I’m holding to my projection.. but missed timing completely.. thought Apple would launch beacons at their Sept 9th
  • mCommerce Payments. Grade – B. Summer 2015 is where we will see substantial progress. We see that the networks have turned over the new 3DS CNP scheme to EMVco last month (see link). As Payments move into the OS (see blog), Paypal doesn’t have one. Amazon, Google, Apple, will make SIGNIFICANT dents in Paypal as the platformcontrols authentication and authorization. Amex/Visa/MA’s new rules on tokens, combined with consumer privacy concerns, will accelerate the trend.
  • Specialized HardwareGrade Gives way to Commodity Hardware- Grade A.. makes way for commodity hardware and software. Launch of POYNT and CLOVR are best examples.
  • Host Card Emulation. Grade – B (for 2014), Grade A (by August 2015). Google did indeed push HCE into Android. With the death of ISIS and SEs in US phones.. things will be heating up in 2015 with a new Google launch.
  • EMV. Grade – D?. It appears to be happening.. I bet it would have been pushed back… I have the cards, but don’t yet see the retailer infrastructure. The chip and signature (vs Chip and PIN) is still a very strange one. It would take me 3 days to explain the politics behind it. What really baffles me is Samsung’s planned launch of LoopPay this summer (with Visa support).
  • Banks have given up on payment innovation. Grade – A+. I have a copy of the ApplePay issuer agreement (Sept 2014). Just can’t believe the banks have taken it on the chin like this.. not only ceding mobile to Apple, but Tokens to the Network and 15bps. What do they have left?
  • ISIS WILL DIE.. Grade – A+. Money ran out in Dec 2014, sale will be complete by March.
  • Apple will have NFC. Grade A+ … ApplePay 9/9/2014.. I was wrong on 3 things.. I projected October (it was 9/9) and there would be no SE, and Beacons would be part of launch (to wake up payment app). Big news (below) is that ApplePay will be in browser by summer 2015.. Paypal will be crushed with a double whammy on “value”: usability and a new rate tier (20-40bps off credit) for tokens in CNP.
  • Unlocking the cloud and authentication. Grade – B+ . Apple has done an amazing job here. See my blog on brokering identity.

Summary Grade: B+ . Looks like I’m a little aggressive in projecting the new stuff (Beacons, Identity, EMV, HCE). Except for EMV and Debit, I’m still confident in the predictions (philosophically) but my timelines are too aggressive in most cases.

2015 Predictions

These predictions based upon the Structural Changes in Payments which I discussed last month.

Big Picture Predictions

  1. The Year of Partnerships, new Clusters and multi-tenant walled gardens (forced by Apple/Google Dominance).
  2. Mobile moves from Small World organization to Real World Orchestration (my next blog)… starting with merchant friendly value propositions. You must be where customers are, or influence them in the real (offline) world. We have spent the last 10 years enabling a handset that does more than take calls and connecting it to the virtual world. We will spend the next 10 connecting it to the physical world. From POS Payment, Google Shopping Express and Beacons to Door opening and document signing.
  3. Tipping point of Privacy (Apple Defines Best Practice)
  4. Politicization of networks. Government regulation in internet prioritization, payment networks, social networks, advocacy networks and advertising networks. Networks are needed for the efficient life of a firm. Star network resembles dictatorships in social networks, and “channel masters” in business networks. Star networks are optimal for business, however we have grown quite used to the state of `organized criticality’, the scale-free, democratic and highly complex social net. Government involvement in networks usually does not improve efficiency and can lead to significant disruption.  Take a look at what Europe has created in SEPA.. a standard that no one will invest in.
  5. Collapse of “wallets” into Payment in the OSmCom trumps eCom. Tokens take over in eCommerce w/ ApplePay, Visa Checkout and Google Wallet
  6. Marketing… the year of measurement… and beginning of pay for performance
  7. The most trusted consumer brands will remain: Apple, Google and Amazon… with banks suffering most as their products become commodities and mobile rendering physical footprints moot.

Tactical/Deal Predictions

  1. Apple will launch aggressive effort to bring ApplePay into Browser by Summer 2015
  2. We will have a new rate tier from Visa and Mastercard based upon tokens in CNP (see EMVCo 3DS PR)
  3. Google will GO BIG in launch of new wallet in an HCE model akin to ApplePay. It will have dynamic tokenization. Google will excel in getting retailers private label and loyalty cards integrated, and pass Apple in BLE integration (in store).
  4. Alliance Data will be bought by JPM, C, Paypal, Hedgefund+Acquirer or Amex. ADS is my top stock recommendation for 2015, V/MA are my long term.
  5. Samsung will Launch LoopPay with support from Visa by September 2015.
  6. Visa will complete purchase of Visa Europe (hopefully at a 2015 discount) with strong dollar and weak EU growth.
  7. MCX will pivot to a payment instrument within another wallet (think Target Redcard) vs a wallet unto themselves .
  8. Beacon pilots will launch in top 20 retailers. In store navigation, product location, couponing and gamification will be first uses.
  9. Facebook payment will go live and be integrated into a new form of social advertising, where you are paid based upon your ability to influence your network, will see first pilots. Facebook will remain king of CPG advertising
  10. Behind the scenes there is tremendous progress in the collaboration of Banks, Telecos, and Mobile Platforms to Validate Identity. Short term impact is near elimination of mobile payment fraud. 2015 will be year of formalizing an identity verification infrastructure (in the cloud).

2015 the year of Partnerships

Google and Apple against Everyone Else?

I don’t have time to go over all 15 of my projections.. will do so in coming weeks. Over the last 6 months network and system design has consumed my thoughts like nothing else: proprietary networks vs. open networks, integrated vs modular, distributed innovation vs controlled platform, Apple vs. Google, Amex vs Visa, net neutrality vs. prioritization. At what point does OPEN win? My blogs on the subject was Value Creation and Distributed Innovation, Banks non-Banks and Commerce Network and my two favorite books are Platform Leadership and  Weak Links by Peter Csermely (viewable on Google Books here).

Any analysis of this area must focus on Apple. Wow! What a machine! The most loved brand, the most profitable, highest in consumer satisfaction, most sales per square foot, creator of new categories, inventors of new consumer experiences, trusted by the most affluent demographic, champion of privacy… on and on. Is Apple an exception?  Can any company ever aspire to replicate their success in any industry? How can anyone else compete in areas they touch? Do the rest of us just pick up the crumbs? Apple’s latest results show that their model is improving, garnering over 86% of the “mobile” industry’s profits (see Forbes).

network evolution nodes to consortium

Open networks are harder to build, and are certainly less profitable than closed. My prediction on “year of partnerships” is due to necessity, NOT the efficacy of collaboration. Few companies can compete with the data advantage of Google, Amazon and Facebook. Apple’s trust and reputation advantage is perhaps even more insurmountable. For large companies it may take 2-5 partnerships in a focused area. Imagine the data challenges small companies face.  This is not a technical challenge as much as a business one. How many successful partnerships have you seen (elephants dancing).  Remember that are injured elephants facing as structural changes in consumer behavior, mobile, information, distribution, trust … impact products and strategies. CommerceSignals is working to help bridge this gap, but that is for another blog.

Where Google, Apple and Amazon are self sustaining Stars (networks), clusters and multi-tenant walled gardens are forming to compete in a quasi open model.  The challenges here are not technical, but organizational and value creation. History reveals few consortiums renowned for their efficiency.  Value is best created where it can be controlled and monetized in “small worlds”.  Networks in business are functional in 2 areas: around a specific function with broad use (Visa/MA, Credit Bureaus, ?Android?) and where market forces can take operate (NASDAQ,  …). This is my big hypothesis… would greatly appreciate input here.

2015 must be the year of merchant friendly value propositions. Logically, the majority of commerce happens in a retailer.. and hence the “solutions” must as well. The inability to partner will give way to platforms that enable partnership… optimally platforms that would allow millions of “lightly structured” interactions to test 1000s of value propositions until something sticks (this is Commerce Signals). Take beacons for example.. we know that Apple can maintain security and confidentiality.. but the retailer must install beacons that work for everyone and have a business case (consumer insight). Consumers want to know how insights will be used. How do you manage the agreement between Manufacturer, Beacon Provider, Apple, Retailer and Consumer?

iPhone 6 – Tipping Point for Platforms

As I outlined in iPhone 6 – Apple’s Strategic Opportunity, I believe the iPhone 6 represents the dawning of a new age of mobile “platform”. What was a music manager with a phone has turned into the most secure, easy to use device ever created. The factors of competition have changed, it is no longer about camera resolution, storage, and screen size. The visible (obvious) attributes of competition have become a commodity; as are the “problems” that your phone solves (telephone, music, calendar, pictures).  Where previous phones helped you manage items in your “small world”, the iPhone 6 has become both the secure key to the cloud with the ability to broker interaction in the physical world (NFC, BLE, identity, tokens). The “convergence device”. See my blogs Brokering Identity and Authentication in Value Nets.

Unfortunately, Apple is so focused on the consumer it has no ability to partner. While there is no company better in creating devices that thrill a consumer, there is perhaps no company worse at building partnerships and business models where value is shared. Given Apple’s cash hoard, my top recommendation.. create a new division focused on network.. helping connect consumers to the physical environment they live in (thermostats, health, retail, cars, advertising, …). This is NOT a handset function.

Abrupt end here.. this blog has been in partial completion mode for 6 weeks. I had to get it out. Will articulate my views on the other “Top 5” predictions this month.

Structural Changes in Payments

2 January 2015

Today’s blog is focused on discussing the structural changes influencing consumer retail payments in the US. For those interested in looking at a broader global view of all payments, I highly recommend reading the Cap Gemini World Payments Report (https://www.worldpaymentsreport.com/) .

Payment Value - highlighted

Payments have been a focus of mine for 20 or so years… it is perhaps the MOST interesting of all network businesses. Payment is a critical part of commerce and a product of it. It is the event in which almost every commercial contract is based upon. Payments can be simple (cash), complex (bitcoin), and political (interchange, rules). Payment efficacy, reliability and data are important to: consumers, merchants, banks, governments and economies.

Globally, electronic payments are still in their infancy, which makes investing in it so much more exciting. For example, over 90% of the global electronic transactions occur in the top 10 markets (representing less than 10% of the world’s population).  This would seem to point to a future where electronic payments (and the banking/commerce they represent) are poised to grow geometrically as the number of nodes grow. There is a chicken and egg argument here.. are payments the result of strong economic environments or are they the enabler? Perhaps a bit of both, but finding markets where they are growing (ie Brazil, Peru, Philippines, Kenya, … ) are worth exploring (Democratizing Access to Capital – see blog).

Not only are payments poised for exciting growth, there are also tremendous forces driving change within existing systems and networks. Investors must consider these structural changes impacting existing players across the entire value chain.

In its simplest form, payments are a brokering business which manages value exchange between two entities engaged in commerce. Logically, a broker must be removed from the transaction to maintain the trust of both parties, and deliver value through managing the financial risk associated with the transaction. My view is that Card issuing banks, have lost the neutrality of their “brokering” role by creating a card rewards system that incents card use (paid by the merchant). However, this ideal “neutral” world is NOT the nirvana that we should seek, as no one would invest and we would be stuck with cash (and SEPA in the EU .. see blog).

Complexity in payments is driven by the quest for control and margin of the various participants, not by necessity. This is what makes understanding payments so hard…. most of the changes are not logical, but political. The friction (inefficiencies and illogical design) in payments is what makes them work. As I’ve stated before, no engineer would design a payment system to operate the way we do today (see Push Payments). Thus there is beauty in this chaos! The V/MA model created incentives for 1000s of banks to invest in payments, and I doubt if we will ever see any other companies that could repeat this feat (thus my V/MA personal investments).

What changes are likely to impact the world’s oldest profession in the next 10 years? My list (in order of impact)

  1. Risk and Identity
  2. Data/Commerce Value
  3. Consumer Behavior/Trust/Acceptance
  4. Issuance/Customer Acquisition/HCE
  5. Regulatory/Rates/Rules (Fees)
  6. Mobile/Payment in the OS

#1 Risk and Identity: Authentication and Authorization

How would you authenticate someone’s identity? Best practice is to validate a combination of what you are (biometric, image, DNA), with something you have (mobile, token, OTP FOB, …) and something you know (shared secret). Apple’s new iPhone 6 is the first major consumer device that can manage all 3 securely. It is truly revolutionary.  The ability to authenticate a consumer eliminates fraud risk, and thus impacts both Account Opening and Transaction Authorization.  Both of these services in turn impact the “core” banking relationship (see Future of Retail Banking).. How do consumers choose a bank? A credit card? What is the value proposition?PIN Fraud Rate 2013 Value

Before there is payment there must be an account in which to pay from. The key to opening an account is identity (Regulatory KYC or Know Your Customer). Account Opening has been automated (and online) for over 10 years. In 2004, my team at Wachovia was the first in the world to introduce instant account opening (online) for deposit accounts (Credit Cards were just 2 years ahead of us..). 10 years ago I used products like Equifax accountChex or EWS AOA (Validating questions based on prior financial history and credit bureau data), today could I use Apple!?

Identity and authentication is changing rapidly, and if the first two paragraphs were not already enough to ponder on this topic, we must mention Bitcoin. As opposed to authenticating the person to give access to funds and services, bitcoin authenticates itself enabling the holder to be anonymous. It is a self authenticating instrument.. imagine a dollar bill that can tell you it is genuine with 100% accuracy.  Self authenticating instruments exist independently of the holder and are a store of value (ie, Gold, Bitcoin, …etc). Normally there was physical presence required to exchange self authenticating instruments (exchanging gold), bitcoin changed all of that. A virtual self authenticating instrument that can be exchanged remotely and cannot be tracked (easily). Whereas payments are instructions move money (value) from one bank (store of value) to another, a bitcoin exchange is value exchange (not instructions). bitcoinhow-100032615-orig

The power of bitcoin to disrupt payments, companies, government, economies, .. cannot be understated.  How could any central bank manage money supply in this model? How can you tax something that cannot be tracked? The growth challenge for bitcoin is in “connecting” to other payment networks and regulated entities (ie cash out).  Unfortunately the entities which benefit the most from bitcoin are those that seek anonymity… which of course impacts the willingness of mainstream (regulated) institutions to accept it.

Fraud and Risk

As you can see from picture above “risk” in payments has several components: credit risk, settlement risk, fraud risk, regulatory/AML risk, … etc. Fraud risk is the area in the most flux, both WHO owns the risk and HOW it is managed. In the US Card Not Present transactions follow the pattern of ACH and Checks in that the originator of the transaction bears the risk of loss. In a retail transaction, that is the merchant. applepayinapps

Risk and fraud management were historically the key areas where banks excelled and differentiated (big banks have multi billion dollar investments), but the merchants and platforms have now passed banks in their ability to manage it. This mobile authentication advancement had rendered the multi billion dollar bank risk investments moot (for mobile initiated payments).  Proof is in the picture above (see Federal Reserve 2013 Payment Study), all fraud has fallen tremendously! Both for Card Present, Card Not Present and even for Checks. Why? As the former EVP of a Kleiner Perkins backed Fraud Prevention company I’m not going to give you all the details, but suffice to say that identity plays a key role. Paypal, Amazon, Google, Apple all have fraud rates under 8bps, some have the around 3bps.  These numbers will get better for Apple and Google as mcommerce starts to take an ever larger share of eCommerce (see my previous blog) and they bake in biometrics into mobile payments.

A key point that investors must understand here is that the large CNP merchants have gotten so good at managing fraud, that they could care less about a liability shift. What they want is a rate reduction (risk based pricing).  After all, if you could manage fraud at a rate of 3-8bps.. what work is the bank doing to justify taking 240 for payments? The Paypal investors read this and say “ahh.. Apple and Google want to become Paypal”.. No they don’t! while Apple/Google COULD assume all the functions of Paypal, their role as commerce orchestrators is of FAR greater value. In this role you must not force a consumer to a merchant, a good, or a payment instrument. “Let the consumer decide” is the common mantra across the Google, Apple, Amazon.

The investor impact is complex. Large merchants have proven ability to manage fraud and risk, and want the consumer to choose the payment instrument of their choice. Banks ability to differentiate in managing risk is greatly reduced, and the cost of issuance/acquisition is dropping to 0. Banks have proven incompetent at creating a Visa/MA replacement. What are the levers in negotiation? How will merchants negotiate a lower rate?

The path in Europe, Australia and the US (Durbin/Debit) has been driven by regulation. No one likes having regulators define the rules, but my investment hypothesis is that there will be a very large TILT of Visa/MA toward the merchant. This will address the both regulatory pressure, and open up new revenue streams surrounding data (below). This tilt means moving rates in the direction that retailers want, creating new rate tiers where risk and identity can be managed by the merchant/platform. Remember Apple is getting 25 bps for their service, the next logical move would be make this same “discount” available to anyone that can drive down risk. Personal-Data-Ecosystem-Diagram-from-FTC-Roundtable

From an identity perspective, Google and Apple have authentication as the CORE feature of their mobile platforms.. it is key to everything they do in mobile. See my blogs on Brokering Identity Authentication in Value Nets, and Authentication – Key Battle for Monetizing Mobile for more here.

#2 Data and Commerce Value

The comments below are largely taken from my blog Banks, Non-Banks and Commerce Networks. As a side note, this is the focus of my new Company: CommerceSignals. We are working with the Fortune 50 to serve as the neutral broker, one layer above the network, supporting companies working together offline and in mobile.

Today, every issuer and card network is chasing after American Express and Alliance Data Systems. Both ADS and Amex have made SUBSTANTIAL progress in working with merchants to deliver new value to consumers. AMEX and ADS have the benefit of working in a 3 party model where they own both the merchant and the consumer relationship.  As I’ve stated before, I believe these 2 companies are 3-5 years ahead of everyone else. Is this data stuff delivering any revenue? Market Size AdvertisingFor ADS the answer is a resounding yes, for Amex the benefits seem to be less direct and more on customer loyalty/spend/engagement. See my blog on Amex Innovation Leader for more details.

Think about the battle in connecting networks, as each of us have limited resources we can connect only to a finite set of “hubs” (unless there is some larger orchestrator). Examples are Wikipedia and Google… these serve as the directories of information. It is almost IMPOSSIBLE to displace an efficient hub. This is why I love Visa, MA and Amex. If they can shake the issuer “tilt”.. and add a few merchant friendly services, they could leverage their networks in many new ways. The revenue opportunity? Payments in the US is roughly a $200B business (issuers, acquires, processors, networks), whereas marketing is $750B (in US).Infographic_Showrooming-lg

Payments work well, but so did the Sony Walkman. The bets that Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and others are making is on value orchestration. Does this involve payment? Not really.. at least not as a primary focus.. Payment is there.. but orchestration is about commerce; payment is just one of many important processes (See blog Payment in the OS).  Don’t look at payments as something in isolation, payments are the “connections” made in commerce; they are made for a purpose. Visa and MA also have the potential to expand their “traditional network”, but this must involve a separate agreement with separate rules.

Payments = Network

Here is my network view. Payments are the connections of the GDP. If we were to map payment flows, we would unlock a map of the global GDP at the micro level, from employment to shopping, behavior and preferences, to demand and supply. Free information flow on the internet is enabled through openness and a single primary protocol, whereas payments operate within 100s of proprietary networks with a complex series of clusters and “switches” (there is effort in connecting, authenticating and managing risk). Just as it would be nearly impossible to change the protocol for the internet, it would be difficult to bring fundamental change in payments (see Rewiring commerce).  Now think about the value of payment data. Connecting business is much different than connecting information (the core of CommerceSignals.. but I digress).

From a network strategy perspective, the business opportunity of changing “payments” pales in comparison to the opportunity to influence connections in commerce, banking and manufacturing. Payments support business and consumer needs; they do not alter their path. This insight is the downfall of bank payment strategies around “control”, and their inability to “tilt” toward merchant friendly value propositions.

A top 5 retailer provided my favorite commerce quote

“I think of Commerce as a highway, the payment networks are like a toll bridge. I don’t mind paying them $0.25 to cross the bridge, but they want to see what is in my truck and take 2-3% of what is inside. Hence I’m looking for another bridge… “

ADS, Amex, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Alibaba, V, MA all understand this. Rather than charging toll for crossing their bridge, these networks are beginning to execute against plans to grow the size of the goods in the merchant’s truck.

Existing networks have an existing value proposition, and many don’t like to have their services leveraged by competitors, thus there is a much more highly “regulated” flow of information. Intelligent use of data increases the effectiveness of networks in a way that also benefits consumers. Tilting more toward merchants and consumers.. means tilting away from banks. This is VERY hard for a bank to initiate. It is a change worth making however, as assisting merchants (or consumers) is what brokering is about. My firm belief is that both V and MA have the opportunity to grow Revenue 4x+ in the next 5-10 years. Their principal challenge is to “tilt” their models away from Banks and toward the 2 parties that matter most in commerce: Merchants and Consumers.

#3 Consumer Behavior/Trust/Acceptance

Perhaps nothing matters more in business than consumer behavior (see Consumer Behavior: Discerning and Capturing Value). In payments we learn over and over again that behavior changes slowly in 20 year cycles (Checks, Debit Cards, ATMs, Mobile). Any investor looking for payment innovation should run away unless there is some underlyibranch visitsng commerce value proposition. Payments work REALLY well its everything else that is broken (in OECD 20 countries)…. Among Payment innovators/founders there is a common saying.. you only start ONE payment company.

It is easiest to find the hotspots in payment by looking first for the changes in consumer behavior. For example, the tremendous change in how consumer’s are using their phones, as I outlined earlier this week in eCommerce/mCommerce Convergence.  The banking relationship is also changing, as customers visit branches less than 3 times per year, and the billions spent on huge buildings, huge vaults, sports sponsorships and brand names gives way to value.

Brand reputations for 2014 just came out last week (see Venture Beat), with Amazon, Apple, Google topping the list. How did these companies earn this reputation? Through consbank likabilityistent daily interaction delivering value in every interaction. Value delivery and interaction are my key metrics for assessing investment and focus; both are key measures of consumer behavior and trust. There are many strategies: whereas Google engages with the average consumer 10-50 times per day (winning in frequency and insight), Amazon has a lower interaction but a much greater impact on transaction (value delivery), Apple’s interaction is more holistic within a much more affluent base, Facebook’s is more social.

If I were to outline one KEY point to my bank friends it is this: you can’t reach consumers where you want them to be.. you must reach them where they are. This is the essence of why most bank strategies to engage are failing. Consumers choose to go to Google, Apple, Amazon because of the value and service. As the charts above show, most banks are challenged to deliver value within the core banking products they already delivery, why would any customer want to use a new service in this environment. Thus Bank’s efforts are ill suited to drive a deliver products outside of their core, and outside of existing consumer behavior, banks play a role in SUPPORTING commerce.. not leading it (see Card Linked Offers).Measure Data

Apple is the greatest company in the world in delivering value, experience and changing consumer behavior (see blog Apple and Physical Commerce, and Consumer Behavior). Apple’s reputation is well deserved and earned “the hard way” by remaking: phones, music, mice, computers, apps, …etc.  Through consistent delivery of value within fantastic hardware delivering great (and fun) consumer experiences they earned trust for their products and brand. The greatest NEW opportunity for Apple to influence consumers beyond the individual (music/contacts/calendar) and eCommerce (browser, apps) to the real world: Commerce.

Unfortunately Apple is inept at partnerships, even within its own supply chain. While apple has the talent to accomplish this, their commerce, payment and ad teams are buried within a hardware culture. They will only succeed if they are spun off into a separate division, thus my view is that there is a very low probability of Apple acting in an orchestration role across 1000s of Banks, millions of retailers and billions of consumers. If they did move, it my recommendation (and guess) is that it would be a consumer centric orchestration role as I outlined in Brokering Identity.

One technology (and behavior) I’m keeping an eye on is Beacons and mobile use in store (engagement). Qualcomm Retail Systems spun off the IP around Beacons to Gimbal with Qualcom and Apple both rumored to have 30-40% of the equity. Today Retailers are the entity best positioned to change consumer instore activity for 2 reasons: they alone know consumer product preferences, and they physically touch the consumer (trust, value, presence). See Retailers as Publishers , and Apple iBeacon Experience for more detail.greendot

#4 Issuance/Customer Acquisition/HCE

Now this is a mixed bag of topics. What is fundamentally changing in card issuance? Most of you know I ran remote channels at both Citi (06-07) and Wachovia (02-06). Today, most new customer bank accounts are originated online as branch visits go down and direct mail (the old way) even directs the consumer to this “instant” channel.

Historically I had to spend about $150 in marketing for every new card customer, and around $80 for every new deposit customer. Banks still incur roughly these same costs, but prepaid cards have an acquiring cost of less than a tenth of this cost (See Future of Retail Banking: Prepaid). In this pre-paid model banking products sit on a shelf in a retailer and compete for customers just like shampoo and candy bars.

I would challenge all card participants to think about the credit card product… what delivers value? what about it is unique? how do consumers view it? how is it part of a great consumer experience? When you leave Disney World do you think wow.. buying the ticket with my card was just fantastic? How are new customers acquired? Who benefits when cost of issuance is $0? Is charging the average consumer 12-16% on a card, paying them 0.2% on their savings charging merchant 2% a great model?  Do you think that there is room for improvement? Where do retailers win (ADS, Private Label, Co-Brand, )?

What prohibits you from having 20 retailer cards in your wallet today? Bank card issuers will roll their eyes, but you can not understate the influence that trusted retailers have in consumer decisions. Take this trust together with direct sales force and frequent consumer interaction and you have Private Label and industry whose cards outnumber everyone else’s by a factor of 2. As this week’s Morningstar article on Private Label shows, private label (the largest card segment) is making a tremendous comeback.Private label market share

Citi, GE (now Sychrony), ADS, HSBC are leaders in this space, with ADS advancing most in use of technology. Retailers like Nordstrom, Macy’s, Sears and Kohls are fanatical on their private label program, as their most valuable customers use this product. All new customer experience must first address this base, which you can see is one reason why we don’t see ApplePay being pushed here at all. As I described in Retail 101 (and What do Retailers want in Mobile), most retailers don’t know who their customers are today. Private label and Loyalty programs solve this problem.

Let me throw in a little tech now. I’m on the board of advisors of SimplyTapp, the company that created HCE. Instant issuance is key to everyone in the card space, why wouldn’t every retailer want to enable a private label card if card issuance cost is $0!? Credit worth customers can get store credit, sub-prime get decoupled debit (see Target Red Card) and everyone else gets a loyalty only? I believe we will see this happen, not only within MCX but within platforms like Google, with PL managers like ADS and Citi. This is the strategy focus of the top retailers… (focusing on their top customers).Private Label Profitability

My bet on the future of Google wallet is that it will be very merchant and consumer friendly, enabling them to uniquely integrate to 100s of merchant platforms to create great consumer experiences. This linking of PL, Loyalty, in store, maps, mobile, advertising is value orchestration.. but it all starts with consumer opt in. The opt in is both to merchant (private label/loyalty) and to Google. See blog Host Card Emulation for more background.  Google made the right technical move in HCE, but it dropped the ball in enabling merchants through last mile.. not a technical limitation .. an educational / awareness one.

Do I believe that the world will go private label!? No, it will be at the margins. My view of Visa and Mastercard have changed over the last 2 years. Before I was much keener on the development of a new scheme, but no more. Why? How many networks can you list where millions of participants have invested billions of dollars to make it work? Visa has 1.7B cards and 36M merchants.. how could anyone compete with this? This network works REALLY well, with the only issues with their network are in their control (merchant costs and rules).

#5 Regulatory

From a regulatory perspective, the US retail payment system has been impacted by the Durbin Amendment and the EU to an even greater extent by SEPA and PSD (see my blog).  Most of you have also read my token blogs outlining how the US banks were planning to build a new payment network to compete with V/MA (Now dead).  If someone has a info-graph picture of global acceptance rates I’ll put it in here.. but suffice to say that airline ticket pricing has NOTHING on the complexity of payment pricing.

Visa and Mastercard are largely insulated from the regulatory driven pricing changes, as the issuers continue to bare most of the impact. The EU has created a payment nightmare environment with “cross border” Credit card merchant interchange (MIF) at 30bps starting in later this week Jan 1, 2015 (see article and Visa’s response). The EU can not mandate change within country (domestic transactions), but there will be a race to the bottom in fees.

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager claimed that interchange fees are a form of tax levied on retailers by banks and said that the new legislation would reduce those costs and “lead to lower prices and visibility of costs for consumers”.

Ms Vestager may be correct from a transparency perspective, but SEPA and the PSD put governments into the brokering role with no incentives for intermediaries to invest.. making payments a nearly free infrastructure service (with agreement of consumers and merchants). Network work best when there are shared incentives, and minimal regulation.  I believe Visa and Mastercard will work with new vigor to build relationships with merchants and deliver value, to head off the regulatory driven approach. Unfortunately Europe is already too far gone for this to work.

A prediction (next week’s blog) will be merchants providing greater influence in V/MA rules.

#6 Payments in the OS

My blog from this week: Payment in the OS

card-financial-compete view

Comments appreciated.

What do Retailers Want in Mobile?

1 Nov 2014

Money2020 is next week, and I’m moderating the ApplePay session on Tuesday at 5pm… hope you guys can come. I’m more than a little sad that I can’t get any retailers up on stage with me. Why? The top 60 retailers are in MCX, and it makes little sense for them to get on stage and tell the world what they are NOT going to do and why. As I’m preparing to leave for Las Vegas tomorrow, was thinking “what could I write about? What unique perspective can I offer?” Well given I can’t get them on stage with me, let me try to articulate the Retailer’s view of the world. My twitter feed is blowing up as I work to explain why CVS and Rite-Aide turned off NFC. Please know I’m only trying to give perspective…

Payment Services are a brokering activity between two entities engaged in commerce. Logically, a broker must have the trust of both parties, and deliver some sort of value in managing the financial risk associated with the transaction.  Within Consumer Retail, Visa and Mastercard evolved from Bank owned exclusive networks of the 1960s (see History) to ubiquitous independent payment networks. Few remember that back in the 1960s, merchants took either Visa or Mastercharge but not both as the Merchant’s acquiring bank could only be a member of one of the networks. For merchants, the value proposition was clear: consumer credit.

Payment networks thus evolved from a closed and focused value proposition, to a settlement “infrastructure”. However the rules and governance process by which many parties (merchant, acquirer, processor, issuer, network, VASP, …etc) participated in defining operation of this “brokering” activity did not evolve. This is the central issue restricting the future growth of Visa and Mastercard. One I believe both are acting on. My firm belief is that rebalancing network rules will unleash a massive new phase of value creation for these networks.

Let me take a quick side bar here..

Network Theory – Openness

As I’ve stated many times, closed networks always precede open networks until scale is reached (Building Networks and “Openness”, 2011). Weak Links (nodal affinity) influences network creation, and there are VERY few open networks which exist in Nature. This is logical as Networks form around a function rendering generic open networks less “efficient” than specialized networks around any given specialized need.

Scale-free distribution (completely open networks) is not always the optimal solution to the requirement of cost efficiency. .. in small world networks, building and maintaining links between network elements requires energy…. [in a world with limited resources] a transition will occur toward a star network [pg 75] where one of a very few mega hubs will dominate the whole system. The star network resembles dictatorships in social networks.

-Weak Links

Networks NATURALLY form around a function and other entities are attracted to this network (affinity) because of the function of both the central orchestrator and the other participants. Open networks (internet/TCPIP, Visa, NASDAQ, … ) succeed where a common infrastructure benefits MANY NETWORKS.

Visa and MasterCard have transitioned to become common network infrastructure, a position FAR MORE valuable than that of a closed credit delivery system. They are a network of networks. However their rule making and governance processes do not match the other open networks listed above (NASDAQ, Internet, …). Most Banks, have also lost their traditional role of “brokering” and risk management (in retail) by creating a card rewards system that encourages card use paid by the merchant. This creates a brokering incentive separate from the commercial transaction… impacting brokering independence.

What do merchants want? A neutral broker!!

A top 5 merchant told me a few months ago “Retailers like Starbucks have proven that we are best placed to deliver value and influence consumer behavior. I don’t want to force my consumers to do anything, but similarly I want to networks that let me play on an even field. These next 5 years are going to be complete chaos for consumers. What do we want them to do? Swipe, dip, chip, pin, tap, QR…? We have been planning for EMV for 3 years… am I really supposed to jump to Apple in 4 weeks?”

MCX

These guys are good friends of mine, and I think their business vision is well placed. They want a network where they can play on an equal footing. A neutral broker.. or at least one where they can have a seat at the table when rules are set. Will MCX be a massive success? It depends on the consumer value proposition. Are the merchants motivated to work together in creating a neutral broker? Hell yes.

One merchant said it this way “Tom I didn’t think we would ever have someone more difficult to work with than Visa and Mastercard, but I was WRONG. Apple is a nightmare! At least we knew what was coming with Visa and Mastercard, with Apple they don’t talk to us, respond to our letters, or offer any kind of value proposition. Why on earth would I want to let another brand in my store without understanding what it will do for me? They are a great company, with great products, and certainly have a much better approach to data than Google.. but anonymity is NOT a value proposition, in fact Apple makes our efforts to deliver value to the consumer even harder as we have no defined way of using Apple to engage our consumers”. See Brokering Identity – Part 1, ApplePay and Merchants, Digital Transactions ApplePay Issuer Agreement.

Getting a card number from consumer to merchant is NOT innovation. There is just no problem here. My payment friends are already rolling their eyes. Apple does have great security and great ability to manage fraud.. but fraud losses for CP are 3.2 bps. What about store data losses? That is not “fraud”, and certainly a problem for merchants that keep PANs. Tokens do solve this problem… but so does better security, and more intelligent approach to tracking loyalty. Apple must move to create a merchant value proposition, and define how they will help with consumer engagement. I believe Google will far outpace Apple here.

Retail is a zero sum game.. I’m not going to buy MORE gas and groceries.. differentiation is about switching, product selection and pricing on data, ..the fluxonce this flux dies.. steady state resumes.  Perhaps all iPhone owners will only shop at whole foods, but data shows that consumers don’t make decisions this way. In fact payment is not in the top 5 reasons for consumers choosing a new iPhone.

Why are MCX merchants turning off NFC? To give themselves a little breathing room, make Apple create a merchant value proposition (engagement), get a seat at the table in a new network, and help to establish a consumer behavior that works for them too (Most Important Payment Race: Consumer Behavior, Apple’s Platform Strategy: Consumer Champion ).

What do Retailers want in Mobile?

Following from my big blog Static Strategies and the Rewiring of Retail.

  • Consumer Engagement
  • Consumer Acquisition
  • Consumer Loyalty
  • Allow Retailer to be in control of data
  • Partners that allow Store’s brand front and center
  • A Partner either IN CONTROL of the consumer experience (Apple/Google) or one that already has massive consumer adoption (ie Facebook).
  • Creating a fantastic customer experience from end-end
  • Ability to manage campaigns, data or your business
  • A Partner that can reach/influence consumers WHERE THEY ARE.. not where you want them to be.
  • Payment..? I guess if that comes too… 

shopper marketing

How will this play out?

  • Much has been made of the MCX contract provisions that prohibit participating retailers from allowing other forms of mobile payment. This is just not accurate. Any retailer can choose to turn on NFC, any retailer can sign up for MCX. Can an MCX retailer turn on NFC? Yep.. Large retailers are not participating in ApplePay because Apple has completely failed in a merchant strategy, they have not articulated one, nor have they worked directly with merchants. This is really no different than Apple’s failure to work with Banks. Banks are just fuming over the take it or leave it terms Apple offered to them. Merchants had no terms…
  • Apple will rollout a merchant friendly beacon product, and loyalty product for consumer engagement in next 6-9 months, this will also include a renewed focus on BLE. The product will fall flat until they can create an new merchant organization. Google has 4,000 sales people working with merchants, apple has around 16… so it is a big task.
  • Apple will ROCK in App payments.. it will be their homerun… I will make a further bet: Apple will WIN in every situation where they can control the consumer experience from beginning to end.
  • Visa and Mastercard are beginning a shift toward the merchant. They may not win the top 60, but Visa has 36M merchants.. that leaves 35,990,940 that will be open to new ideas. These are my biggest personal holdings, and I know both of the CEOs. Everything I’ve written here they know already.
  • Consumer authentication is VERY disruptive to retail and banking. As Ross Anderson said “if you solve for authentication in payments.. everything else is just accounting”. The need for an independent broker and their services are dramatically different if either the consumer or payment can be authenticated (ie cash, bitcoin). Why do you need a payment product at all? Just present the identity to the bank. This is what Sofort/Klarna does… Why not do this? Because the banks have no ability to MONETIZE the transaction (no merchant agreement). There are many better ways to leverage authentication, but no other ways to currently MONITIZE IT (outside card). Perfect Authentication… A Nightmare?
  • Apple is pursuing an “anti-google” approach: keep no data, closed platform, control everything. Google is 2-4 years behind on platform security.. but is catching up. The Google platform is much easier to build in and control (ex HCE), but consumer adoption lags as each Android participant must move consumer to their vision. Apple has successfully delivered security and authentication, but has not laid out a way for many apps to leverage it. Retail is a REALLY big business, with 1000s of specialists. It cannot be throttled by one company.. thus Apple will work fantastically in environment it can control. (sorry to restate).
  • ApplePay and overall contactless adoption will begin with small merchants and infrequent purchases. Most phones have the capability today. MCX will not stop contactless.. but it will impact consumer behavior substantially

ApplePay Vs Google

  • Is NFC/Contactless Acceptance required as part of EMV rollout? NO!!  This is the most widely held mis-understanding. While the large terminal manufacturers have no products in their official product list without contactless, the top 60 merchants order bespoke or custom terminals to fit their needs.

Apple Pay- eCommerce – Disruption

30 September 2014

ApplePay/eCommerce/Tokens/Card Not Present

Quick blog, based on Apple Pay in eCommerce.. following on to my March Blog Tokens and Card Not Present (NOT the POS NFC stuff). I won’t do this topic justice, but hey half the fun is getting comments. I’m heads down on a few things.. so this will be my last post for at least 3 weeks.. and I want to make a few key points prior to money 2020.

Summary

  • So much for Paypal being acquired.. wow!! Dan Schulman is the right guy here, and I must congratulate the eBay BOD. This thing can NOT survive without a major change. Dan is a “direct to consumer” Innovation Superstar: Priceline, Virgin mobile, Serve/Bluebird, .. etc. He knows how to run a global organization, he knows mobile, he knows payments, he knows retail. His biggest challenge will be rebuilding a house on fire during a Hurricane.
  • Apple and eCom: No change in CNP rates with Tokens.. Tokens in Apple Pay are used for both POS and eCom, but the issuers revolted at the prospect of a CNP revenue loss. I do see “next phase” where we will see A NEW RATE TIER for tokens in eCommerce.. for any online merchant replacing their Cards on File (99% confident). Funny battle here is “who” will lead this. Visa/MA have the TSP up and running now. 3-5 issuers should have theirs running in next 5-7 months. Can you imagine having to work with each and every issuer separately to tokenize? NO WAY. But they just don’t get it..
  • Big issuers are concerned that the Apple Pay launch was a watershed “freedom” moment for V/MA. However Issuers did win a very important battle.. keeping a primary control point: token binding (deciding when and where their cards can reside), and the also have the ability to create their own token authority.. but they have work to do.
  • ApplePay’s focus is 1) POS $15-$20B and 2) “in app” payments $5B 2015 GDV.. US eCommerce payments will remained locked in the status quo battle among the giants of Amazon, Visa/CYBS, Paypal..  with Google, Off Amazon On Click and Alipay as 3 of the new challengers here.
  • Apple Pay Tokens: Visa and Mastercard did 90% of the work to get this scheme from concept to reality in 12 months. The fastest time to market for a new scheme IN HISTORY. It is a thing of beauty.. seriously. I believe the networks learned many lessons here (like build it first then bring the Banks on board to tweek it).
  • There will likely be a new rate tier for tokens in eCommerce with liability shifting back onto the banks, but issuers must support in order for this to gain traction and merchants learned from VBV that you don’t get into a scheme where issuers don’t support (ie declines matter more than interchange).
  • iPhone 6 is a revolutionary product, which will impact identity, trust, retail, banking and payments. I see the revolution beginning outside of payments, where value can be created.
  • eCommerce wallets are an aggregation function. There are only 4-5 companies that can possibly make this work, each having a different value proposition. Visa and Google are the leaders here.

What did I get wrong on Apple Pay?

  • I did not see the NXP SE. I thought that Apple would encapsulate the SE functionality within the Secure Enclave. While the Secure Enclave has secure storage, it did not have secure execution, nor did it have a way for a third party to update applications and data in secure storage/execution. Hence the SE, with First data running the “TSM” function.
  • The tokens within Apple Pay are NOT provisioned at time of manufacture (not burned). They are provisioned by the Visa/MA after a binding process. The token issuance/binding process is just fantastic, leveraging the existing AUTH message set to avoid network changes. Issuer process to ApplePay: sign an agreement, turn on the Visa services (most are not EMV enabled), decides who’s BINs you want (your own or Visa’s), and prepare to respond to auth requests for binding/tokenizing cards.
  • There does not seem to be a beacon/BLE experience within Apple Pay (yet). My guess is that there is a 3 phase road map. Phase 1 traditional NFC, Phase 2 Merchants enhance the checkout process with Beacon at the POS to improve application “wake up” and perhaps another loyalty app that can interact, Phase 3 All BLE, with perhaps an NFC handshake to “sign”.
  • Issuers giving up 15bps. I can’t believe they went for this.. Issuers only sustainable business case for this is around shifting spend to credit cards.
  • Visa and Mastercard did and amazing job in this token design. Getting all this done from concept to production in 12 months is just incredible. There is much to celebrate here, and it could be the most successful network accomplishment in 20 years. There are major implications here, shifting roles of control, managing consumer identity, and of course a new “model” process for change in the future (no design by committee, let the banks comment after it is complete).
  • Paypal was thrown out of the Apple Pay deal… They were in, but they were thrown out. My guess (and this is purely an informed guess) is that the Issuers and V/MA gave Apple an ultimatum: you can launch with us, or with them.. your choice..  Enabling Paypal allows Apple and consumers to end run the card network.

Apple Pay and eCommerce

This Custora blog provides an excellent economic view of Apple Pay’s eCommerce impact. Today I wanted to comment on a few additional items which influence the dynamic:

  • Macro Environment – eCommerce
  • In app vs browser
  • Future: What if Tokens in eCommerce had card present rates/Liability Shift
  • Tokens + Identity kill fraud, but they also create a whole new biz strategy for CONTROL
  • Wallet = Trust
  • Platform: Partners and acquirers for acceptance
  • Other Strategies

Macro Environment – eCommerce

What is eCommerce? eCom is normally defined as buying physical goods in a browser. However, if your browser is an iPad or phone, this is typically categorized as mCommerce. I break mCommerce down into 3 major categories:

  1. Physical goods/services in a browser,
  2. Physical goods/services in an app, and
  3. Digital goods (songs, armor, movies).

eCommerce sales in the US are around $185B, while all mCommerce sales are about $20B. In a perfect world I would love to label ALL browser, and in-app purchase of physical goods/services as “eCommerce” and just track the consumer preferences in the app/browser that led to purchase.. but I might be alone in that quest.

The Apple Pay buy button is only available within approved iOS 8 applications (on iStore). This means that Apple will be focusing within the rather small “in-app” sub-segment of overall mCommerce market. This means that Apple Pay will have minimal impact Paypal, Visa Checkout/Cybersource , Masterpass, Checkout by Amazon, Google Wallet  or any of the other eCommerce payment specialists .. …at least not in 2015 (estimate is $5-10B max). Apple is the dominant mobile platform for “purchase” even though it represents only 18% of handsets), accounting for over 70% of purchases.. wow talk about a great consumer base!! Of course this “in app” only could all change in 2 ways: 1)  IF most retailers shift “sales” to APPs (like Target and Amazon) that exceed the functionality of browser based experience (ie App vs HTML 5), and #2 if Apple creates an eCommerce Apple Pay Button for the Safari Browser.

Custora_MobileShare_Brand_Aug2014_570px2

If online Fraud costs were the only justification for card not present (CNP) interchange, then logically the new EMVCo token process should eliminate the “barrier” between card present and card not present rates. But CNP rates are not based upon fraud, for example Google, Apple, Amazon, Paypal all have fraud rates hovering around 3bps, whereas the CNP to CP delta can be over 100bps. If you were in the room with one of these big eCom guys you would hear them tell issuers they want risk based interchange (aligning costs of acceptance to ability to manage risk). However, aligning the cost of payment acceptance to the cost of payment (and credit) provision is the crux of the merchant issues with card payment networks, particularly when the costs include loyalty schemes that do not deliver loyalty for the merchant (even though they pay the cost).

Banks are not keen to support Apple in creating great consumer experiences which they can’t control. For example, if tokens in eCommerce were treated at card present rates, they could be transmitted and exchanged in many different protocols (QR Codes, BLE, Wi-Fi, …). Tokens + authentication enables uncontrolled innovation in presentment and acceptance, thus destroying MERCHANT Incentives to support the bank driven uniform NFC contactless acceptance (ie BLE vs NFC) and uniform behavior (credit card, tap and pay), and limiting Banks ability to influence consumer behavior.

eCommerce Wallet?

eCommerce in US is a lumpy business where the big 3 rule over 60% of spend and processing: Amazon, Cybersource (Visa), Paypal/GSI (eBay). To re-emphasize, Apple Pay does NOT impact the battle for a ubiquitous eCommerce wallet, which explains why we see all those cool Visa Checkout commercials on the NFL games this week. The INDUSTRY’s eCommerce problem is eliminating card numbers stored in 100s of locations.

With respect to eCom wallet.. most consumers just scratch their head.. “Why do I need one of those”. Amazon’s one-click, Chrome’s auto fill, Paypal checkout, iTunes buy.. it just works. Why do I need something that spans across merchants when 90% of my spend is with one of these 4 already? Additionally, consumers don’t really care about security, because they don’t bear the costs of fraud. So we have a situation where Banks want to solve for cards stored everywhere, and consumers won’t take part. This means that banks must develop a merchant value proposition to TOKENIZE their cards on file (COF). Hence the prospect of a new rate structure for tokens in eCommerce.

Merchants may RUN toward tokenizing Cards on File if the recipe is right, however tokens by itself may not be enough to overcome the terrible history of VBV/MSC launch in EU (see my blog Authentication in Value Nets for detail). In addition to rates, Google has potential to bundle eCom payments with advertising (consumer acquisition),  Amazon could do the same, and Apple.. . Consumer win for eCom tokenization? Anonymity, consistency, security, ease of use, more targeted advertising. A funny battle over tokenizing cards on file is taking place right now. Each issuer is trying to work with Amazon, Google, Apple, WMT… to tokenize. Can you imagine trying to do deals with each issuer? with seperate proprietary “on ramps”.. This issuers are concerned that Visa and MA will take this token issuance/binding process away from them .. but I don’t see another way.

Who else could win the eCom “wallet” war? Visa! Their advantage? Brand, reach, marketing, Cybersource assets, rule making and acting as one of the only TSPs. Their challenge? signing up consumers.. and they seem to have the marketing muscle (and intent) to do it (V.me blog). Innovating in a 4 party network is normally next to impossible (see blog), but they have gained tremendous momentum in learning a “new way” to innovate through the Apple Pay experience.

This is a very, very major point.. and should lead V/MA investors to take a new fresh look at what these networks could accomplish beyond their traditional switching role. These are my largest personal holdings, so I am a little biased here.. there is so much upside.. but most of the future is dependent on tilting toward consumer and merchant.  In emerging markets, I expect these network will assess their regulatory structure: do they become a bank? An MSB? An acquirer? in OECD 20 markets.. An advertisers? A merchant friendly loyalty provider?… YES!!. This is the YEAR for a network pivot away from issuers toward consumers and merchants.

Strategies in eCommerce

I think about eCommerce with the context of an acquisition funnel. Where did the consumer start? Where did they finish? Today more product purchases start with Amazon than with Google.  Does anyone really thing Amazon wants to let another brand come in and help them (Sorry Chase Wallet). Where can anyone add value here? Amazon and Google may position that same day distribution of goods is far more important than payment (and I would agree). But perhaps the barrier for every mom and pop shop having their own self managed eCom sales site is fraud and payment acceptance. If Tokens solve for this, and help broker identity/preferences.. then EVERYONE could compete with Amazon, online retail becomes disrupted by taking away the advantages of scale. This model would be a huge boon to Google and Alibaba (they see a world of a million merchants and billions of products).

  • Payment Networks are working to take risk out of payment acceptance, solve for consumer anonymity and improve on their only weakness: no direct consumer relationship. Thus they endeavor to directly enroll consumers in a direct service offering to serve the eCommerce wallet role (see Battle of Cloud Part 3). I am very high on these efforts. Why? Because they have ability to create a new value proposition when coupled with their tokenization efforts. I predict within 2 years that we will see a new rate structure for use of Tokens in eCommerce .. something near CP rates.
  • Issuers are working to improve value to card holder and keep consumers within a Branded experience. JPM has created a new data division and purchase a card linked offer company. Banks are working to create their own “wallets” (Why on earth would a Amazon add a Chase Wallet button.. just plain stupid). Banks love the NFC and ApplePay token model where cards must be “provisioned” into a wallet. Banks thus control of which wallets to “authorize” and hide purchase data from the wallet provider.  Why would any merchant accept this? EXACTLY!
  • Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft working to make payments part of the OS (see blog). Payments in OS will impact “In App” first, eCommerce “browser” next.. authentication removes risk. This enables unstructured retail and disrupts marketplace concentration. I moved their strategy to the next section below (brokering trust)
  • Marketplaces like Amazon, Rakutan, Alibaba have integrated payment into their platform and are not keen to exchange Cards on File (COF) for tokens without a liability shift and risk based pricing. I’m slowing down here.. should be able to put a few more things in..
  • Paypal? Well.. let’s give Dan a little time here.

Brokering Trust (Platform strategy)

The ability of a mobile handset to authenticate consumers, and allow the consumers to delegate trust to 3rd parties (identity and secure data) will have major implications to retail, loyalty, payments, healthcare, social, MNOs, government, access management (see Brokering Identity). To understand the different strategies in this area, we must look at how tokens impact the existing model, who controls platforms/OS, who sees the data, where do consumers begin their product search (ie Amazon), who bears the cost of fraud, who is regulated?, what restrictions does entity have in collaboration/data? what is the consumers current behavior?, and who does the consumer trust to manage identity (see Who do you Trust?, Perfect Authentication – Nightmare for Banks, Token Assurance, KYC – $5B Opportunity, Authentication – Core to monetizing mobile).

Banks have historically played the central role in brokering commerce. They created the payment networks, and are central to many commercial payment processes we don’t see. Perfect authentication of consumers will completely disrupt payments, as the many new intermediaries can participate in risk (ex clearing and settlement). This is all happening at a time where retail banking is being turned upside down (WMT/GDOT Checking, Future of Retail Banking). The winner in this risk/identity battle will have the trust of the consumer and the ability to broker it against all possible market participants.  Merchant “trust” can NOT be won without a merchant friendly value proposition.. hence the problem for any of the eCom wallet providers. My view is that Apple and Google are better placed to execute here, not because they are more trusted, but because they know how to partner and move more quickly.

 

Paypal at Crossroads (? buying Blackhawk)

25 June

Big things are in store for my favorite eCommerce payments company. Really, I do like Paypal. I may ding them on their POS strategy… as it makes no sense at all… but I love Paypal online.. the “original” ecommerce payments solution that adds value to merchant and consumer. In 98/99 Thiel and Levchin were the first to dream up digital wallets, and first to solve a REAL problem of card acceptance online for small retailers. Perhaps even better than the great Paypal PRODUCTS, were the great PEOPLE that grew out of PayPal.. that have done soooo many great things: Peter Theil, Max Levchin, Elon Musk, Keith Rabois, Premal Shah, Osama Bedier, Amy Klement, Steve Chen, .. (list too long sorry to those I left off).

As its early leaders went on to do great things, the company “evolved” from an innovative start up to take on a bank flavor. Scott Thompson came from Visa and all his direct reports had bank backgrounds… the top tier of the organization led to a culture change (in a bad way) and it went from the coolest company in the valley… to … errrr… something else.  Pierre and the BOD recognized this and tried to get the mojo back with putting David Marcus in at the helm. They wanted to recapture what made Paypal great (people).. to reset the culture. David is a great guy, as he says this week he was an innovator.. but one that never ran a team larger than 200.. and certainly not a global one which was highly regulated.  It didn’t help that eBay’s CEO essentially undercut David by allowing Don Kingsborough and Gary Marino end run and make decisions directly with John. How could any CEO make it in that kind of environment!?

Now that David is gone (see Venture Beat) who can lead them (today) and what is their new strategic imperative.. their vision for growth beyond eCommerce?

Next 12 months

I believe Paypal will see competition in its core business like never before, As I stated previous Payments are moving into the OS… and Paypal doesn’t have one. Apple, Amazon, Google are new competitors in core eCommerce… all with an OS.

Paypal’s new competitors?

  • Apple will own payment presentment and authentication on all iOS devices.
  • Amazon will begin to get off Amazon traction (example today is Gogo wireles)
  • Google’s massive success in Shopping Express (Free shipping and payments). Google also just launched wallet in iOS (see google’s blog)
  • Bank Token Schemes and forthcoming rules for cards on file

As a side note, Paypal did squeeze itself into the Apple wallet (for NFC/POS transactions), but Apple will be expanding the iTunes buying experience very soon, and it won’t be looking to drive Paypal merchant adoption, as it is in the process of negotiating card present rates for CNP transactions (See my Apple blog).

Paypal at the POS is a complete joke (see blog). The business guys that have been running the show (or end running David) are focused on a Visa/Mastercard like strategy… not on one that delivers value to their core constituents (merchants and consumers).  Paypal was the company best positioned to execute on a Braintree/Stripe product 5 years ago (remember X.com) and also the best company to have built a Square/Clover like solution. They missed all these things because their business heads were focused on quick transaction volume deals and solutions.. NOT ON VALUE.

POS – Buying Blackhawk?

This is my big theory today. With eBay repatriating $9B and taking a 30% tax hit, we all know that acquisitions are planned. But what?

Obviously Carl Icann, David Marcus and the BOD have had some disagreements. Rather than guess the strategy, lets take a look at WHO is staying at Paypal. Don Kingsborogh is the former CEO of Blackhawk and head of Paypal’s POS strategy, and Discover Network strategy/relationship.

Paypal has promised its institutional investors progress at the POS.. and they have NONE. Jamba Juice and Home Depot numbers are terrible. The Discover partnership did nothing for them, as MCX merchants REFUSED to accept Paypal (routed as a Discover Card) or new processor agreements (that ran as high as 210 bps). Paypal has “learned” it cannot sneak in payment products within an existing network (Discover), nor can it deliver enough value to push merchants toward a new agreement. Few eBay investors realize that the Discover relationship is yielding NO FRUIT.  Even IF they could convince a merchant to TRY paypal at POS.. they first have to line up the Processors to support, and big ones like First Data were not playing (WSJ Article). This Paypal was paying $50k-$250k+ for merchant to SWITCH to Vantiv just to do a pilot.

Paypal at POS needs a ubiquitous merchant acceptance solution and a physical connection to all major merchants. They also have learned how both Google and Apple have developed strategies to end run the traditional payment terminal and integrate directly with the POS (see the brilliant Google/TXvia Patent US 8676709 B2. )

Blackhawk may fit the bill, as it has a merchant network and POS integration solution today. Every time you pull one of those pre-paid cards off the shelf the SKU bar code is tied to the card Primary Account Number.  The Retailer’s POS system sends the SKU to Blackhawk upon payment and Blackhawk activates the card.

Blackhawk is working to leverage this transaction flow to create its own scheme to fund the transaction.See Blackhawk’s patent US8676709 B2. An item in the shopping card becomes a payment instrument. This could be “THE” enabler to someone like Apple too.. a new payment “gateway” that end runs the traditional payment stream. For Apple, all they would have to do is get a secure “TOKEN SKU” to the POS and the POS would leverage Blackhawk to route. Of course items in a basket usually have a cost, but settlement could be accomplished through a 100% discount, or by capturing the merchant ID and terminal ID to push the payment back through their current processor.

I think this is THE most brilliant scheme EVER!! I love it.. If implemented via ACH.. and MCX. I just don’t love Paypal delivering it because of “cost” and ability to coordinate/execute in delivering value from  all merchant data.

I’m only 50% confident here.. just put a small $10k bet along these lines for fun.  But at a $1.4B market cap.. this would not be a bad bet for PayPal.. problem is that merchants will never go for it.. this does NOT solve the VALUE problem (for consumers or retailers).. it only solves the network acceptance problem. This approach continues the “we will sneak it in” approach. It may “solve” a short term problem of Processors.. but it creates a new one for the merchant in having to deal with multiple processors (one for swipe one for … something else).

IF the merchants would go for this, it may be the best payment design on the planet.. as it would give a way to provide discounts and rebates within the POS system. Integrating with the POS would completely disrupt the processor/payment terminal process, and we would begin to realize the “power of tokens”.