10 Jan 2016
V/MA are among my largest holdings, thus I’m constantly assessing. This also happens to be a consistent institutional investor and Bank question. So I thought I would share my views. Continue reading “2016. Threats to V/MA? (Nope)”
10 Jan 2016
V/MA are among my largest holdings, thus I’m constantly assessing. This also happens to be a consistent institutional investor and Bank question. So I thought I would share my views. Continue reading “2016. Threats to V/MA? (Nope)”
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”
09 Nov 2015 Updates
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
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.
I just don’t get it…. WHY!?
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.
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
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
With this exposure, I keep close track on structural changes in the industry, which I outlined in my January blog Structural Changes in Payments:
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.
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 priority… The 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.
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 authorization 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 Conference
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.
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.
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.
1 Mar 2015
It seems that in the US, Samsung plans to create and certify a new software secure element within the ARM Trustzone architecture that precludes the need for SE Keys, avoids US MNO SE Key Ownership issues (that can’t make MNOs happy).
In other countries (China, EU, …) Samsung’s architecture would leverage the traditional NFC approach within the NXP SE (and traditional TSM).
This is a great technical approach, but is doesn’t appear that Samsung has bothered to sell US MNOs on the concept (of going around them). Anything US MNOs subsidize they must approve.. Which means no pre-installation, particularly given the new Google relationship outlined below.
Brilliant tech and security.. killed in the US by recent Softcard deal
Samsung has just launched its LoopPay plus NFC (plus tokens) with support of top 5 US banks, MA, Visa, Amex, FD. What is it? a mobile payment wallet that works at the POS within Samsung’s new S6. The “new” part is hardware based upon their recent LoopPay acquisition (Samsung calls MST ?Magnetic Secure Transmission?). What does this Loop stuff do? It enables your phone to talk to any payment terminal that accepts a swipe by “emulating” the magnetic field generated as your plastic card’s magnetic stripe goes across the payment terminals’ reader (ie head). This is SUPER cool stuff.. and addresses the key problem impacting ApplePay today: merchant acceptance. In other words a LoopPay enabled phone payment can be accepted anywhere a card swipe is accepted (mag stripe).
Operationally the new payment wallet will combine Loop’s mag stripe emulation plus traditional NFC to work with terminals in either a “swipe” or “tap” mode. If a terminal accepts NFC SamsungPay will detect it and use the more secure NFC, if not it will emulate the magstripe. Technically Samsung has done a super job creating a “secure enclave” equivalent within the ARM TrustZone (and NXP’s PN66T.. having dumped Samsung’s Snapdragon). Samsung may have achieved a coup over Apple in this new architecture (approval for storing card encryption keys within a new software secure element which will be certified as EMV compliant). This means Samsung doesn’t require the SE keys (in the US) and can also ride on the existing token rails that were created by ApplePay, thereby leveraging the same provisioning process for enabling cards that the networks created in ApplePay. Interestingly neither Samsung nor Google have been able to get the 15bps that Apple got.. showing that banks have learned lessons and that the ApplePay late followers (Samsung) are now in a weaker position.
The “bad news” is that SamsungPay software is VERY VERY far behind (think Aug/Sept best case), and even if it were ready today it will never be be pre-loaded on ANY phone in the US (given the recent Google/Softcard deal with all 3 major US MNOs). The Google/Softcard deal hit Samsung HARD.. a complete surprise. What does this mean? Complete chaos. SamsungPay Loop requires specialized hardware (MST in S6 Only), This means that SamsungPay will not work with any existing US handsets (all the SE keys went to Google and old phones don’t have the new ARM TEE with Software SE),
Why would Samsung make this kind of “marketing announcement” without an operational wallet, carrier support and big US holes? Guess is they are feeling the pressure from Apple. The new iPhone is even grabbing over 33% marketshare even in Samsung’s home market (see Reuters article). There are MANY pieces necessary to make a wallet launch work: hardware, new loop acquisition, tokens, certification, bank support, it looks like they have those taken care of.. what is missing? MNO support, SW SE certification and a production ready software wallet.
While I’m rather negative on the prospects for Samsung in the US, I’m very enthused about Samsung’s prospects outside the US by leveraging a traditional NFC architecture plus tokens. As I discussed in Secure Element, NFC, HCE, EMV, Tokens and Cards, tokens plus mobile enabled identity (token assurance information) have enabled software to displace specialize hardware. In this case, a tokenized LoopPay is pure genius.. taking a basic device the tricks the card head into accepting information.. into a card transaction much more secure. I’m not going into the fraud prevention measures, but rest assured “replay attacks” will not be possible.
The purported “mobile acceptance gap” that Samsung’s wallet WOULD address is primarily in the US and due to a lack of merchant terminals that accept NFC. LoopPay addresses this gap through emulating the mag stripe swipe.. The US is where mag stripe swipe remains predominant, and only in a very short term “interim” period before EMV becomes mandatory in October of this year. Thus the market where mag stripe emulation would deliver the most value is the US, yet it is only so for the near term (EMV rollout), with a much delayed software release (September) in an inaccessible MNO environment (per Google/MNO reasons above).
24 Feb 2014
Well done Google. As predicted last month, Google announced last night that it had acquired “some exciting technology and IP from Softcard”. The price? My guess is around $50-60M, plus multi year revenue share (below). This is a FAR cry from the $3-$4 BILLION that these same Mobile Operators wanted for “NFC RIGHTS” in 2011. Google proposed a rev share back then too.. but MNOs were convinced they could go it alone. After dropping almost a billion in ISIS/Softcard with no future revenue of any kind in sight the drivers of the deal were obvious. Not only did carriers need an exit for their investment, they needed a partnership that gives them a role in the future of mCommerce.
What technology will stay? The SE Keys and the vending machine acceptance terminals.. seriously.. 98% of what ISIS/Softcard was is completely dead. My biggest unknown? I would love to see if Amex Serve could pick up the pre-paid card from Mastercard.. as the banks wanted to beat up my good friend Ed McLaughlin for doing what I still think was one of the best most innovative deals ever (Google pre-paid).
What did Google get? MANDATORY GOOGLE WALLET. That’s right, now EVERY ANDROID phone sold by the carriers will have wallet installed. This addresses a key advantage that Apple has in mandating an iTunes account (with credit card) for activating the iPhone. Apple’s brilliant registration process allowed it to know its customers (ID, card on file) where Android/Google did not. Many analysts believe that this ID/Payment deficiency is THE KEY reason why Apple’s environment is 8x-10x more profitable with less than 20% of the handsets. Now Google can compete in all things which require identity+payment. Not JUST in buying apps/music in Google Play, but in orchestrating commerce and brokering identity. I cannot understate the win here for Google. A brilliant move, and I firmly believe that this was the primary driver of the deal. Don’t look at this as a ApplePay competitive thing, it is about enabling Google to identify every Android holder as a default “opt in” during phone activation (iTunes Account Mandatory = Wallet Account Mandatory).
The Carriers? A partner that will share revenue. Where Apple takes 15bps for itself, my guess is that Google will give that to the MNOs, plus some revenue share for play services. My TOP 2015 prediction was that this would be the year of partnerships.. This is certainly my top new one for the year. MNOs are losing sleep about Apple’s unmatched “walled garden”, no one plays but Apple here. Google is developing an open model and this deal may be the first template for MNO/Platform revenue sharing.
Banks? Google will likely slowly “roll out” of its Google Wallet Card (also see TXVIA blog) which wrapped all other cards in a Mastercard Debit. Banks will be able to sign up for Google Wallet through network agreements just as they do for ApplePay today (at same rates/rules). This will mean that the networks will provision bank cards as tokens, and that Google will also benefit from forthcoming CNP token rules this summer. The primary difference in GW operation is HCE+Tokens (see blog). The Google Wallet model is not dependent on the SE Keys, or SD storage.. but it CAN operate in a non HCE model (from its GW 1.0 lineage).
Payment Networks. BIG WIN. Cards are the defacto standard for everything in mobile. I’m interested to see if the networks recognize (certify) the HCE card emulation application, as of 3 months ago it was still not certified. My belief is that they certify as part of tokenization scheme acceptance. This is a funny side story in itself. Most would ask how Google Wallet could run a non-certified card emulation app. Remember that the ONLY card being emulated was a Google owned mastercard debit.. just a brilliant work around. Note that in ApplePlay, Apple operates as a tier 1 token requestor in the current ApplePay model, and V/MA/Amex are tier 2 token requestors (see this excellent blog by SimplyTapp). In the Google model Visa and Mastercard will act as both Tier 1 and Tier 2 token requestors.
Big Losers? Samsung. OUCH!! No wonder they had to buy loop. Their new wallet strategy was to have a DUAL NFC/LOOP wallet. Google just got all the SE keys for the Samsung Phones. This means that Samsung’s wallet will only work on new phones.. a rather rough place to start. Paypal.. with the birth of a new CNP scheme this summer driving ApplePay and Google Wallet beyond Apps to mCom checkout.. Paypal has no future in Mobile… Except in emerging markets.
More to come.. but wanted to get this out today.
2 January 2015
Today’s blog is focused on discussing the structural changes influencing consumer retail payments in the US. For those interested in looking at a broader global view of all payments, I highly recommend reading the Cap Gemini World Payments Report (https://www.worldpaymentsreport.com/) .
Payments have been a focus of mine for 20 or so years… it is perhaps the MOST interesting of all network businesses. Payment is a critical part of commerce and a product of it. It is the event in which almost every commercial contract is based upon. Payments can be simple (cash), complex (bitcoin), and political (interchange, rules). Payment efficacy, reliability and data are important to: consumers, merchants, banks, governments and economies.
Globally, electronic payments are still in their infancy, which makes investing in it so much more exciting. For example, over 90% of the global electronic transactions occur in the top 10 markets (representing less than 10% of the world’s population). This would seem to point to a future where electronic payments (and the banking/commerce they represent) are poised to grow geometrically as the number of nodes grow. There is a chicken and egg argument here.. are payments the result of strong economic environments or are they the enabler? Perhaps a bit of both, but finding markets where they are growing (ie Brazil, Peru, Philippines, Kenya, … ) are worth exploring (Democratizing Access to Capital – see blog).
Not only are payments poised for exciting growth, there are also tremendous forces driving change within existing systems and networks. Investors must consider these structural changes impacting existing players across the entire value chain.
In its simplest form, payments are a brokering business which manages value exchange between two entities engaged in commerce. Logically, a broker must be removed from the transaction to maintain the trust of both parties, and deliver value through managing the financial risk associated with the transaction. My view is that Card issuing banks, have lost the neutrality of their “brokering” role by creating a card rewards system that incents card use (paid by the merchant). However, this ideal “neutral” world is NOT the nirvana that we should seek, as no one would invest and we would be stuck with cash (and SEPA in the EU .. see blog).
Complexity in payments is driven by the quest for control and margin of the various participants, not by necessity. This is what makes understanding payments so hard…. most of the changes are not logical, but political. The friction (inefficiencies and illogical design) in payments is what makes them work. As I’ve stated before, no engineer would design a payment system to operate the way we do today (see Push Payments). Thus there is beauty in this chaos! The V/MA model created incentives for 1000s of banks to invest in payments, and I doubt if we will ever see any other companies that could repeat this feat (thus my V/MA personal investments).
How would you authenticate someone’s identity? Best practice is to validate a combination of what you are (biometric, image, DNA), with something you have (mobile, token, OTP FOB, …) and something you know (shared secret). Apple’s new iPhone 6 is the first major consumer device that can manage all 3 securely. It is truly revolutionary. The ability to authenticate a consumer eliminates fraud risk, and thus impacts both Account Opening and Transaction Authorization. Both of these services in turn impact the “core” banking relationship (see Future of Retail Banking).. How do consumers choose a bank? A credit card? What is the value proposition?
Before there is payment there must be an account in which to pay from. The key to opening an account is identity (Regulatory KYC or Know Your Customer). Account Opening has been automated (and online) for over 10 years. In 2004, my team at Wachovia was the first in the world to introduce instant account opening (online) for deposit accounts (Credit Cards were just 2 years ahead of us..). 10 years ago I used products like Equifax accountChex or EWS AOA (Validating questions based on prior financial history and credit bureau data), today could I use Apple!?
Identity and authentication is changing rapidly, and if the first two paragraphs were not already enough to ponder on this topic, we must mention Bitcoin. As opposed to authenticating the person to give access to funds and services, bitcoin authenticates itself enabling the holder to be anonymous. It is a self authenticating instrument.. imagine a dollar bill that can tell you it is genuine with 100% accuracy. Self authenticating instruments exist independently of the holder and are a store of value (ie, Gold, Bitcoin, …etc). Normally there was physical presence required to exchange self authenticating instruments (exchanging gold), bitcoin changed all of that. A virtual self authenticating instrument that can be exchanged remotely and cannot be tracked (easily). Whereas payments are instructions move money (value) from one bank (store of value) to another, a bitcoin exchange is value exchange (not instructions).
The power of bitcoin to disrupt payments, companies, government, economies, .. cannot be understated. How could any central bank manage money supply in this model? How can you tax something that cannot be tracked? The growth challenge for bitcoin is in “connecting” to other payment networks and regulated entities (ie cash out). Unfortunately the entities which benefit the most from bitcoin are those that seek anonymity… which of course impacts the willingness of mainstream (regulated) institutions to accept it.
As you can see from picture above “risk” in payments has several components: credit risk, settlement risk, fraud risk, regulatory/AML risk, … etc. Fraud risk is the area in the most flux, both WHO owns the risk and HOW it is managed. In the US Card Not Present transactions follow the pattern of ACH and Checks in that the originator of the transaction bears the risk of loss. In a retail transaction, that is the merchant.
Risk and fraud management were historically the key areas where banks excelled and differentiated (big banks have multi billion dollar investments), but the merchants and platforms have now passed banks in their ability to manage it. This mobile authentication advancement had rendered the multi billion dollar bank risk investments moot (for mobile initiated payments). Proof is in the picture above (see Federal Reserve 2013 Payment Study), all fraud has fallen tremendously! Both for Card Present, Card Not Present and even for Checks. Why? As the former EVP of a Kleiner Perkins backed Fraud Prevention company I’m not going to give you all the details, but suffice to say that identity plays a key role. Paypal, Amazon, Google, Apple all have fraud rates under 8bps, some have the around 3bps. These numbers will get better for Apple and Google as mcommerce starts to take an ever larger share of eCommerce (see my previous blog) and they bake in biometrics into mobile payments.
A key point that investors must understand here is that the large CNP merchants have gotten so good at managing fraud, that they could care less about a liability shift. What they want is a rate reduction (risk based pricing). After all, if you could manage fraud at a rate of 3-8bps.. what work is the bank doing to justify taking 240 for payments? The Paypal investors read this and say “ahh.. Apple and Google want to become Paypal”.. No they don’t! while Apple/Google COULD assume all the functions of Paypal, their role as commerce orchestrators is of FAR greater value. In this role you must not force a consumer to a merchant, a good, or a payment instrument. “Let the consumer decide” is the common mantra across the Google, Apple, Amazon.
The investor impact is complex. Large merchants have proven ability to manage fraud and risk, and want the consumer to choose the payment instrument of their choice. Banks ability to differentiate in managing risk is greatly reduced, and the cost of issuance/acquisition is dropping to 0. Banks have proven incompetent at creating a Visa/MA replacement. What are the levers in negotiation? How will merchants negotiate a lower rate?
The path in Europe, Australia and the US (Durbin/Debit) has been driven by regulation. No one likes having regulators define the rules, but my investment hypothesis is that there will be a very large TILT of Visa/MA toward the merchant. This will address the both regulatory pressure, and open up new revenue streams surrounding data (below). This tilt means moving rates in the direction that retailers want, creating new rate tiers where risk and identity can be managed by the merchant/platform. Remember Apple is getting 25 bps for their service, the next logical move would be make this same “discount” available to anyone that can drive down risk.
From an identity perspective, Google and Apple have authentication as the CORE feature of their mobile platforms.. it is key to everything they do in mobile. See my blogs on Brokering Identity Authentication in Value Nets, and Authentication – Key Battle for Monetizing Mobile for more here.
The comments below are largely taken from my blog Banks, Non-Banks and Commerce Networks. As a side note, this is the focus of my new Company: CommerceSignals. We are working with the Fortune 50 to serve as the neutral broker, one layer above the network, supporting companies working together offline and in mobile.
Today, every issuer and card network is chasing after American Express and Alliance Data Systems. Both ADS and Amex have made SUBSTANTIAL progress in working with merchants to deliver new value to consumers. AMEX and ADS have the benefit of working in a 3 party model where they own both the merchant and the consumer relationship. As I’ve stated before, I believe these 2 companies are 3-5 years ahead of everyone else. Is this data stuff delivering any revenue? For ADS the answer is a resounding yes, for Amex the benefits seem to be less direct and more on customer loyalty/spend/engagement. See my blog on Amex Innovation Leader for more details.
Think about the battle in connecting networks, as each of us have limited resources we can connect only to a finite set of “hubs” (unless there is some larger orchestrator). Examples are Wikipedia and Google… these serve as the directories of information. It is almost IMPOSSIBLE to displace an efficient hub. This is why I love Visa, MA and Amex. If they can shake the issuer “tilt”.. and add a few merchant friendly services, they could leverage their networks in many new ways. The revenue opportunity? Payments in the US is roughly a $200B business (issuers, acquires, processors, networks), whereas marketing is $750B (in US).
Payments work well, but so did the Sony Walkman. The bets that Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and others are making is on value orchestration. Does this involve payment? Not really.. at least not as a primary focus.. Payment is there.. but orchestration is about commerce; payment is just one of many important processes (See blog Payment in the OS). Don’t look at payments as something in isolation, payments are the “connections” made in commerce; they are made for a purpose. Visa and MA also have the potential to expand their “traditional network”, but this must involve a separate agreement with separate rules.
Payments = Network
Here is my network view. Payments are the connections of the GDP. If we were to map payment flows, we would unlock a map of the global GDP at the micro level, from employment to shopping, behavior and preferences, to demand and supply. Free information flow on the internet is enabled through openness and a single primary protocol, whereas payments operate within 100s of proprietary networks with a complex series of clusters and “switches” (there is effort in connecting, authenticating and managing risk). Just as it would be nearly impossible to change the protocol for the internet, it would be difficult to bring fundamental change in payments (see Rewiring commerce). Now think about the value of payment data. Connecting business is much different than connecting information (the core of CommerceSignals.. but I digress).
From a network strategy perspective, the business opportunity of changing “payments” pales in comparison to the opportunity to influence connections in commerce, banking and manufacturing. Payments support business and consumer needs; they do not alter their path. This insight is the downfall of bank payment strategies around “control”, and their inability to “tilt” toward merchant friendly value propositions.
A top 5 retailer provided my favorite commerce quote
“I think of Commerce as a highway, the payment networks are like a toll bridge. I don’t mind paying them $0.25 to cross the bridge, but they want to see what is in my truck and take 2-3% of what is inside. Hence I’m looking for another bridge… “
ADS, Amex, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Alibaba, V, MA all understand this. Rather than charging toll for crossing their bridge, these networks are beginning to execute against plans to grow the size of the goods in the merchant’s truck.
Existing networks have an existing value proposition, and many don’t like to have their services leveraged by competitors, thus there is a much more highly “regulated” flow of information. Intelligent use of data increases the effectiveness of networks in a way that also benefits consumers. Tilting more toward merchants and consumers.. means tilting away from banks. This is VERY hard for a bank to initiate. It is a change worth making however, as assisting merchants (or consumers) is what brokering is about. My firm belief is that both V and MA have the opportunity to grow Revenue 4x+ in the next 5-10 years. Their principal challenge is to “tilt” their models away from Banks and toward the 2 parties that matter most in commerce: Merchants and Consumers.
Perhaps nothing matters more in business than consumer behavior (see Consumer Behavior: Discerning and Capturing Value). In payments we learn over and over again that behavior changes slowly in 20 year cycles (Checks, Debit Cards, ATMs, Mobile). Any investor looking for payment innovation should run away unless there is some underlying commerce value proposition. Payments work REALLY well its everything else that is broken (in OECD 20 countries)…. Among Payment innovators/founders there is a common saying.. you only start ONE payment company.
It is easiest to find the hotspots in payment by looking first for the changes in consumer behavior. For example, the tremendous change in how consumer’s are using their phones, as I outlined earlier this week in eCommerce/mCommerce Convergence. The banking relationship is also changing, as customers visit branches less than 3 times per year, and the billions spent on huge buildings, huge vaults, sports sponsorships and brand names gives way to value.
Brand reputations for 2014 just came out last week (see Venture Beat), with Amazon, Apple, Google topping the list. How did these companies earn this reputation? Through consistent daily interaction delivering value in every interaction. Value delivery and interaction are my key metrics for assessing investment and focus; both are key measures of consumer behavior and trust. There are many strategies: whereas Google engages with the average consumer 10-50 times per day (winning in frequency and insight), Amazon has a lower interaction but a much greater impact on transaction (value delivery), Apple’s interaction is more holistic within a much more affluent base, Facebook’s is more social.
If I were to outline one KEY point to my bank friends it is this: you can’t reach consumers where you want them to be.. you must reach them where they are. This is the essence of why most bank strategies to engage are failing. Consumers choose to go to Google, Apple, Amazon because of the value and service. As the charts above show, most banks are challenged to deliver value within the core banking products they already delivery, why would any customer want to use a new service in this environment. Thus Bank’s efforts are ill suited to drive a deliver products outside of their core, and outside of existing consumer behavior, banks play a role in SUPPORTING commerce.. not leading it (see Card Linked Offers).
Apple is the greatest company in the world in delivering value, experience and changing consumer behavior (see blog Apple and Physical Commerce, and Consumer Behavior). Apple’s reputation is well deserved and earned “the hard way” by remaking: phones, music, mice, computers, apps, …etc. Through consistent delivery of value within fantastic hardware delivering great (and fun) consumer experiences they earned trust for their products and brand. The greatest NEW opportunity for Apple to influence consumers beyond the individual (music/contacts/calendar) and eCommerce (browser, apps) to the real world: Commerce.
Unfortunately Apple is inept at partnerships, even within its own supply chain. While apple has the talent to accomplish this, their commerce, payment and ad teams are buried within a hardware culture. They will only succeed if they are spun off into a separate division, thus my view is that there is a very low probability of Apple acting in an orchestration role across 1000s of Banks, millions of retailers and billions of consumers. If they did move, it my recommendation (and guess) is that it would be a consumer centric orchestration role as I outlined in Brokering Identity.
One technology (and behavior) I’m keeping an eye on is Beacons and mobile use in store (engagement). Qualcomm Retail Systems spun off the IP around Beacons to Gimbal with Qualcom and Apple both rumored to have 30-40% of the equity. Today Retailers are the entity best positioned to change consumer instore activity for 2 reasons: they alone know consumer product preferences, and they physically touch the consumer (trust, value, presence). See Retailers as Publishers , and Apple iBeacon Experience for more detail.
Now this is a mixed bag of topics. What is fundamentally changing in card issuance? Most of you know I ran remote channels at both Citi (06-07) and Wachovia (02-06). Today, most new customer bank accounts are originated online as branch visits go down and direct mail (the old way) even directs the consumer to this “instant” channel.
Historically I had to spend about $150 in marketing for every new card customer, and around $80 for every new deposit customer. Banks still incur roughly these same costs, but prepaid cards have an acquiring cost of less than a tenth of this cost (See Future of Retail Banking: Prepaid). In this pre-paid model banking products sit on a shelf in a retailer and compete for customers just like shampoo and candy bars.
I would challenge all card participants to think about the credit card product… what delivers value? what about it is unique? how do consumers view it? how is it part of a great consumer experience? When you leave Disney World do you think wow.. buying the ticket with my card was just fantastic? How are new customers acquired? Who benefits when cost of issuance is $0? Is charging the average consumer 12-16% on a card, paying them 0.2% on their savings charging merchant 2% a great model? Do you think that there is room for improvement? Where do retailers win (ADS, Private Label, Co-Brand, )?
What prohibits you from having 20 retailer cards in your wallet today? Bank card issuers will roll their eyes, but you can not understate the influence that trusted retailers have in consumer decisions. Take this trust together with direct sales force and frequent consumer interaction and you have Private Label and industry whose cards outnumber everyone else’s by a factor of 2. As this week’s Morningstar article on Private Label shows, private label (the largest card segment) is making a tremendous comeback.
Citi, GE (now Sychrony), ADS, HSBC are leaders in this space, with ADS advancing most in use of technology. Retailers like Nordstrom, Macy’s, Sears and Kohls are fanatical on their private label program, as their most valuable customers use this product. All new customer experience must first address this base, which you can see is one reason why we don’t see ApplePay being pushed here at all. As I described in Retail 101 (and What do Retailers want in Mobile), most retailers don’t know who their customers are today. Private label and Loyalty programs solve this problem.
Let me throw in a little tech now. I’m on the board of advisors of SimplyTapp, the company that created HCE. Instant issuance is key to everyone in the card space, why wouldn’t every retailer want to enable a private label card if card issuance cost is $0!? Credit worth customers can get store credit, sub-prime get decoupled debit (see Target Red Card) and everyone else gets a loyalty only? I believe we will see this happen, not only within MCX but within platforms like Google, with PL managers like ADS and Citi. This is the strategy focus of the top retailers… (focusing on their top customers).
My bet on the future of Google wallet is that it will be very merchant and consumer friendly, enabling them to uniquely integrate to 100s of merchant platforms to create great consumer experiences. This linking of PL, Loyalty, in store, maps, mobile, advertising is value orchestration.. but it all starts with consumer opt in. The opt in is both to merchant (private label/loyalty) and to Google. See blog Host Card Emulation for more background. Google made the right technical move in HCE, but it dropped the ball in enabling merchants through last mile.. not a technical limitation .. an educational / awareness one.
Do I believe that the world will go private label!? No, it will be at the margins. My view of Visa and Mastercard have changed over the last 2 years. Before I was much keener on the development of a new scheme, but no more. Why? How many networks can you list where millions of participants have invested billions of dollars to make it work? Visa has 1.7B cards and 36M merchants.. how could anyone compete with this? This network works REALLY well, with the only issues with their network are in their control (merchant costs and rules).
From a regulatory perspective, the US retail payment system has been impacted by the Durbin Amendment and the EU to an even greater extent by SEPA and PSD (see my blog). Most of you have also read my token blogs outlining how the US banks were planning to build a new payment network to compete with V/MA (Now dead). If someone has a info-graph picture of global acceptance rates I’ll put it in here.. but suffice to say that airline ticket pricing has NOTHING on the complexity of payment pricing.
Visa and Mastercard are largely insulated from the regulatory driven pricing changes, as the issuers continue to bare most of the impact. The EU has created a payment nightmare environment with “cross border” Credit card merchant interchange (MIF) at 30bps starting in later this week Jan 1, 2015 (see article and Visa’s response). The EU can not mandate change within country (domestic transactions), but there will be a race to the bottom in fees.
EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager claimed that interchange fees are a form of tax levied on retailers by banks and said that the new legislation would reduce those costs and “lead to lower prices and visibility of costs for consumers”.
Ms Vestager may be correct from a transparency perspective, but SEPA and the PSD put governments into the brokering role with no incentives for intermediaries to invest.. making payments a nearly free infrastructure service (with agreement of consumers and merchants). Network work best when there are shared incentives, and minimal regulation. I believe Visa and Mastercard will work with new vigor to build relationships with merchants and deliver value, to head off the regulatory driven approach. Unfortunately Europe is already too far gone for this to work.
A prediction (next week’s blog) will be merchants providing greater influence in V/MA rules.
My blog from this week: Payment in the OS
1 Nov 2014
Money2020 is next week, and I’m moderating the ApplePay session on Tuesday at 5pm… hope you guys can come. I’m more than a little sad that I can’t get any retailers up on stage with me. Why? The top 60 retailers are in MCX, and it makes little sense for them to get on stage and tell the world what they are NOT going to do and why. As I’m preparing to leave for Las Vegas tomorrow, was thinking “what could I write about? What unique perspective can I offer?” Well given I can’t get them on stage with me, let me try to articulate the Retailer’s view of the world. My twitter feed is blowing up as I work to explain why CVS and Rite-Aide turned off NFC. Please know I’m only trying to give perspective…
Payment Services are a brokering activity between two entities engaged in commerce. Logically, a broker must have the trust of both parties, and deliver some sort of value in managing the financial risk associated with the transaction. Within Consumer Retail, Visa and Mastercard evolved from Bank owned exclusive networks of the 1960s (see History) to ubiquitous independent payment networks. Few remember that back in the 1960s, merchants took either Visa or Mastercharge but not both as the Merchant’s acquiring bank could only be a member of one of the networks. For merchants, the value proposition was clear: consumer credit.
Payment networks thus evolved from a closed and focused value proposition, to a settlement “infrastructure”. However the rules and governance process by which many parties (merchant, acquirer, processor, issuer, network, VASP, …etc) participated in defining operation of this “brokering” activity did not evolve. This is the central issue restricting the future growth of Visa and Mastercard. One I believe both are acting on. My firm belief is that rebalancing network rules will unleash a massive new phase of value creation for these networks.
Let me take a quick side bar here..
Network Theory – Openness
As I’ve stated many times, closed networks always precede open networks until scale is reached (Building Networks and “Openness”, 2011). Weak Links (nodal affinity) influences network creation, and there are VERY few open networks which exist in Nature. This is logical as Networks form around a function rendering generic open networks less “efficient” than specialized networks around any given specialized need.
Scale-free distribution (completely open networks) is not always the optimal solution to the requirement of cost efficiency. .. in small world networks, building and maintaining links between network elements requires energy…. [in a world with limited resources] a transition will occur toward a star network [pg 75] where one of a very few mega hubs will dominate the whole system. The star network resembles dictatorships in social networks.
Networks NATURALLY form around a function and other entities are attracted to this network (affinity) because of the function of both the central orchestrator and the other participants. Open networks (internet/TCPIP, Visa, NASDAQ, … ) succeed where a common infrastructure benefits MANY NETWORKS.
Visa and MasterCard have transitioned to become common network infrastructure, a position FAR MORE valuable than that of a closed credit delivery system. They are a network of networks. However their rule making and governance processes do not match the other open networks listed above (NASDAQ, Internet, …). Most Banks, have also lost their traditional role of “brokering” and risk management (in retail) by creating a card rewards system that encourages card use paid by the merchant. This creates a brokering incentive separate from the commercial transaction… impacting brokering independence.
What do merchants want? A neutral broker!!
A top 5 merchant told me a few months ago “Retailers like Starbucks have proven that we are best placed to deliver value and influence consumer behavior. I don’t want to force my consumers to do anything, but similarly I want to networks that let me play on an even field. These next 5 years are going to be complete chaos for consumers. What do we want them to do? Swipe, dip, chip, pin, tap, QR…? We have been planning for EMV for 3 years… am I really supposed to jump to Apple in 4 weeks?”
These guys are good friends of mine, and I think their business vision is well placed. They want a network where they can play on an equal footing. A neutral broker.. or at least one where they can have a seat at the table when rules are set. Will MCX be a massive success? It depends on the consumer value proposition. Are the merchants motivated to work together in creating a neutral broker? Hell yes.
One merchant said it this way “Tom I didn’t think we would ever have someone more difficult to work with than Visa and Mastercard, but I was WRONG. Apple is a nightmare! At least we knew what was coming with Visa and Mastercard, with Apple they don’t talk to us, respond to our letters, or offer any kind of value proposition. Why on earth would I want to let another brand in my store without understanding what it will do for me? They are a great company, with great products, and certainly have a much better approach to data than Google.. but anonymity is NOT a value proposition, in fact Apple makes our efforts to deliver value to the consumer even harder as we have no defined way of using Apple to engage our consumers”. See Brokering Identity – Part 1, ApplePay and Merchants, Digital Transactions ApplePay Issuer Agreement.
Getting a card number from consumer to merchant is NOT innovation. There is just no problem here. My payment friends are already rolling their eyes. Apple does have great security and great ability to manage fraud.. but fraud losses for CP are 3.2 bps. What about store data losses? That is not “fraud”, and certainly a problem for merchants that keep PANs. Tokens do solve this problem… but so does better security, and more intelligent approach to tracking loyalty. Apple must move to create a merchant value proposition, and define how they will help with consumer engagement. I believe Google will far outpace Apple here.
Retail is a zero sum game.. I’m not going to buy MORE gas and groceries.. differentiation is about switching, product selection and pricing on data, ..the flux… once this flux dies.. steady state resumes. Perhaps all iPhone owners will only shop at whole foods, but data shows that consumers don’t make decisions this way. In fact payment is not in the top 5 reasons for consumers choosing a new iPhone.
Why are MCX merchants turning off NFC? To give themselves a little breathing room, make Apple create a merchant value proposition (engagement), get a seat at the table in a new network, and help to establish a consumer behavior that works for them too (Most Important Payment Race: Consumer Behavior, Apple’s Platform Strategy: Consumer Champion ).
What do Retailers want in Mobile?
Following from my big blog Static Strategies and the Rewiring of Retail.
How will this play out?
Banks/Non-Banks and Commerce Networks (Why I love V/MA)
27 July 2014
This blog has been in 50% mode for 2 weeks! Obviously summer is not my productive time (I must be German). There will be a noticeable change in my blogs these next few months as I work on a newco launch. Blog will therefore focus more on concept, much less G2. This will be a transition piece…
What is the benefit of becoming a bank? Would Paypal buy a bank? That is the rumor… I have no idea on this one.. 0% confidence.. my guess is no way. There are some great payment+bank companies (Amex, Wirecard and Alliance Data), and some great payment non-bank companies (Visa, MA, Stripe, Paypal, …etc). What are the business drivers of becoming a bank? What are the Pros/Cons?
For those without time to read below, a bank license brings on enormous compliance cost and restricts: what business you can do, how you manage consumers and their data, and what risks you can take. The upside for being a bank? You get to take risk with other people’s money. Simply put, any company contemplating a bank license must have a business plan MORE dependent on managing risk than on orchestrating commerce value. Today there are many bank licensed “specialists” which support non-banks (TBBK, Meta, Alliance Data)… so why would you want to become one? Paypal is on the fence here, as historically they won in eCommerce because of their ability to manage risk (CNP Fraud). Do they want to grow in risk management? or in everything else?
When looking for the right regulatory structure of any company, we must assess their current network plans in the context of commerce AND banking. Not just how your network delivers value today… but rather how you deliver value in the future? Banks tend to make most of their money within their own node, whereas others in commerce are highly dependent upon other partners (manufacturers, distributors, agencies, sales, …). Electronic payment growth and network services are set to grow geometrically, yet payments are very very sticky and hard to change. This is the start up investor conundrum: How do you make intelligent investments in payments/new networks? There are 3 basic options
1) Help others expand their networks
2) Build new networks
3) Build communities with minimal need to network outside of your environment (Facebook, Amazon, Alibaba, BANKS?…)
92% of all electronic transactions are done in the top 10 markets. (Cap Gemini’s World Payments Report is a must read). 90% of the worlds population is not connected to financial services. There is a n-squared dynamic when this takes place.
Many entrepreneurs, journalists and technologists miss THE CORE facet of Visa and Mastercard: a business platform where thousands companies invest billions of dollars. There is no way to compete technically with this business model, rather the ONLY way to “compete” is on value and services. Where Amex has the ability to deliver much broader and richer services (as they own both merchant and consumer accounts), they have a downside: no one else investing in their network (scale/adoption).
My firm belief is that both V and MA have the opportunity to grow Revenue 4-10x in the next 5-10 years. Their principal challenge is to “tilt” their models away from Banks and toward the 2 parties that matter most in commerce: Merchants and Consumers. Payments work well, but so did the Sony Walkman. The bets that Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and others are making is on value orchestration (in a new network). Does this involve payment? Not really.. at least not as a primary focus.. Payment is there.. but orchestration is about commerce; payment is just one of many important processes (See blog Payment in the OS). Don’t look at payments as something in isolation, payments are the “connections” made in commerce; they are made for a purpose. These payment connections are rapidly changing from many environmental forces:
Payments = Network
Payments are the connections of the GDP. If we were to map payment flows, we would unlock a map of the global GDP at the micro level, from employment to shopping, behavior and preferences, to demand and supply. Perhaps this is why our government loves payment information. Oh.. the stories here.. (for another time). Free information flow on the internet is enabled through openness and a single primary protocol, whereas payments operates within 100s of proprietary networks with a complex series of clusters and “switches” (there is effort in connecting, authenticating and managing risk). Just as it would be nearly impossible to change the protocol for the internet, it would be difficult to bring about fundamental change in payments (see Rewiring commerce). Connecting business is much different than connecting information (the core of my NewCo.. but I digress).
From a network strategy perspective, the business opportunity of changing “payments” pales in comparison to the opportunity to influence connections in commerce, banking and manufacturing. Payments support business and consumer needs; they do not alter their path. This insight is the downfall of bank payment strategies around “control”, and their inability to “tilt” toward merchant friendly value propositions.
A top 5 retailer provided my favorite commerce quote “I think of Commerce as a highway, the payment networks are like a toll bridge. I don’t mind paying them $0.25 to cross the bridge, but they want to see what is in my truck and take 2-3% of what is inside. Hence I’m looking for another bridge… “ (See Rewiring Commerce). Google, Amazon, Facebook, Alibaba, Rakutan, V, MA, Amex, eBay all understand this. Rather than charging toll for crossing their bridge, these networks are beginning to execute against plans to grow the size of the goods in the merchant’s truck.
Intelligent use of data increases the effectiveness of the merchants, and in a way that also benefits consumers. Tilting more toward merchants and consumers.. means tilting away from banks. This is VERY hard for a bank to do. It is a change worth making however, as assisting merchants could meant 4x-10x of their current value creation (payments is roughly a $200B US business, marketing is $750B).
My favorite book on networks is Weak Links by Peter Csermely (viewable on Google Books here). If I had one book for you to read this is it. This book is tremendously arcane, detailed, technical, deep.. but I guarantee you that you will have a new view of commerce, banking, advertising, biology, social networks, payments, and society after reading it. In connecting to networks, each of us have limited resources. Therefore optimize our connections through finite set of “hubs” (unless there is some larger orchestrator).
Think about the battle in connecting networks, as each of us have limited resources we can connect only to a finite set of “hubs” (unless there is some larger orchestrator). Examples are Wikipedia and Google… these serve as the directories of information. It is almost IMPOSSIBLE to displace an efficient hub. This is why I love Visa, MA and Amex. If they can shake the issuer legacy.. and add a few merchant friendly services, they could drive 4x of their current value. Specifically, payments is roughly a $200B business, whereas marketing is $750B (in US).
Against this network strategy and services backdrop, there is an enormous transformation taking place in Commerce and Banking. In other words existing networks are evolving their services, as the “hubs” that they connect to (banks, retailers, manufacturers, aggregators, ..etc) undergo change within their “core”. See Remaking Retail, Future of Retail Banking: Prepaid?.
The regulatory/compliance “headache” for payment “innovators” revolve around connecting networks and engaging in non-commerce transactions. I’m not just talking about just small guys.. but BIG ones too (think Google, Apple, Amazon, Walmart, MCX, …etc). Existing networks have an existing value proposition, and many don’t like to have their services leveraged by competitors (see Banking and Commerce: What is the Difference?, Don’t Wrap Me).
This leads us to Banking Services… expanding beyond commerce. This is area is very nebulous because of the complexity of regulatory authorities covering “banking” and money services. Here are just a few of the US regulators
What are Banking Services? Anything the regulators say are banking services. I’m not joking.. this is why I put the Paypal 2002 prospectus at the top. Banks are highly regulated, and the compliance costs are extraordinary. Regulators are attacking all things payments and banking with renewed vigor. Along with compliance constraints, there are constraints on how you can use data. As an example, my online banking team in Germany had to purge the server logs of IP addresses every 30 minutes (regardless of use for fraud). (see Banking and Commerce: What is the Difference).
So what is the upside of being a bank? It’s certainly not the regulation or the mandatory compliance courses forced on every employee. The “benefit” of being a bank is the ability to take risk with other people’s money. Unfortunately, the BIG downside to being a bank, is that data can no longer flow outside of your organization. I cannot understate this limitation.
Banks have much clearer and hence stricter obligations as regards the sharing and protection of sensitive information, commonly known as ‘bank secrecy’. This matches the generally more extensive regulation of a bank, as opposed to the regulation of an ELMI or MSB.
Acquiring a new consumer financial account is hard, even if you get the consumer to create an account with you, you must get them to fund it, or take credit risk on them. These are the problems that banks have dealt with for 100s of years.
Banks have much clearer and hence stricter obligations as regards the sharing and protection of sensitive information, commonly known as ‘bank secrecy’. This matches the generally more extensive regulation of a bank, as opposed to the regulation of an ELMI or PI. Based on the same reasoning why non-banks require less strict regulation for their business and prudential risk involved, it follows that also their activities and also access and handling of certain information and data is restricted accordingly.
Would Paypal Buy a Bank?
Again, I have no idea here, but it doesn’t seem to make much sense. Considering a bank license is like watching flies in your kitchen window: the ones on the outside want in, and the ones on the inside want out.
For long time readers, I put together a blog about 4 years ago covering this topic Payment Startup: MSB or Bank? and US Payment Regulations. As I outlined, there are very few payment regulations covering purchase of tangible commercial goods (this is true globally). We can see the evolution from PayPal’s 2002 prospectus.
We believe the licensing requirements of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve Board or other federal or state agencies that regulate or monitor banks or other types of providers of electronic commerce services do not apply to us. One or more states may conclude that, under its or their statutes, we are engaged in an unauthorized banking business. In that event, we might be subject to monetary penalties and adverse publicity and might be required to cease doing business with residents of those states. A number of states have enacted legislation regulating check sellers, money transmitters or service providers to banks, and we have applied for, or are in the process of applying for, licenses under this legislation in particular jurisdictions. To date, we have obtained licenses in two states.
How does Paypal operate today?
I see little upside for Paypal expanding it’s EU bank model to the US, as its current network assets and future opportunity revolve more around supporting commerce than managing risk. Paypal’s current structure and partnerships (with ADS, Discover, MA, GE, …) provide the flexibility to deliver banking/lending services. For Paypal, Bank ownership would only hinder their broader efforts to deliver value to consumer (through data). Alternatively, a bank structure does work for other companies like Wirecard. The Wirecard bank model is a tremendous fit within a network where mobile operators serve distribution channels for financial services.
With respect to the Paypal/Bank rumors, my guess is that there is an “opportunistic” assessment going on .. and that this rumor is just one of the paths they have looked at. I also have a strong feeling that Discover is looking for a “partner/acquirer” that can make use of its network while it is still somewhat relevant. Particularly since its M&A discussions with a top 5 bank 2 years ago did not happen.