Payment Data.. Banks are NOT the problem

Loss of Anonymity in Payments and the threats to Banking, Retail and Consumers

Compelling WSJ article yesterday on Facebook and Bank data. This article doesn’t begin to touch the extent of the problem. When it comes to data, there 2 very very distinct camps. Those that care about consumer data and their role in managing it, and those that don’t. 

Banks and payment networks care and are “squeaky clean” compared to the rampant data sharing going on within marketing (retailers directly to the big ad publishers). While Cambridge Analytica brought about changes to 3rd party data sharing the entire ad industry has DRAMATICALLY increased direct first party data sharing. In other words many large retailers are sending their real time SKU level purchase data (for all customers) directly into the big Ad Platforms.

  1. Google Offline Conversions API
  2. Facebook Offline Conversion API
  3. Agency Example
  4. Gartner CDP Magic Quadrant

What enables retailers to identify consumers and send this data to Ad Platforms? Historically, only retailers with loyalty card schemes could do this, but recently Payment cards have transformed to become the virtual loyalty card used to accurately identify consumers (without Bank/Network permission). This is shocking, as Payment cards have a solid track record for protecting consumer identity (ie anonymity in payment), with payment anonymity a core “feature”. Within the 4 party network schemes only issuers could identify the consumer, enabling issuing Banks maintain the critical role of Identity broker (see blog). As former banker this makes my head spin, as the Payment Card Industry (PCI) has invested BILLIONS to protect transaction data.. Only to have it pour out from a hole.

Example

Today, when a consumer uses their V/MA card to purchase the retailer creates an “anonymized ID” and stores the transaction set internally (at ~50% of the top 10 retailers) with the entire inventory of items purchased. There are few rule or privacy issues here (IMHO), as general trends and loyalty are measured.  However, retailers are voluntarily sending this transaction data (mapped to consumer ID not PAN) directly to the big Ad Platforms. The ad platforms then map this activity to the “anonymized ID” customer behavior it maintains (ex preference for soccer and CNN.com). Issues with this model:

  • Replacing the PAN with another Anonymized ID SHOULD NOT cause it to run under a different “rule set”. If ANY card information was used in the mapping, it should run under network rules
  • Neither the issuers, the networks nor the consumers have permissioned this data sharing.
  • Banks will never have a data business if data plays in this way
  • Retailers are giving away enormous consumer insight and strengthening the pricing power of Google/FB
  • The value of the “raw data” will diminish. Once reliable predictive models and preferences are established (ex Tennis player that likes Lacoste) I no longer need the raw data
  • Data is the “new uranium” we must work to control dissemination or it will destroy those touching it.

Obviously data is following the path of least resistance to centralization points that can act on it efficiently (covered in my blog Equifax, FB and Dangers of Data Centralization). However the ABILITY to act on data is different than the rules which data should act within. Transaction data was developed with VERY thoughtful rules and controls. For example, when a party submits a transaction or request the counterparty is known as is the legal agreement under which the “transaction” operates. Trust developed as a result. Trusted data must be managed.

Russ Schrader (Commerce Signals GC/CPO and Executive Director of the National Cyber Security Alliance) put together these 3 simple rules of thumb when thinking about data use:

  • Right to have the data
  • Right to use the data
  • Right to share the data

To be clear my goal is NOT to create a government imposed GDPR in the US. Rather I want Banks and Retailers to have a data business, and create great new consumer experiences.

Yes I have a bias here, it is what I built my company around (see Federated Data®). Data centralization is the v1.0 architecture of data science. Sure you can learn great things if all the data is mashed together but the value of data is based upon use. If you can’t control use… you can’t control the unique value that is unlocked (or the rights) within a given use.

Bank/Network Actions

Let me be clear.. banks must have a role in data! The economics of payments are changing. Banks must protect their ability to deliver value beyond the transaction. Banking is a commerce function and Alipay has shown what the future holds for “commerce orchestrators” .. payments allow them to become banking orchestrators as well (see WSJ and Ant Financial).  There are both offensive and defensive actions that must be taken. 

  1. Defense. Change the rules to protect your data ensure every party “in the network” is operating on your data with permissions. Your data is playing in the market today.. and you don’t even know it. Banks have permissioned and distributed their data to marketing, loyalty, and shared market insight vendors. While individual transaction data may not be distributed by your partners, consumer level models are built and shared (see Banks as a Data Business). Typical network rules allow for merchants to use card information for the purpose of “loyalty and marketing” these rules need to be tightened up as the rights to share this data with many parties was never part of the original intent.
  2. Retailers are not big enough to force change within the ad world. You are..  Ensure that all data operates within the simple rules above.
  3. Banks must collaborate in data. As a top 3 bank told me “… we have learned some very hard lessons in data, no one bank is big enough to go it alone. What we should have remembered is the success with V/MA. Even though we compete with [Banks] a common network allowed millions of businesses and consumers to work with us consistently….” and another “ The real threat to banks is the Alipay. We need a common data network with common rules. Banks have a role to play in creating great consumer experiences however there are only a very few of them we are poised to lead”.  
  4. Take on the roles of transparency and consumer champion.
Retailer Actions

Retailers have a right to payment data. While big data can create great new insights if we centralized and analyzed all conversations, there is a downside. Digitally, every interaction you have with a consumer is a conversation. Brands must manage who gets to take part in these conversations and build insight from them. If your downstream data “partners” mis-use your data your customers will go to Amazon (which doesn’t share data with Google and FB).  You must create great consumer experiences, but you must balance against consumer privacy and your rights to the data.

  1. Maintain control of your data supply chain. Both WHO is using your data and HOW it is being used. Create a mission control that allows you to see what data is shared with Whom, for which Use under which legal agreement (a shameless plug for our service)
  2. Rather than sending out raw transactional data that improves pricing leverage of Goog/FB build a CDP and enable your own targeting. Make partners bring their insights to you, or ask you to append a propensity score for a specific campaign.. not raw data for all of your customers. This is what Commerce Signals enables. 
  3. Hold all marketing partners accountable to performance against a common benchmark. This does not mean a measuring against a panel of 8M location based “presence” participants. But leverage your transaction data to measure performance consistently. This means Google and FB must be measured against your metrics.. Not report their own. Mark Pritchard of P&G is the most vocal advocate of this approach

For more information, please see my previous blogs

Rewiring – Part 2: Walmart+Goog, Amazon+Whole Foods, …

I’m taking a rather abbreviated approach to blogging today.. as most of my key points have more detail in my other posts. I’ll just link to my old posts and focus on a few new thoughts. Continue reading “Rewiring – Part 2: Walmart+Goog, Amazon+Whole Foods, …”

The Ledger.. and a new SWIFT Killer?

Money 2020 was a little short on big announcements. My #1? Visa/Chain announcement. Chain will open its entire platform (software core) to developers enabling distributed innovation (ie investment) by hundreds of start-ups and bespoke networks looking to connect.  My #1 bet is that the first focus area for Visa/Chain will be in replacing SWIFT.  For those not familiar with the intricacies of global commercial money transfer via SWIFT see my youtube video.

SWIFT is a global messaging network that enables all member banks to communicate in common language, it handles no funds, nor does it manage settlement. Swift sends standard messages to banks to settle funds. In the SWIFT model the instruction is normally sent by the originator of the payment to a beneficiary. Originating banks can determine which set of correspondent banks to use (think routing control).

Visa and Mastercard are also messaging networks (see Structural Changes in Payment, and Real Time Payments). The short summary of these blogs:

  • Real time gross settlement (RTGS) is only possible if all parties have funds in a common settlement entity.
  • Fedwire, NYSE, ..have real time settlement as all “members” have funded accounts for a net settlement (think daily margin calls)..  but all other US payment networks are messaging only, with settlement handled as a (daily) back end process.

0201_cio_ledg_g_20160201185005

The idea of Blockchain “replacing” SWIFT is not new, Ripple has been working with Santander, Bank of America and others (see Finextra). Ripple is both messaging, and real-time gross settlement system (RTGS in XRPs). Ripple’s messaging is called the Ripple Transaction Protocol (RTXP) or Ripple protocol, it is built upon a distributed open source Internet protocol, consensus ledger and native currency called XRP (ripples). Think of Ripples as a private bitcoin. One of the most common criticisms of Ripple is that Of the 100 billion XRPs created, 20 billion XRP were retained by the creators, who were also the founders of Ripple Labs.

Chain on the other hand is blockchain infrastructure (great WSJ article) open for innovation. Chain powers distributed ledger(s) for multiple uses. Think of Chain as enabling each bank to have a local copy of a indisputable record… an incorruptible and infallible accounting ledger. Fund transfer certainly needs such a record, but for “accounting” to be effective there must be trust and settlement. Note that Ripple handles this settlement problem (XRP ownership ledger) trust, but has issuess in conversion to the “common XRP currency”.

Trust among financial intuitions is historically managed by networks and operating rules. For example there are operating rule for NACHA, Visa, Mastercard, … etc. Operating rules also are governed by laws and regulation (ex WHO can transact, how are transactions reversed, how are participants certified).  I would argue that a payment network’s greatest asset is Trust among parties (and devices, form factors), with each participant governed by complex sets of rules, terms, certifications, operations, standards.

Important to note that Blockchain doesn’t require trust to properly record transaction, but rather rules to take action upon the ledger’s data. In other words, it is technically feasible to give a copy of the transaction ledger to every participant (who owes what to whom every day). However it is very hard for banks to take action on the ledger’s data (Transferring money – ex net settlement) without a trust/settlement network. The common ledger is a must improved messaging approach, that still requires a operating rules (Trust) and a Settlement Approach.

Mastercard’s acquisition of Vocalink (the UK’s Settlement network) enables them to lead in commercial (and debit) transactions for both UK and US. This is a brilliant move, but certainly much more of a traditional technology/architecture approach. The challenge with Vocalink is that innovation is constrained by existing customers and services.

Chain/Visa has the opportunity to disrupt the commercial payment landscape, particularly when viewed in combination with Visa’s existing card network and a new settlement system. For example, most Visa transactions were settled at end of day through JPM Chase (every Visa member had settlement account).  For cross border transactions, Visa’s settlement “hubs” have correspondent relationships.

If Visa created a new Chain settlement infrastructure, or had member Bank support to leverage current infrastructure, it could quickly replace SWIFT with a far superior product which would offer transaction clearing times in 24 hrs (vs the 2-7 days with Swift). The biggest unknown is what part of Visa’s current operating rules could be leveraged to create this new settlement infrastructure. For the economic opportunity see this Fed Study

PIN Debit at the POS

Most of you have read that Walmart, Home Depot and Kroger have launched new litigation against Visa for “PIN” and Debit.  This issue is so complex it makes my head spin… For those unfamiliar with some of the basics see this article, my prior blog on PIN debit consolidation,  AT Kearney, Digital Transactions: PIN Debit Claw Back and Pinless PIN Debit. Continue reading “PIN Debit at the POS”

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”

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”

ChasePay Thoughts (Don’t sell Visa Stock Just Yet)

09 Nov 2015 Updates

  • I did a Morgan Stanley call this week with Smittipon Srethapramote, ChasePay was a central topic. Evidently Chase is positioning this as a way for CPT to gain volume. Value Prop: we will clear ChasePay transactions at 0bps. Given that ChasePay and MCX don’t exist yet it may be a little pre-mature to take a bet against First Data. What is actually happening is that MCX retailers will be switching ChasePay transactions to Chase. So.. CPT may gain a few merchants.. and a little bit of incremental volume.. but it will be at 0bps. Also remember that FD has Citi, BAC and WFC as customers.. and they can do anything that CPT can do.
  • Problems with a merchant switch. The merchant switching on debit is outlined below.. not much issue here given Durbin’s requirement for dual routing. In essence debit can not be treated as PIN debit and routed directly to issuers/retail banks. However there are BIG problems with ChasePay as credit IF IT IS A VISA ACCOUNT.
    • ChasePay as a Credit must be routed through Visa and then to Chase’s ChaseNet. Merchant switching does not appear to be allowed. In other words ChaseNet Credit in an “on us” would only work if MCX merchants moved 100% of volume to ChaseNet.
    • ChasePay at MCX must be an approved card present method (CHIP or NFC). QR code is not an accepted method therefore it would be treated as CNP. Now Chase could set new unique rules on this transaction that would enable them to own the fraud, but they would need to own the acquiring as well. To own the acquiring they need more than just a “switch” from the merchant for ChasePay transactions only.
    • Tokens, VDEP and MDES. Chase is prohibited from discriminating against wallets in the new VDEP/MDES rules. Chase cards will be in ApplePay, SamsungPay and Android Pay. So consumer confusion will abound.. but also the advantages (liability shift, ubiquity, consumer experience) will make ChasePay on MCX hard to gain traction.
    • Creating ChaseNet as a new Visa. The issues above could disappear if Chase was able to create a completely new 3 party network (per section below).  But Chase has many hurdles to cross, as merchants AND CONSUMERS would both have to accept the terms of the new network and forsake the benefits of Visa. Chase is nibbling on the periphery and trying to enable a new semi closed network within an open 4 party one.
    •  Chase can deliver 0 bps payments anytime it wants to with any card it owns today. Issuers have always held this pricing flexibility. Now acquirers will pass on their fees, but this is only 20-30bps.
  • Chase has created a Visa war plan and I don’t understand why. Chase is the only major bank pushing The Clearing House to develop a token facility, they were also a driving force behind Early Warning’s purchase of ClearXChange… which is well positioned to be an EXTRAORDINARY new debit network.

As background, back in 2011 I told Gordon and Todd that they didn’t understand the dynamics of MCX. They believed they would win MCX because of relationships.. my prediction has turned out to be accurate. I said that I went in as Google and offered MCX 0bps payments with a potential of PAYING MCX to take GoogleWallet and MCX still said no . The margin in payments is in the long tail. The driver of ANY INVESTMENT here is in changing consumer behavior OR in delivering services beyond Payment.  Chase certainly has no credibility here. Payments and banking are ENABLERS to commerce.. they are NOT THE CENTER (see blog Tilting the Networks… a MASSIVE Change)

My top questions/unknowns

  1. Will ChasePay Credit be a Visa Card. If not will they acquire both consumers and merchants?
  2. Does chase believe that a ChasePay credit can run on 2 networks at once?
  3. Does Chase believe merchant based switching/LCR is permitted under its Visa Agreement
  4. What volume does Chase believe it will obtain through this product (BEYOND 0bps payments).

 

29Oct

This quarter Chase has been a favorite target of my blog (ex What should JPM do). Coming out of money 2020 it looks like my timing was pretty good. branding nascar

I just don’t get it…. WHY!?

  1. Why would JPM want a consumer to pay through ChasePay in MCX and not use their Visa card?
  2. Why would any consumer want to accept new terms of a new network (ChaseNet) to use their account in new wallet (CurrentC) with another new network (MCX). Why not just use your Visa card?
  3. Why would I want yet another acceptance brand when Visa’s network fee is so incredibly small (5-15 bps). Branding at the POS is beginning to look like a NASCAR

Back in March 2013 I wrote 2 blogs: Visa’s Golden Goose on the Menu, and JPM/V Scenarios… Which one is it? This was only 4 months after Charlie left JPM and took the top job at Visa. Most of you know I’m very high on Visa now (see Tilting the Networks a MASSIVE change).  As I’ve stated before, the story (all pure speculation) is that Chase was furious with Visa in 2011 and either buying discover or moving their entire portfolio to Mastercard or buying Discover. JPM’s BOD found out about this and threw out Saunders/Buse, hired in Charlie and gave JPM everything they wanted in a DFS purchase (thus bi-forcating VisaNet).. hey but what do I know.. (go ask the CFOs of DFS and MA.. ). Visa must feel pretty screwed over here.. after giving JPM everything they wanted, JPM still looks to create their own brand, product and network.

Value of OPEN

JPM looks caught in a “I want to be AMEX” moment… at a time where Amex itself is looking to re-invent. The value of OPEN is huge.. and it is unfathomable that the largest issuer in Visa doesn’t see it. (See Building Networks and Openness)

The funny thing is that JPM’s efforts are only crystalizing other banks to work MORE CLOSELY with Visa. Quote from top 3 issuer “FU*^& Chase, makes me want to work with the existing networks even more…”. Now we know why Visa worked with Citi on Costco and not their “friends” in Columbus. MCX will not allow any network branded cards in their wallet.. and ChasePay certainly gives chase better interchange than ACH.. but do I really want to encourage a new acceptance method that is at a lower cost? I would if I’m facing prospect of 0 fees.. but is JPM really that circumspect on the value and behavior of Visa card use?

For the model of interaction, looks like I was close in estimating what the product would look like

2013

MCX JPM

2015 (post Money 2020)

ChasePay flow

 

Chase Pay? An account with two identities?

chasepay Options

I must admit to total confusion to ChasePay.. Hopefully the community can help in the comments. The only way this can bypass visa (see blog on wrapping) is to have it run under completely new rules. Will a consumer really understand that a single account runs under 2 different rule sets? On my Apple Phone with CurrentC installed what do I use at an MCX merchant that accepts NFC (ex CVS)? Or worse if Chase does indeed allow Chase cards on SamsungPay they have created yet another conflict with MCX (because of MST mag stripe emulation).

Chances of ChasePay Success?

The MODEL above makes complete sense for PayPal, Amex and MCX. To be clear I am very very high on MCX.. but this product? Perhaps Chase cards have a loyalty I just don’t know about. Or there is something missing in my assumptions. There are 3 models of ChasePay Interaction

  1. ChasePay within MCX Wallet
  2. ChasePay within the Chase Mobile App via MCX QR Code Directly (I think this will be prime)
  3. ChasePay presented via NFC/MST (ex Samsung Pay??)

Will Consumers accept new terms for a new product operating in a new wallet with a new network? Is that really innovation? Innovation is NOT ABOUT rewiring your assets, it is about designing a great experience for the consumer.

Sorry for the short blog, spent all my time drawing the pictures.

 

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.

Tilting the Networks… a MASSIVE Change

4 July 2015

Payments make up far more than 70% of my personal portfolio.  This investment strategy has been a great bet. Take a look at the 5 yr investment performance of Visa and MA. 333% growth in MA and 247% for Visa.  5yr return payment stocks

From Mar 9 2015 Seeking Alpha

5087541-14257348899867501-Market-Pinnacle

With this exposure, I keep close track on structural changes in the industry, which I outlined in my January blog Structural Changes in Payments:

  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

Will these structural changes… is my current V/MA at risk? Is there something else I should be moving toward? No way!  I think Visa and Mastercard are start ups that have just begun realizing the value of their network as they EXPAND NODES and SERVICES Let me try to explain why am I such a bull on these  payment stocks.

Network Tilt – Toward Merchants

As most of you know, V and MA were started as Bank consortiums (see Wikipedia and MA History). Rules (and rates) were thus defined by banks for both credit and debit (see this blog for debit history). As a former Banker I never fully understood the Retail view of Visa and Mastercard. For example, Walmart pays an estimated $1.3B in interchange. Most merchants would admit that the benefit from electronic payments and ubiquitious acceptance. Even Mike Cook says that “no one complains about the network fee side of card costs… it is the issuer side that everyone has a problem with”. In other words Visa and MasterCard earn their fees (it is the issuer reward schemes that drive merchants bonkers).

As stated previously Payments, in their simplest form, 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.

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.

Both Visa and Mastercard realize that their future rests in leveraging their neutrality, thus “tilting” away from their prior “bank centric” model into something that is MUCH MORE merchant friendly. Bank issuers certainly WANT to be in this role, for example the largest US Visa issuer JPM has created a unique off VisaNet transaction routing (see blog) and is building a new data business (ChaseNet) to compete here. The bank efforts are completely stunted as there is no path for obtaining critical mass is a closed network that requires both merchant and consumer consent.  American Express is the clear leader here, but their network is also stunted through its focus in T&E, affluent and business travelers.

Visa and Mastercard win when consumers and merchants transact.  Encouraging use by consumers, and acceptance by merchants, is top priorityThe future of the networks is COMMERCE. This may seem like a logical statement, but historically Visa and Mastercard acted as extensions of the large issuers. Look for both networks to create new teams to rebuild relationships with merchants.. they know they have work to do.Visa-AmEx-Are-up-MasterCard-Discover-Are-Down-3 (1)

What is “Tilt”?

  • Phase 1 – Rules and Facilities to Enable Competition
  • Phase 2 – Merchant Friendly Services / Merchant Rules Setting
  • Phase 3 – Competing with Banks (V/MA Opening up to non Banks)

The First Phase of tilting involves creating network rules and facilities that are favorable to the merchant and/or take away control from issuers (to enable issuer competition). 2015 winners include

#1 VDEP (Data protection and $0 wallet fees)

#2 Visa/MA Token Facilities

#3 ApplePay requiring debit card enablement

#4 Mastercard’s new Merchant Insight Service

Payment industry is very heterogeneous and highly tiered. Large merchants like Walmart, Target and Kroger are able to support strategy teams that can negotiate very competitive payment rates with issuers and acquirers. Similarly the large banks can build multi billion dollar fraud and square pricingauthorization infrastructure. My rule of thumb is that the bottom third of any acquirers merchant accounts (SMBs) result is approximately 60% of their earnings (hence the success of Square).  As an example, try to find the cost of payment acceptance at Chase Paymentech, now do the same at Square or Paypal.

Tokenization and EMV have taken away issuer advantages (control points), enabling smaller issuers (competition). They have also enabled competition in eCommerce and POS acquiring (bringing down merchant costs). Take a look at this must read article from paymnts.com 13Nov14. “Tokenization has opened up this whole world for us to be able to use digital devices to be a meaningful part of the payments flow in a way that (those payments) wouldn’t have in the past,” – Scharf at BAML Banking & Financial Services Conferenceglobal digital snap

On this last point, Visa and MA are growing from 1.9B cards to their “network” into mobile, creating services that will be critical to deliver payments and authentication/authorization in the channel that is capturing consumer time like none other.

Phase 2 – Merchant Friendly services. The number one Retailer issue is “who are my customers?” As I outlined 3 years ago in Payment Enabled CRM, payment networks are well placed to solve this (given consumer consent). These articles provide an overview of 2 new services coming out.

  • 4 June 2015 – Loyalty360. Visa Commerce Network. From Michael Lemberger (Visa VP Offers and Loyalty Solutions) “creating strong connections across commerce is an important piece of the payment ecosystem. As such, Visa also is developing and employing innovative loyalty platforms for merchants to engage with their customers in meaningful and compelling ways”
  • Mastercard Market Insights. [Report] analyzes extensive purchasing data to provide insights into restaurant level econometrics and trends, such as changes in sales, average ticket prices, and customer frequency across fast-casual, casual and family dining restaurants

Phase 3 – Competing with Banks. Banks tend to believe that everything V and MA do is “theirs”. The predominant view was best captured by a former head of strategy “we built these companies once, and we can do it again”.  Thus the definition of competition is rather squishy as banks believe that they own everything. Today every Visa “member” must be a bank. We are starting to see consumer direct services and merchant direct services (Mastercard MoneySend/Omney, CYBS/Visa Checkout, Mastercard Local Market Insights, …). This is MORE THAN ANYTHING turns Issuers apoplectic.

From an investor view I believe that Visa is much more cautious in remaining neutral, whereas Mastercard is much more aggressive in delivering new services. For example few know that Mastercard holds money transfer licenses, or may have purchased a processor (Omney). A key objective of MA may be to create a commercial payments business with debit cards as the key “down line” for disbursements. See http://apps.mastercard.com/#!/app_details/omney#top

The real battle will be on DATA. Issuers strongly feel that they have 100% ownership of payment data. Yet Visa/MA data also belongs to the merchants (for the restrictive and squishy purpose of loyalty and redemption). JPM felt so strongly about this rule that is specifically took its data out of VisaNet purview as part of the 2012 deal. Every payment player is chasing after ADS and Amex in their capabilities to become a “super charged marketing scheme”.

Mastercard has a BIG win by becoming the payment network behind the ApplePay private label enablement (as I discussed on twitter). Take a look at the private label graph above (relative to total number of cards). Private label is a super charged loyalty scheme that I’m keeping a very close (investor) eye on. I believe this may be the first REAL driver of Merchant Friendly “tilt”  that delivers substantial revenue. It is also a reason why I believe ADS will be aggressively chased as an acquisition target.

Revenue/EBIT

Visa and Mastercard are trading at roughly 30x earnings. Today they take less than $0.02 per transaction. Incremental revenue on existing volume through tokenization (see MA Digital Enablement Fees),  and new retailer friendly data services should add at least 10%-15% in near term depending on “wallet” success and merchant adoption. The future for V/MA profitability rests in their ability to balance the merchant Tilt with neutrality, and “stepping on Big bank toes”. As if this growth opportunity were not enough…

Global electronic payment growth is still positioned at 25%+ CAGR. The best industry payment report (IMHO) is from Cap Gemini https://www.worldpaymentsreport.com/ a must read for anyone. Globally electronic payments are in their infancy. Roughly 90% of the world’s electronic transactions happen in the top 10 markets (< 10% of the world’s population). What happens when the other 7B people on the planet get a card (with their phone)? The global growth opportunity for V/MA is 35% CAGR in just about any economic environment and independent of local market payment schemes (ie CUP, Rupay, ELO, …). The payments world continues to look for the “next Brazil” (BTW it is NOT RUSSIA), but it is everywhere. Paypal is another network that capitalizes on this global growth trend (in an eCommerce segment that is growing even faster than the “payment market”).  The emerging markets I like best? China, Columbia, Peru, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Pakistan, Philippines, Indonesia…  The markets I stay away from? Europe (see SEPA Blog).

Have a great 4th of July…. And go buy V/MA.