The Edge Blog

Contactless Payments Called “Devil’s Hocus Pocus” –  Part Two

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In part one of this discussion –  you will want to read part one just to understand how Beelzebub got into the title – we compared the introduction of the contactless card with the introduction of the EMV chip and PIN card in the UK.  The latter was preceded by a public awareness campaign to help consumers understand how the use of chip and PIN would impact their experience at the point-of-sale when making purchases with a card.  The former was not preceded by such a campaign and yet enjoyed a rate of adoption equal to or greater than the latter.  Why?  What’s the difference?

The difference is time, more specifically the more than a decade of time that separates each event.  In the world of technology, that makes a considerable amount of difference.  After all, how did we all get by in 2003 with no smartphones, tablets, wearables, and the like?  It sounds more like a century ago than a decade.  In 2003, the financial services industry still had to evangelize consumers around the benefits of many of the applications for technology that were being introduced.  Today, consumers drive the bus.  The consumer decides what will and will not be the next big thing.

There seems to be a growing acceptance of this fact amongst the leadership at many financial services providers, though one can certainly argue that financial institutions may still struggle with the idea that the consumer no long comes “hat in hand” to ask for a service or a product.  Whether bankers will ever shift their mind-sets to understand that in today’s climate, where disruption is the name of the game, they need to think more like retailers than they have before is still in question.  Whether bankers make such a shift and realize how technology now empowers the consumer won’t change the reality of it.  The leadership of the financial institutions who do “get it” will likely be rewarded while those who do not …not so much.

However, to ensure they benefit fully from this greater level of enlightenment, these leaders must make sure that what they learned during their awakening “trickles down” to the other layers of management.  Those managers are the ones who will drive the transformation of the process vital to seeing this vision through.  To date, there has been little such knowledge transfer.  Thus, in areas such as the one in which I work – i.e., software testing – the attitudes, as well as many of the tools and methodologies, seem to be stuck in a time that seems very long ago.

This is not a benign situation.  The lack of modern continuous, automated testing platforms in such FIs increases the risk that the consumers, who are leading the dance, will encounter some level of inconvenience – e.g., poor user experience, system outage, slow introduction of new desired features – that will cause them to look for another partner.  Add to this the fact that certain regulatory efforts will make it easier for them to do so and it is possible to begin to see how dangerous such a disconnect is. 

It seems unlikely that the persons who finds their careers on the wrong side of that outcome will be able to successfully save themselves by claiming, “The devil made me do it” or not do it, whatever the case.

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