FedNow

Very short Blog – Recapping a few tweet streams.

I think FedNow is a great effort to provide an open alternative to TCH’s RTP. I’ve spoken with, and consulted for, the KC fed on a number of occasions and provided my input to the FedNow service back in 2013. Per my blog last week the survey result from the Fed’s efforts found “emergency bill payment” as the top consumer use. Paying someone faster brings on risk. The Fed depends on banks to manage risk and price that risk. As a former banker running payments at 2 of the largest banks I have a view here.

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Apple Pay Fees (Short Blog)

Thought I would give more detail on whats going on with V/MA, Issuers and Apple

Thought I would give more detail on whats going on with V/MA, Issuers and Apple (from WSJ article yesterday Apple Pay Fees Vex Issuers). Perhaps I’ll collect a fee from the WSJ.. odd that I mention Apple Pay fees on Monday to have it come up in the WSJ on Tuesday. Oh well..

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PayPal – ?Super App?

Paypal has clearly won in the massive shift to eCom/mCom during the pandemic. A time where 10 yrs worth of consumer behavior change was compressed into 18 months (behaviors which will stick long-term). However, the future growth story must ride on something else AND Paypal must prove it can generate improving margins within that growth

PayPal has been my #1 holding for last 5 yrs, and it has been on a fantastic ride… especially so over the last 18 months! (see MVP – Continued Domination for more). 

Paypal announced 2Q21 earnings 2 weeks ago (7.28). TPV growth was 40% with eBay, 48% without out, while sales grew at a 32% clip without eBay versus 19% with. Earnings? Not so much as margin erosion has hit the business. One core driver of margin has investors particularly concerned: “Take rate” (net merchant revenue less cost to clear payments) fell from 2.21% in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 2.11% in the first quarter and 2.01% in the second quarter. 

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Case for CBDC – Market Efficiency

Given that I’m building a new Company focused on Crypto acceptance in physical assets (stealth – pilot in 3 weeks), I thought I would share some perspective on the drivers of Crypto, CBDC and Decentralized Finance (DeFi).

There are about 50,000 people that read this blog.. Glad you enjoy it.. I’m most surprised anyone can stand my writing style for that long (sorry for all the typos – no editor). 

As most of you know I love to read the arcane (ex favorite book is Weak Linksrelated blog) and I love economists. Today I’m reading some of Thomas Phillippon’s research (NYU’s economist and author of The Great Reversal: How America Gave Up on Free Markets). Many of you will recall I covered Dr. Phillppon’s work in my 2015 blog Changing Economics of Payments. My summary of Phillippon’s work:

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ApplePay Accept (Mobeewave) in October

My track record on Apple is pretty good.. having broke the Apple Pay news in 2014 and Last August I announced the Apple/Mobeewave acquisition. Apple is great at keeping secrets… perhaps the best tech company in the world in this regard. My latest forecast? Apple will enable payment acceptance in the US this October with Elavon as payment processing partner.

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Growth Vector #1 – Embedding Payments

Embedding of payments into new commerce and business flows will quickly drive $500BTPV gains over the next 5 yrs and replace eCommerce as the source of TPV growth. Cash, ACH, and other Networks (ex Swift) will lose, MVP, Adyen and others will gain.

Pardon Typos.. still in proof mode

Previous Blogs on Topic 

  1. Payments in the OS – Browser Tokens – May 2016
  2. Payment in the OS – mCom/eCom Converge – Dec 2014
  3. Apple Pay in Browser – Mar 2016
  4. eCom Thoughts – Sept 2015
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TCH – Real Time Payments

TCH’s RTP service is capable of much more than just P2P, particularly given its role in tokenization of all cards. I was rather surprised to hear 5 of 6 top banks would rather work with PayPal than Visa/MA on this.. (And this was a KEY reason I moved to buy Paypal stock 24 mo ago).

Its been 18 mo since my last TCH update. As a quick refresh, the reason everyone cares about the TCH project, is that TCH is the ONLY place that the top 6 bank CEOs get together to collaborate on payments. TCH operates CHIPS (the largest private ACH network in the world), settling around $1.5T of payments PER DAY (think stock market, B2B, V, MA… everything). Within the ACH scheme every member bank has a settlement account and a nightly Net Settlement process is run. 

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Payments 2020 – MVP Continued Domination?

What is the top performing industry group? MVP outperformed FAANG over last 4 yrs by 34 points.. will this trend continue?

I’m back to blogging after a 5 year hiatus… The CEO thing is rather all consuming. Glad to have an exit so I can get back to my fellow payment geeks. 

What to blog about first? Given we are in new decade I thought about writing some grand predictions.  But rather than look forward, we must spend a little time in the past, as the past 10 years have been JUST AMAZING in payments. I’m calling this blog series “payment growth vectors” where I hope to recap what has transpired in payments (history) to provide a trajectory for evaluation of the future course.  

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Token update – TCH + 2 Big Banks and Paypal

I’ve been writing about this token stuff for over 5 yrs. Wow.. This is an update to my June 2013 blog – Tokens: any volunteers ,  SRC- W3C and Tokens and the Trojan Horse.

First my bias.. I may be naive.. but as I stated in Tokens and the Trojan Horse

Visa and Mastercard provide a level playing field for Issuers and Merchants (with few exceptions). Per my blog Payments Civil War, V/MA are a fantastic creation that have experienced profound success (and growth). As I outlined in the Changing Economics of Payments, the beauty of the V/MA model is that it creates incentives for millions of businesses to invest billions of dollars. For investors, the attraction of V/MA is that it is scale free.. with minimal effort required to add volume. While there are MANY more logical ways to deliver payments.. there are none with more profitable incentives for investment.

Tokens are an enormously powerful control point for the payment networks. 9 years ago the banks were working to “build a new Visa” within an initiative launched by The Clearing House. The idea was to create a new scheme that “wrapped” account numbers with another number (token) and avoid network routing (see wrapping). The networks smartly came down and issued clear guidance, if you wrap my card number with another number …. It is still a Mastercard/Visa.

TCH has been seeking a partner for tokenization since Paul Gallant led the 27 bank consortium 8 yrs ago.  Can you imagine the sales pitch (as I reviewed in the Trojan horse) “give me all of your customer information, I will lock it up.. and give you one of my keys for you to access it”. Google, Apple and Amazon have all smartly said no. What is the remaining “big” eCommerce Cards on File (COF) home? You guessed it PayPal.

While I’m not 100% sure about this.. it is the only group left AND two of these banks told me this week “Paypal is the only one that can move merchants effectively”. I was shocked … paypal can move merchants more than Google? They responded “Google has the best technology, but they just can’t sell merchant more than adwords”.. wow.

Thus my best guess is that 2 of the top banks are working with Paypal as the processor/gateway  to move “W3C” in the direction of the TCH tokenization service. The head of the W3C WG wrote me on twitter

Quite frankly my head is spinning. W3C is a browser standard.. how can Paypal get their TCH tokens in? I haven’t figured this out yet, but what I do know is that the complexity is enormous. We have 3 different token services

  • Visa VTS/MA MDES (Apple is primary customer)
  • Google (see Blog) – had no choice but to develop a new custom “standard” by which the encrypted FPAN flows to the merchant acquirer
  • TCH – Paypal + ??

And also multiple new eCom standards

To read what is happening you must therefore take a matrix view.  Obviously Google is moving with their own token service and W3C. Paypal seems to be moving with TCH and W3C.  Apple with network tokenization and ApplePay.

My head is spinning. I must say I did buy Paypal stock this week. I’m just floored that top tier issuers are innovating with Paypal.. focus, partnerships and execution are moving them into the bank friendly category.

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