Money20/20 has grown to become one of the premier events for the payments industry. Companies big and small come to display their latest innovations and see what everyone else has been working on. It is a great atmosphere, with a tremendous amount of energy, enthusiasm, excitement.
For those who have never been, this is a big event. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the size and scale of the conference. There is simply no way to take in all that is going on.
With that said, it was very satisfying to walk across the show floor and see many long-term customers—like American Express, Fiserv and Mastercard—who continue to influence and drive the payments industry.
At the same time, it can be quite disconcerting to see all the new company names and realize that you have never heard of them before and have no idea what they do or where they fit into the payments ecosystem. They might be a potential customer or partner or even a competitor.
Of course, that is part of the overall value proposition for attending the event. It’s a great place to immerse yourself in all aspects of the payment industry, to check out what is new, who is new — to see and be seen.
Recently we published an update on payments trends in 2019 and an early look at 2020 where we talked about the growing corporate trend toward social responsibility. So, it was quite gratifying to see the concept of balancing profit with a focus on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) emerge as one of the central themes at Money20/20.
Many companies and products are starting to support this message. Virtually every CEO pitch at the event included commentary on the need for organizations to balance their profits with a purpose. More and more companies are setting specific corporate goals to help ensure that they are socially aware, inclusive, and do not discriminate against any person. We see this as a very positive movement and a critical part of improving the world we live in.
The next focus topic, Customer Experience, is closely related—that is, making sure that your organization is focused on your customers and not just on profits.
The Chief Customer Experience Officer from the Bank of America spoke on this topic. She said that it doesn’t matter how good the branches look, or how good the payment systems are, or what interest rate the bank might be charging if these things do not translate into a great customer experience.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) was another very hot topic at the event, generating a lot discussion and a number of interesting potential use cases, including improving the Customer Experience, product selection, risk management, and fraud control. Of course, from our perspective as a supplier of testing technology and tools, we see the potential for AI to help improve test accuracy, client on-boarding, certification times, and several other areas. Maybe AI could be used to test other AI engines? AI is definitely an area that we are including in our corporate roadmap.
Blockchain and Bitcoin
It may be no surprise that Blockchain and Bitcoin were the subject of much discussion. Clearly, Bitcoin advocates believe that the Bitcoin “tsunami” is coming and will impact everyone from the largest financial institutions down to the smallest retailers. It will be interesting to see where we are on this topic 5 years from now.
Payment Veterans and Pioneers Present
- Mastercard presented their global policy on data privacy and talked about the difficulties organizations are facing as they deal with the multitude of data privacy and protection legislation that is being enacted in different countries. Therefore they're pushing for global adoption of GDPR to ease the burden of delaying with numerous and sometimes conflicting national standards. As GDPR matures, there is sure to be additional discussion and debate on this issue.
- The Head of Payments at Uber talked about the rationale behind Uber Money, a new division that will focus on expanding Uber’s financial services footprint. While the initial efforts will be directed toward supporting the 4 million or so Uber drivers operating around the world, it seems crystal clear that Uber will ultimately expand these offerings to a broader market. Uber will undoubtedly want to leverage the innovations that they have developed for their drivers and offer them to the general population, where many younger consumers—from Millennials to Gen Z—seem quite willing to look outside the traditional banking ecosystem for financial services.
- The CEO of Marqeta told a story about having lunch with a friend one day when they struck on an idea about a new form of payment. He had little experience with payments or IT, just an idea. So he started to go to events and trade shows to learn and understand the payments business: how does it work, who are the players, was his idea unique, etc. Nine years later, started by a visionary, Marqeta is a payments company worth two billion dollars. Not surprisingly, this success story includes an incredible individual journey that required significant personal growth.
- The co-founder & CEO of NerdWallet talked about turning an $800 investment into a 500 million dollar company that just about everybody has heard of. With some background in finance, the NerdWallet team decided that the market was ready for an easier, better way for people to figure out which credit card to get and how to manage it and their personal finances. So just another Silicon Valley success story, right? Yes and no. The thing I found most interesting about his comments were his thoughts about where the world is today and where it may be tomorrow. He is asking the question, “How do we prepare our children to look for work in industries that don’t exist yet, in jobs that haven’t been created yet, using technology that hasn’t been invented yet?” His main takeaway: teach kids to learn and learn quickly! And that's the same message for our businesses.
The size and scope of the Money20/20 event clearly highlights the long list of FinTech companies that have started up in the past 10 years that have become very successful. Unfortunately, there is an equally long list of organizations who could not deal with the pace of change and have not survived.
No one can predict what the future holds. Whether driven by changing consumer behavior, legal and regulatory requirements, competition, technology or the need for improved security; rapid and continual change is a constant for financial organizations, large and small. The capability to rapidly respond to change has emerged as a key competitive differentiator and is an absolute requirement for any organization.
So, learn and learn quickly—and hold on tight.