CEO View – Battle of the Cloud Part 5

There is a payment cluster war going on right now and it is the subject in the C Suite in Banks and the Payment industry. The battle is happening at every level. I’ll be leading a panel at Money 2020 which addresses several of these items, with participation from V/MA… should be interesting. Here are a few updates.

22 July 2013

This post is a continuation/update to my post back in March Network War – Battle of the Cloud Part 4. Sorry for typos.

There is a payment war going on right now and it is the subject of C Suite strategy talks. The battle is happening at every level. I’ll be leading a panel at Money 2020 which addresses several of these items, with participation from V/MA… should be interesting. Here are a few updates.

Network Clusters

Network/Routing/Rules

  • $8B Revenue Impact. I apologize to my EU readers for my constant US focus. Let me break the mold now to emphasize the earth shaking changes going on in the EU (See today’s NYT blog, and today’s WSJ). Going from 250bps + cross border fees to 30 bps will be tremendous, and may set a precedent for the US litigation between Visa/MA and top retailers.
  • EU provides a glimpse at what a world of payment “dumb pipes”  and least cost routing looks like (see Blog Payments Innovation in Europe).  Canada and Australia also follow these lines in debit (see Blog). Also see my favorite case study in Europe  Sofort – ECB analysis, and Push Payments.
  • Networks, and their members are reacting to regulation and positioning themselves (individually) to “push” their respective vision of innovation in order to protect their brand and network (see Visa Money Transfer, and Visa Portfolio Manager). I don’t mean to limit this to just Visa and Mastercard (see picture, and blog).
  • New networks are forming (see Blog on Clusters)
  • Large issuers like JPM have successfully forced Visa to break/segment its Visa net, and run under unique JPM/CMS rules with new capabilities. Visa’s CEO comments to investors: “rules must be consistent with Visa”..  My view is that this is a major crack in Visa’s network ownership (see Golden Goose on the Menu).payments pyramid
  • From a wallet perspective the rules on “wrapping” are killing much innovation (see don’t wrap me). Top issuers are actively working to inhibit wrapping of their payment products (ex Mastercard’s staged digital wallet fee of 35bps on PREVIOUS years volume of over $50M..  which only impacts paypal).  Similarly Amex and Visa are working to ensure their cards are not wrapped.
  • Rules are being issued and ignored, from Visa Money Transfer to EMV (see below). Banks tell Visa “do you want me to write the waiver or will you send it over… as we are not going to do this”.. which is one reason JPM just created its own unique rule set. Similarly US merchants face a liability shift (on to them) if they do not accept EMV cards (chip and pin). All are playing a game of chicken as no one wants to re-issue plastic. Visa has created a new type of EMV, chip and SIGNATURE, which makes absolutely no sense at all, but helps them keep customers away from PIN (which Visa despises, but everyone else loves).
  • Cross boarder fees (see blog). As 20%-30% of network revenue moves to these fees, it is becoming a substantail pain point for global banks like Citi, HSBC, Barclays, .. A big topic I can’t fully cover here

Issuance

  • US Banks are spending 90% of their time in innovation around Credit Cards. Exception is Bank of America and to some extent my old team at Wells. In either case the banks have hit a wall, and recognize that innovation can’t happen in a 4 party network. American Express is 5 years ahead of them and they can’t catch up.. they must change.
  • The NATURE of card completion is changing in both credit and debit. Traditional Payment revenue is being REGULATED AWAY as payments become “dumb pipes”. The goal most have recognized is that the real value to be unlocked is in commerce data, particularly Payment Enabled CRM (see blog). Examples of just how focused this effort is: 22 Banks working in Secure Cloud, ~$1B in Google Wallet Investment,  ~$500M in ISIS investment,  JPM just hired Len Laufler (former CEO of Argus Data) to be the new CEO of Data in Chase.
  • Banks thus need to build a network which can accommodate both payments and “other data” which they own and control (like Amex)… hence “tokenization” (see Blog, and TCH Announcement).
  • Tokenization is currently going nowhere.. but it is “impacting” the industry and many start ups as banks and networks position themselves (see JPM/Visa Blog, Start up implications).
  •  Visa and MA also have their own secret token efforts. Merchants have a much better short term win in this approach with a liability shift and reduction in interchange, but they also know from past experience that if the issuers are not on board, there will be a much broader business impact in declines (see VBV post, and Visa’s Token Strategy).
  • Retailers are attacking from below. Bottom 40% of mass market customers are not profitable for banks (Durbin related items ranging from NSF fee changes, to debit interchange) . These customers are profitable for retailers like Walmart, Tesco, Target, .. (see Blog).
  • Telcos have a chance to own a new payments network, as they have both physical distribution, customer relationship, connectivity and device.. but they are focused on controlling a handset in a walled garden strategy. To succeed they must refocus efforts on COMMERCE, which means partnering with all participants to construct a value proposition (see blog).

Acquiring

  • The first hurdle of any “New” network is to get the merchants and acquirers on board.
    1. This is NOT going well for companies like Paypal … hence the complete failure of their DFS partnership (see blog). Specifically, there is at least one major acquirer which is refusing to route traffic on any of these new Discover/Paypal BINs, as well as at least 2 major retailers. Although Discover is a 3 party network, they only acquire directly for their top 100 merchants. Therefore Paypal must “incent” and negotiate with every single other acquirer AND merchant.
    2. Chase is working to build a new CMS acceptance brand, which will be different from Visa.
    3. Retailers are building their own network (MCX), and have hired Dekkers Davidson, a tremendous executive, to lead it.
  • Roughly 60% of acquiring profits come from bottom 30% of merchants. There are small independent merchants that are paying over 5% in acceptance fees thanks to the poor transparency within the ISO sales process. Companies like Levelup and Square are changing this (2.75% flat, or free if you commit to marketing). I’ve eaten my shoe on Square, as I never fully understood how badly the ISOs were treating small independent retailers. Their solution solves a short term pain point and also improves customer experience.
  • Acquirers are making POSITIVE headway in merchant friendly services (see blog), particularly helping merchants “merge” consumer data to gain new insights for loyalty and incentives. They are challenged to quickly ramp up this services revenue, in order to overcome the new aggregators acting on the side of small independents (ie Square).

POS Acceptance

  • Has anyone seen the graph of Verifone’s stock? Market cap of under $2B. A hardware company that could not adapt to a software world. At the bottom end they are being eaten by free Roam/Square dongles at the top end are facing integrated POS Terminals from IBM/Toshiba and Micros. Dedicated payment terminal are commodities, and thus suffer from commodity like competition. Grand hopes for re-terminalization with EMV and NFC are not happening (see blog). New dongles and mobile acceptance infrastructure is developing even in the complex EMV space (see Tedipay.com )stand
  • POS strategy centers around data as well. Google’s Zave purchase has given them opportunity to help retailers focus advertising and eliminate paper coupons independent of payment network. Other leaders like Fishbowl and Open Table in Restaurants have integrated into the POS. The BIG idea here is to integrate the POS to the cloud and Google is now 5-7 yrs ahead of everyone (2 yrs engineering, 2 yrs IBM Certification, 3 yrs to sell and test w/ retailers, +++ yrs in content/ads/targeting).
  • Square’s new Stand is an integrated payment, POS, inventory management, CRM, marketing and loyalty system.. all on an iPad.
  • Payment Terminal “software”. Verifone’s Verix architecture and equivalent schemes have failed. Idea was to allow 3rd party developers to create “apps” for a non-secure space in the payment terminal. For example, 2 years ago, Google’s first version of wallet leveraged NFC to communicate “coupons” to the payment terminal, which then relayed to the POS.  Problems are obvious..  A grocer like Safeway has 2,000 person development team around their IBM 4690 POS, guess how many engineers support the payment terminal? NONE. They don’t want apps on a PCI compliant payment terminal.. it goes beyond question of who will manage them. Also note that payment terminal interaction with the POS is simple today (payment request and authorization).  There is also significant development work to RECEIVE coupons from a PAYMENT Terminal.

Services

  • This section could fill a book, so I will make this brief. All network participants are working to deliver services. The 4 party networks cannot innovate. For example, take a look at my very first blog, topic was Googlization of FS. Visa built an offers services with Monitise and Clairmail 3-4 yrs ago, but the large issuers refused to use it, preferring to innovate themselves. Another example is V.me, a topic which makes Card CEOs red faced. These points exemplify the dynamic w/ V/MA and the large issuers.. Issuers want to dumb down the pipes and limit services, V/MA want to grow them and relationships with consumers.
  • Current state is myopia.. everyone is working as if they uniquely own the customer. Banks and Card Linked offers are top example. When you go into a bank branch, do you want to buy socks? dog food? Of course not! Banks have great data but they are in no position to run an advertising campaign. I’ve run 2 of the largest online banks in the world (Citi and Wachovia) and can tell you retail customers spend about 90 seconds with me, they log on check their balance make a payment and leave. They don’t stay around to click on coupons. Commerce, and retail, is in the midst of a fundamental restructuring as online and off line worlds converge in new ways (beyond show rooming).
  • Payments are just a small part of the overall commerce value chain, yet they have by far the highest cost. The proposed 30bps EU fee cap may occur in other markets, thus banks are working feverously to build services to replace this revenue (primarily around credit cards), with CLOs largely failing to deliver value (see blog). Yesterday we say Ally Bank discontinue Card offers, following Amex last week.

Google in Payments: Why Yesterday was BIG News

For eCommerce/mCommerce merchants this may be the biggest “no brainer” since Cybersource offered to offload card processing/fraud risk management. This is a V.me killer… from both cost, and advertising perspective.

16 May

—- Correction — MA rate for non-regulated debit is 160 bps (not 105). My old Google card in the NFC wallet was card present.. I forgot to make the change to card not present…  Rate table below —-

Yesterday Google rolled out InstantPay, and a new planned P2P service integrated with Gmail, wallet, … etc. Although this is a step back from the physical card revealed by Android Police in November.  This is a VERY BIG DEAL for payments. Why?

Merchant Value Proposition

  • Reduce payments cost. No matter what card customer uses, everything will be priced as a non Durbin Debit (160 bps). This marks the First Time Ever a provider will take a LOSS on every payment, to get the data.
  • Customer uses whatever card they want, credit, debit, Amex.. or even ACH.
  • Merchant keeps current processor. The payment metaphor is a 16 digit PAN.. a Google MA that wraps everything else (see don’t wrap me).
  • Increased Conversion (particularly mobile). One button (pay with Google) and everything is filled out.
  • New performance measurement tools in google analytics
  • New offers and ad types possible (dependent on redemption, and/or number of purchases)
  • Possible loyalty programs
  • New physical merchant use cases (buy on mobile pick up in store).instant buy

Consumer Value

  • Centralized payment instrument/fraud protection. I’m not giving my card number out to all merchants
  • Ease of use.. no more form filling
  • Centralized e-reciepts
  • Use any payment instrument I want
  • Store coupons/incentives in wallet
  • Wallet on Android no longer NFC dependent

Consumer “downside”

  • Google gets to see more of your data.. but who do you trust with it? Google vs. Banks vs. none of the above.ma rates non-regulated

Core INNOVATIONS

  • Expanding the google master account (GAIA) to manage verified identities and making new services available (to these consumers it has verified)
  • Ad delivery: Leveraging customer insight and “touches” to influence consumer
  • Ad quality: closing the loop with payment.. what ads contributed to what ACTUAL behavior
  • PAY FOR PERFORMANCE Advertising!??  No more CPC? one obvious future is if Google can see transaction then the could bill merchant for advertising based upon the purchase (not on the click). This is the Holy Grail of advertising and if there are indeed plans here.. it is beyond a moon shot. As an advertiser I would only pay for marketing that led to customers buying from me. This would spawn an entire new industry of campaign managers. More on this in future blog.
  • Phone as tool for Authorization of a given identity.
  • Business model… big win for merchant (cost, conversion, experience and reach) and consumer (protection, convenience)…

For eCommerce/mCommerce merchants this may be the biggest “no brainer” since Cybersource offered to offload card processing/fraud risk management.  This is a V.me killer…  from both cost, and advertising perspective. The primary challenge Google faces is that 70% of eCommerce sales are controlled by Amazon, eBay/PayPal/GSI, and Visa/CYBS… They can make it difficult for smaller brands to turn this on.. but it will happen… Amazon may even want to let Google eat 1% interchange on all their sales.

Osama and the Google team have done great work getting this out to market. Congrats.

P2P

On the P2P side.. not quite sure. Sending money in gmail is certainly better than a stand alone service.. but EVERY SINGLE P2P effort money with gmailhas failed: Obopay, Visa Money Transfer, ClearXchange, POPMoney, Zashpay, paybox, ..  Consumers just don’t pay other people (like babysitters or golf bets) electronically, nor do they PAY FOR PAYMENTS. There is a strong social element in giving and receiving something of physical value (ie cash). Remember when your Grandmother sent you a birthday card with $20 in it? It just wouldn’t be the same if Granny sent me an email with an electronic notice..

With respect to Google’s new service, I will certainly say that Google has done a great job with integration, and there is no more highly used service in the world than Gmail.. so if anything had potential.. this is it. Google is not exactly a culture that seeks operational folks.. more of CREATORS.. not regulatory, payment ops, KYC, dispute, … experts. This will be one GIANT headache of a service to manage (globally).  If they can make this work, and extend to android.. it could be the LINCHPIN to ubiquity and payment success in emerging markets. Payments for “free”!!?? If cross border were enabled, what would this do to Xoom? PayPal? WU? See my blog on Growing the world’s economy and poverty alleviation.

 NFC Thoughts

Is Google walking away from NFC? Don’t think so.. there are probably markets where it makes sense. US doesn’t seem to be one of them.  Remember the NXP chips only just recently allowed more than one card emulation application.. so for last 5 years everything had to be Visa, or MA, or Amex.. ISIS is facing delays because of lack of Gemalto SWP SIMs and the handsets to support them… and consumer “demand”.  The NFC ecosystem is dead in the US… the only people that win are banks and telecos.. Merchants are not enabling contactless.. for a reason. As I told Google 2 yrs ago, to establish consumer behavior, you must use it 5+ times per week. There are 3 critical payment areas for this: Grocery, Gas and Transit.  Without participation here.. no payment change will occur.   See my note on Apple and NFC, and Google Wallet.

My top recommendation is to integrate this tightly with KYC/Authentication initiatives..  See blog on reputation.

Least Cost Routing – Part 1

25 Feb

I did a google search on least cost routing and found very little written about payments (much  telecommunications). LCR seems like a rich blog area.. however today is just a tickler for a future part 2 (I’m slammed). LCR in payments is similar to telecommunications.. how do I route information through an optimized route that considers speed, cost and risk (a pmts only consideration)…

My jaw dropped as a start up CEO sent me this link below. This is a brilliant business patent… It also provides a very interesting “future view” on Bank’s plans with respect to Tokens and Routing http://www.google.com/patents/US20120265680 . Author of Patent is a good friend Dickson Chu, and former product manager of PayPal. Tokenized least cost routing.. Dickson seems to have designed LCR for the bank side… from his PayPal experience…

…  eligible payment transactions are routed, using the payments interface processor, to an internal payment transaction processing path of the first party. In such cases eligible transactions are settled without routing the transaction to external card processing networks. Alternative payment processing paths are identified for non-eligible payment transactions. In addition, transaction costs of such alternative payment processing paths are determined. Non-eligible payment transactions are routed, using the payments interface processor, to a payment processing path other than the internal payment transaction processing path.

From a bank perspective this is brilliant… enabling cross border, cross network clearing and settlement.  My top question: how can banks get tokens adopted by consumers, merchants and processors in the first place? My guess: Banks will work to influence consumers directly through a new brand and capability. Similar to the V.me, and google wallet API, banks will work to push consumer tokens into mobile wallets. In other words there will be  a button in online banking where you push your payment account into selective wallets.. as opposed to consumers entering the card information directly into the merchant’s platform. Remember this model is 100% analagous to how cards were “provisioned” into NFC wallets.. but we are replacing encrypted card emulation with a unique token and a common interbank token directory. This model continues current card “merchant anonymity  by abstracting from merchant consumer identity.

There would seem to be significant implications to the Visa/MA relationships if this one works out…

lcr

 

 

 

PayPals New Plastic

This is more than a decoupled debit.. although PayPal could choose to assume settlement risk through either ACH stored debit (or even ATM??). Paypal has the facilities to provide lending via BillMeLater (previous post) or to the customer’s other preferred lender (via stored card). They are completely in control of a much larger value proposition as well.. with integrated rewards and a 3 party financial network that will compete with Discover and Amex.

No Mastercard Logo on this one…

Quite impressed that they have pulled this together.. a new card network…

This is more than a decoupled debit.. although PayPal could choose to assume settlement risk through either ACH, stored debit card (or even ATM??).  Paypal has the facilities to provide lending via BillMeLater (previous post) or to a consumer’s other preferred lender (via stored card). They are completely in control of a much larger value proposition as well.. with integrated rewards and a 3 party financial network that will compete with Discover and Amex.

I’m very, very impressed.. this is a new product that could completely disrupt traditional credit cards. Not only in rewards, coupons and incentives.. but in interest rates for every single purchase. This could be the only card you carry.. Forget about the “pay by phone number”.. the product innovation here is much more interesting than how it is delivered (plastic, phone number, bump, …).

Paypal also has a new site (beta) a few screen shots of which are below.

This new plastic is currently only accepted at Home Depot. My understanding it that Chase Payment Tech will be a lead acquirer for this new Product… I’m sure Vantive, FirstData … et.al will not be far behind.  I will attempt a more thoughtful analysis later… thoughts appreciated.

Apple’s P2P: Visa Money Transfer

The big banks that have taken the plunge are JPM and BAC. Not sure if both have committed on debit AND credit.. or just credit. The business case for credit is pretty solid and I don’t have any issues here, but allowing Visa to control transfers on debit is not in the best interest of banks. Why would banks want to allow Visa to develop a consumer directory and a new service that directly competes with ACH?

Update 13 March 2011

It would seem that there is some amount of disconnect between the bank eCommerce, debit and inter bank teams. The banks are working on a new interbank P2P service. This service will be based on ACH and follows on to what was pulled from the BAC/WFC Pariter scope last year. My guess is that JPM is also a “partner” and is committing to directory integration just as it is with CashEdge (Citi, 5th 3rd and 200 odd banks).

The Visa Money Transfer commitment may be an “accident”, and the banks may not know that Visa is working with Apple. This Visa service would clearly compete with the new bank owned service.  

11 March 2011

In previous blog I spoke about Apple and NFC, although I still don’t know if Apple’s wallet will be ready for the iPhone 5.. it does seem that they plan to launch with a P2P transfer system powered by Visa (See previous blog on Visa Money Transfer). Apple’s iTunes wallet does not “store” funds like PayPal nor Apple does have money transfer licenses. It was therefore searching for a way to allow consumers to pay each other. News I have is that they have selected Visa Money Transfers for this. Is it the only way? perhaps not… but I give it 90% confidence of being in scope for wallet launch.  (Sorry for the confidence thing.. it was Gartner Group’s way of making shit up)

I just can’t believe that bank payment heads are allowing this. I was on the phone with the head of debit for 2 of the top 5 banks..  their eCommerce teams love the idea of partnering with Apple.. but the debit cards head have said “no way”.  It is just a terrible idea for banks to give Visa a way to circumvent ACH.. and it will be very, very hard to shut down once it gets moving. Reasons:

  • – Visa runs it.. Continues to build Visa brand on your ACH
  • – You own the risk, Visa develops new services
  • – Circumvents all of the industry controls on ACH (ex. TCH, Early Warning)
  • – Unfunded Reg E research burden and consumer support reqs.

The big banks that have taken the plunge are JPM and BAC. Not sure if both have committed on debit AND credit.. or just credit. The business case for credit is pretty solid and I don’t have any issues here, but allowing Visa to control transfers on debit is not in the best interest of banks. Why would banks want to allow Visa to develop a consumer directory and a new service that directly competes with ACH (see blog)?

Bankers, my recommendation is to buy Interlink or Star and put it in TCH… then run the this debit service there.

Start ups.. I would not focus on payments in Apple’s platform. Think there would be new opportunities in intgrating POS to Apple’s payment mechanism, or even a “billtomobile” kind of function where you can pay online with your apple ID.  My head is spinning at the chaos this will cause within ISIS AND each carriers own billtomobile efforts. Apple is near a tipping point with the carriers. I would expect them to start aggressively pushing a much more friendly Android model.

Debit Card in Peril?

The biggest story of the week has largely gone unreported. Bank of America (BAC) has taken a $10.3B goodwill impairment charge in 3Q. What does this mean for Visa? Not Good News.

27 October 2010

The biggest story of the week has largely gone unreported. Bank of America (BAC) has taken a $10.3B goodwill impairment charge in 3Q.

The Merchant Payments Coalition responded to the impairment charge (reference above)

“With a Federal Reserve decision on debit interchange rates not expected until mid-2011, today’s claims by Bank of America dramatically overstate reality and represent a feeble attempt to divert attention from its mortgage foreclosure problems,” said Doug Kantor, counsel to the Merchants Payments Coalition.

In the 8-K, Bank of America said it plans to take (ref The Street)

 “a number of actions that would mitigate some of the impact when the laws and regulations become effective,” but it didn’t provide details about what those actions might be.

Will write more later, but I can assure you BAC is looking for debit alternatives. Given their size, most anticipate a new product driven from both their retail and global card team (including merchant services). So in addition to AT&T/Discover, we will now have another major bank led team developing a new payment product with a multi billion dollar incentive.

What does this mean for MA and Visa? Not good news for US growth.

Related Article

PayPal Virtual Terminal – Accept Cards at POS

I can’t help but wonder how this pricing will effect Chase Paymentech (PayPal’s partner and merchant acquirer). Small merchants may indeed think twice of having their own merchant services agreement and specialized terminals.

PayPal Virtual Terminal

6 June 2010

Great job PayPal…. bringing down the cost of card acceptance to $30/mo. No hardware, no special agreements.. just add the service to your existing merchant account.

The only downside seems to be for the 5+ Valley start ups like SquareUp that were targeting physical POS acceptance in a “Craigslist” type environment. The head of payment strategy at a top 3 bank told me that making merchant acquisition easier was a priority for driving new card volume. Looks like VT can both drive TPV growth and address potential down market competitive threats at the same time.

I can’t help but wonder how this pricing will effect Chase Paymentech (PayPal’s partner and merchant acquirer). Small merchants may indeed think twice of having their own merchant services agreement and specialized terminals.

Thoughts appreciated

NFC Break Out – VISA/FirstData/AT&T

Get set for a major announcement in next 4 weeks from Visa, AT&T and FirstData that will combine an AT&T pre-paid card account, managed by FirstData, and with services from several Visa led start up companies (both mobile advertising, couponing and NFC).

23 December 2009

Previous post http://tomnoyes.wordpress.com/2009/11/25/visamobpay/

Get set for a major announcement in next 4 weeks from Visa, AT&T and FirstData that will combine an AT&T pre-paid card account, managed by FirstData, and with services from several Visa led start up companies  (both mobile advertising,  couponing and NFC). Consumers will be issued NFC stickers for existing phones and can fund the account with existing card and deposit accounts. AT&T will also have an integrated reward system to reward payment activity with coupons, airtime and special offers with participating merchants. In addition to the NFC sticker, Visa will also be trialing other “other form factors” including: plastic, handset integrated NFC (new phones) and 3rd party hardware for OTA provisioning. FirstData will begin a new role as both the processor and Trusted Service Manager (TSM).

As stated previously, the US market is ripe for a break from the 6 party political “fur ball” that is hampering mobile innovation (Card Issuers, Acquirers, Network, Merchant, MNOs, Handset Mfg). Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are better positioned to execute in mobile payment in all markets. AT&T is no stranger to credit cards, even today the ATT Universal card is the largest affinity card within Citi’s portfolio.  The implications for card issuers are unclear, given the uncertainty of “mobile payment” consumers behavior and payment patterns. There is a storng possibility that this initiative will be a “tipping point” in both mobile commerce, unleashing a new wave of innovation for all consumers (not just iPhone any longer). It will be very interesting to see if Apple is a part of this initiative. 

More to come..  

From Previous Post

For those outside the US, US MNOs have substantial control over handset features and applications, they have been leveraging this “node control” to “influence” direction of payments. The central US MNO argument being “it is our customer, our handset, our network we should get a cut of the transaction rev”. Unfortunately existing inter-bank mobile transfers/ payments are settled through existing payment networks that provide limited flexibility in accommodating another party (beyond issuer/acquirer), with much room for improvement in authorization, authentication and consumer “control”. 

Outside the US, the situation is much different, as consumers have great flexibility in switching MNOs, have ownership of their handsets, and are largely on pre-paid plans. The MNO challenge for payments in this environment is largely regulatory.  Many countries (EU, HK, Korea, Japan, SG) have open well defined rules for MNOs role in payments (example: ECB ELMI framework within the EU), while other countries are highly restrictive and are in the midst of developing their legal and regulatory framework.  Even in the countries where MNOs participation is defined, they have largely benefited from the complimentary role that the service plays with pre-paid plans (not in interchange at POS).

Globally, MNOs are looking for a payment platform where they can benefit from interaction between consumer and merchant, with flexibility to deal with a heterogeneous regulatory environment. The competitive pressures on Visa/MC are much different then they were 5 years ago (when both were bank owned). The network fee structures and rules were written with banks and mature markets in mind. Emerging markets present a much different set of opportunities, as MNOs lead banks in brand and consumer penetration within every geography.

All of this leads to the case for a new “Mobile Payments Settlement” network, a network which will alienate many banks.  I expect to see Visa roll out the initial stages of this network in the next 2 months with an emphasis on NFC. Quite possibly the best kept secret I have ever seen from a public company. I’m sure many Silicon Valley CEOs are crossing their fingers (with me) on this, as a “new wave” of innovation is certainly close at hand that will drive growth (and valuations).

For those not keeping up with the 50 or so product announcements a day on NFC, handset manufacturers committed to have NFC enabled phones to consumers in mid 2009 in the GSMA 2008 congress. NFC capabilities are numerous (Vodafone YouTube Overview), and may represent a true disruptive innovation surrounding payments. There have been many very recent product announcements that will enable existing phones to use NFC, and P2P Capability. All of which will blossom in a more “fertile” mobile settlement environment.

Side note: This is not all bad news for Banks, as the structure will certainly provide for existing cards (debit/credit) and may deliver substantial revenue through cash replacement (small < $50) transactions.  More details on structure of MNO in settlement 2 weeks….

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