The day that digital currency started

Mondex paraphernalia

We’ve just had an important anniversary. I’m sure you are all thinking of July 4th and, of course, who can forget it! It’s a date that is very important to many people because it is the anniversary of the birth of The Clash, who played their first live gig on 4th July 1976. But for me, there is a much more important and personal anniversary. Here is the front page of the Swindon Evening Advertiser from 4th July 1995. The day I finally made the front page of my home town newspaper. Got to see my picture on the cover, got to buy five copies for my mother…

MONDEX-History in the making

Yes, I was there on 3rd July 1995 in Swindon town centre when the Swindon Evening Advertiser vendor Mr. Don Stanley (then 72) made the first ever live Mondex sale. And here is the photographic evidence of same — in case you don’t happen to have copy of that Swindon Evening Advertiser — as I emerge Zelig-style from the crowd to watch Don take the e-cash. It was a very exciting day because by the time this launch came, my colleagues at Consult Hyperion, who were instrumental in creating Mondex devices and software, had been working on the project for some years (and for the first three or four years it was entirely in secret).

So for those of you who don’t remember what all of the fuss was about: Mondex was an electronic purse, a pre-paid payment instrument based on a tamper-resistant chip. This chip could be integrated into all sorts of things, one of them being a smart card for consumers. Somewhat ahead of its time, Mondex was a peer-to-peer proposition. The value was transferred directly from one chip to another with no intermediary and therefore no cost. In other words, people could pay each other without going through a third party and without paying a charge. It was true cash replacement, invented at National Westminster Bank (NatWest) in 1990 by Tim Jones and Graham Higgins. Swindon had been chosen for the launch because, essentially, it was the most average place in Britain. Since I’d grown up there, I was rather excited about this, and while my colleagues carried out important work for Mondex (software specification, development and testing for all of the core components), I watched as the fever grew out in the West Country.

Many of the retailers were quite enthusiastic because there was no transaction charge and for some of them the costs of cash handling and management were high. I can remember talking to a hairdresser who was keen to get rid of cash because it was dirty and she had to keep washing her hands, a baker who was worried about staff “shrinkage” and so on.

The retailers were OK about it.

“From a retailer’s point of view it’s very good,” said news-stand manager Richard Jackson. “But less than one per cent of my actual customers use it. Lots of people get confused about what it actually is, they think it’s a Switch card or a credit card.”

That’s if they thought about it all.

It just never worked for consumers. It was a pain to get hold of, for one thing. I can remember the first time I walked into a bank to get a Mondex card. I wandered in with 50 quid and had expected to wander out with a card with 50 quid loaded onto it but it didn’t work like that. I had to set up an account and fill out some forms and then wait for the card to be posted to me. Most people couldn’t be bothered to do any of this so ultimately only around 14,000 cards were issued.

So, why I am wallowing in this nostalgia again? Why do I think more people should be celebrating the Mondex Silver Jubilee? Well, look East, where the first reports have appeared concerning the Digital Currency/Electronic Payment (DC/EP) system being tested in four cities: Shenzen, Chengdu, Suzhou and Xiong’an. DC/EP is the Chinese Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

with the kind permission of Matthew Graham @mattysino

The implementation follows the trajectory that I talk about in my book The Currency Cold War, with the digital currency being delivered to customers via commercial banks. The Deputy Governor of the People’s Bank of China, Fan Yifei, recently gave an interview to Central Banking magazine in which he expanded on the “two tier” approach to central bank digital currency (CBDC). His main points were that this approach, in which the central bank controls the digital currency but it is the commercial banks that distribute it, is that is allow “more effective exploitation of existing business resources, human resources and technologies” and that “a two-tier model could also boost the public’s acceptance of a CBDC”.

He went on to say that the circulation of the digital Yuan should be “based on ‘loosely coupled account links’ so that transactional reliance on accounts could be significantly reduced”. What he means by this is that the currency can be transferred wallet-to-wallet without going through bank accounts. Why? Well, so that the electronic cash “could attain a similar function of currency to cash… The public could use it directly for various purchases, and it would prove conducive to the yuan’s circulation”. How will this work? Well, you could have the central bank provide commercial banks with some sort of cryptographic doodah that would allow them to swap electronic money for digital currency under the control of the central bank. Wait a moment, that reminds me of something because… yep, that’s how Mondex worked.

MONDEX wallet

That was the big difference between Mondex and other electronic money schemes of the time, which was that Mondex would allow offline transfers, chip to chip, without bank (or central bank) intermediation. Offline person to person transfers. Just like cash. That’s huge. Libra can’t do it, and never will be able to because, like Bitcoin, it needs to be online to check for “double spending”.

Mondex was a window into the future of money.

That’s why this week’s special webinar is a Mondex reunion! Tim Jones, one of the co-inventors and Mondex CEO, will be joining with Debbie Gamble who was head of Mondex North America. On our side, our CEO, Neil McEvoy (who led the Mondex specification and implementation team) and Tim Richards (who designed the underlying portable, secure operating system), will join Tim and Debbie to reminisce and have a bit of fun, but much more importantly, to talk about the lessons learned from that incredible experiment, and to share ideas for the coming generation of digital currency innovators. And there may be one or two special guests…

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it!

No Delay to SCA

Since the FCA announced a further 6 month delay in the UK’s deadline for Strong Customer Authentication there’s been a general expectation that the EBA would follow suit and relax the date for the EEA. However, it now appears that won’t happen – the 31st December 2020 remains the key date and there won’t be any further relaxation in the rules.

This hasn’t been officially announced but appears to have been the gist of a letter by the European Commission’s Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis which makes clear that there’s no consideration in place for a delay and that, in the Commission’s view, the Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent rise in e-commerce makes it more urgent to implement rather than less. It looks like the Commission is not for turning and with only a little over six months left to be prepared any merchant or payment service provider than hasn’t been planning for this is likely to be in full panic mode.

At one level it’s hard to disagree with the Commission’s position – the deadline has been shifted already from last September in order to accommodate the industry’s inability to implement in time. Although, in fairness, it ought to be noted that original requirements require a degree in semiotics to fully understand and clarifications have been fitful and, on occasion, too late. However, there’s a degree of real-world pragmatism missing from the decision – the last thing the European economy needs right now is an e-commerce cliff edge right in the middle of the busiest shopping period of the year.

The divergence between the UK and Europe also starts to raise some interesting questions. PSD2 applies to countries within the EEA and not to transactions starting or finishing outside – and as of January 1st 2021 the UK will be fully outside. PSD2 will apply within the EEA ex-UK and within the UK ex-Europe but, barring some kind of passporting agreement, not between them. One option for desperate European e-tailers may be to shift operations to the UK where the SCA deadline is a further 9 months away. Of course, the same applies in reverse: logically there ought to be a compromise, but those seem thin on the ground.

Overall, then, the message to all organisations involved in electronic payments is to assume that SCA will be  enforced from January 1st next year and any firm that can’t support it should expect to see transactions declined. Merchants and PSPs may choose or may not be able to handle SCA but issuers will be ready and won’t want to be upsetting the regulators. For any companies out there that don’t know what to do come and talk to us, we can help guide you through the process – first by helping ensure you’re compliant and then by addressing the additional friction that SCA will introduce.

It isn’t too late to do something about SCA but it does very much look like we are at the eleventh hour.

Paying for food

It feels strange to be writing about paying for food, one of the basic skills we learn in early childhood. However, these are exceptional times, when the basic notion of how we pay is being challenged. It seems we are now considering the different options for paying safely when physical contact must be kept to a minimum.

Consult Hyperion has been alerted to many requests for advice from community groups who normally rely on cash payments, so in response we have drawn up some guiding principles:

1. Maintain good practice: be aware of the vulnerability, both real and perceived, of people unable to leave their homes. Asking them to do things differently risks increasing anxiety and leaving them open to fraud.

2. Keep it simple: work with payments options people already use, and those they are familiar with. The large spike in phishing attacks over the past month highlights scammers’ eagerness to abuse this situation.

3. Maintain records: clear and consistent transaction logging is essential to protect both organisers and the people they are helping. Keep invoices for tracking and reconciliation purposes.

4. Work with existing networks: local authorities, housing associations, care providers, charities, community groups, faith groups, even village shops. The mix will vary according to the community.

5. Only allow demonstrably trustworthy individuals to handle payments: the list of people permitted to countersign passport applications could be a good starting point, but each community is different. Trust is vital in payments.

6. Keep payments and shopping separate: older readers will remember having an account with their local shop and having items added to their tally, paying the bill weekly or monthly.

7. School meals provide a good example: cards (or biometrics) are used to ensure all students have equal access to food, without the stigma attached with free school meals. Food is still served, even if the system has technical issues.

8. Take the time to discuss people’s preferences over the phone: The person receiving the shopping doesn’t have to be the person who pays. Be creative in encouraging people to contribute a little extra, or allow friends and family to pay on their behalf.

When organising payments, only use options people already have. This is not the time for a stressful sign-up process. In order of preference:

Online – PayPal, Bank Transfer, Pingit

With any new online payment, if there is a level of trust through an existing relationship, ask the account holder to send a small sum of 1p or 10p to the intended account, to check that it does arrive in the right place.

PayPal: convenient if you already have an account. Allows you to choose different sources of funds to transfer. Can be used for paying individuals as well as organisations. Includes a degree of protection.

Bank transfer (frequently referred to as Faster Payments): Despite communication from many of our banks, the full roll out of Confirmation of Payee is delayed. There is uncertainty over whether the money will arrive in the right place, so test initially with small amounts. It is irreversible. It can be performed easily via internet banking if you have the capability. Telephone banking is currently overloaded.

Some apps enable an invoice with bank details to be presented through a link to web page. This is better than simply sending requests for payments within an email, as fraudsters can’t just intercept the email and change the recipient details. It requires more effort to set up a fraud and is more likely to get spotted.

Pingit: Less widespread but convenient person-to-person payments which can be sent to a mobile number.

Contactless at the door

Using a portable reader from companies like iZettle, SumUp and Square. Apple Pay and Google Pay are good options as they allow higher value payments without the need to touch the device, if people already have the capability. Appropriate distancing must be observed.

Cheques

The householder only has to part with a single piece of paper and does not have to receive change. Cheques will have to be paid in and take a while to clear but there is very little risk of the householder absconding.

Cash

People are encouraged to avoid handling cash and avoid touching ATMs. Keeping cash in the home makes people more vulnerable. However, some people rely on cash. Where change is to be given, this should be arranged in advance and put in an envelope.

These are extraordinary times, which force us to look differently at the way we pay. Consult Hyperion have been enabling secure payments for over 30 years and we are able to apply our own Structured Risk Analysis process to understand the threats and possible countermeasures in every situation. These threats normally relate to the security of systems but in this case also encompass the risk of infection and people being left without essential supplies.

Finally

If you are reading this from home and need help, try phoning your local shop. If they are not organising deliveries themselves, they may well be aware of groups who are. Many local stores and community groups are providing help to these who need it, providing a much needed service. Get in touch with your local group.

Raising contactless limits to allow more paying without the PIN

In these extraordinary times with the need for social distancing, the payments industry is raising the contactless limits across many countries in order to prevent the need to touch PIN Pads in order to pay for our essential supermarket and pharmacy shopping.  Indeed, such is the concern over the use of cash that contactless payments are being actively encouraged over cash, with some countries, notably China and Russia[1] now requiring that cash is sanitised before it is allowed back into circulation.

The Dutch Payment Association[2] has moved to double their contactless CVM limit from €50 to €100, similar increases are being introduced by Poland; Norway; Canada; Turkey etc.  Yesterday the British Retail Consortium[3] announced that the UK too will raise its contactless limit from £30 to £45 on the 1st April.

So why do we need to wait a week? What does it mean? What are the alternatives?

First let us explain how contactless limits work and understand the difference between contactless payments in the UK compared to most other countries.  Contactless payment terminals have 3 limits:

  • Floor Limit
  • CVM Limit
  • Transaction Limit

The Floor Limit determines if the transaction should be sent online to the Issuing bank for authorisation. In the UK the contactless floor limit has been set at £0 for some time, ensuring all transactions are sent online, preventing spend from any cards that have been reported lost or stolen.

The CVM Limit is the one which is being changed on the 1st April. Above the CVM Limit a transaction requires a cardholder PIN or biometric authentication in order to be approved, which generally means a Chip & PIN transaction is needed. We are now seeing the introduction of some biometric contactless cards, but there are very few of them in the market today. By raising the CVM limit to £45 any contactless transactions below this will be sent to the Issuer for authorisation, which should result in the need to touch the POS less by reducing the number of Chip & PIN transactions.

The Transaction Limit is the maximum value that is allowed for any contactless transaction at that Merchant. This has been badly handled in the past, creating different customer experiences at different merchants. Ideally the contactless Transaction Limit should be the same as the Chip and PIN transaction limit. This then allows a contactless transaction carried out using a mobile phone, with Apple Pay or Google Pay, to be treated in the same way as Chip & PIN transactions. In the coming weeks, most payments will be made at Supermarkets, and whilst the raising of the limit to £45 will enable a higher number of contactless transactions, a large family shop will exceed £45. To be able to Pay without PIN, people should enable their cards in Apple Pay or Google Pay, this will allow them to Pay by contactless no matter the transaction amount.

In the UK, the Transaction Limit has not been uniformly implemented, in some merchants it is set to the same as the CVM Limit, meaning contactless can only happen below £30. The result has been confusion over when Apple Pay and Google Pay transactions will work and when you need to perform Chip & PIN.  POS providers and merchants need to take the opportunity of this limit change to test their systems to ensure that both the CVM Limit and the Transaction Limit are set appropriately to provide the maximum opportunity to pay by contactless.

As my fellow Principal Consultant Tim Richards points out in our video blog, other countries are using mobile apps to prevent the need for PIN – completely “Contact Free” transactions. We don’t have that capability in the UK yet, Apple Pay and Google Pay being the best options for now. We expect this to change as Open Banking progresses and payments without the need for PIN become more common.

Consult Hyperion have extensive experience in contactless and “Contact Free” payments and testing,  we will be able to help organisations ensure they optimise their payments capability to meet the needs of their customers, get in touch for more information on how we can help.

In the meantime, to avoid PIN Pads, shop below £45 or ensure Apple Pay or Google Pay is working on your mobile device, and stay safe.


[1] https://www.finextra.com/newsarticle/35509/russian-banks-act-to-decontaminate-cash?utm_medium=newsflash&utm_source=2020-3-24&member=56902

[2] https://www.finextra.com/newsarticle/35493/dutch-banks-raise-contactless-limits-for-pin-entry

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/money/2020/mar/24/limit-for-contactless-spending-to-rise-to-45-at-beginning-of-april


Consult Hyperion’s Live 5 for 2020

At Consult Hyperion we take a certain amount of enjoyment looking back over some of our most interesting projects around the world over the previous year or so, wrapping up thoughts on what we’re hearing in the market and spending some time thinking about the future. Each year we consolidate the themes and bring together our Live Five.

2020 is upon us and so it’s time for some more future gazing! Now, as in previous years, how can you pay any attention to our prognostications without first reviewing our previous attempts? In 2017 we highlighted regtech and PSD2, 2018 was open banking and conversational commerce, and for 2019 it was secure customer authentication and digital wallets — so we’re a pretty good weathervane for the secure transactions’ world! Now, let’s turn to what we see for this coming year.

Hello 2020

Our Live Five has once again been put together with particular regard to the views of our clients. They are telling us that over the next 12 months retailers, banks, regulators and their suppliers will focus on privacy as a proposition, customer intimacy driven by hyper-personalisation and personalized payment options, underpinned by a focus on cyber-resilience. In the background, they want to do what they can to reduce their impact on the global environment. For our transit clients, there will be a particular focus on bringing these threads together to reduce congestion through flexible fare collection.

So here we go…

1. This year will see privacy as a consumer proposition. This is an easy prediction to make, because serious players are going to push it. We already see this happening with “Sign in with Apple” and more services in this mould are sure to follow. Until quite recently privacy was a hygiene factor that belonged in the “back office”. But with increasing industry and consumer concerns about privacy, regulatory drivers such as GDPR and the potential for a backlash against services that are seen to abuse personal data, privacy will be an integral part of new services. As part of this we expect to see organisations that collect large amounts of personal data looking at ways to monetise this trend by shifting to attribute exchange and anonymised data analytics. Banks are an obvious candidate for this type of innovation, but not the only one – one of our biggest privacy projects is for a mass transit operator, concerned by the amount of additional personal information they are able to collect on travellers as they migrate towards the acceptance of contactless payment cards at the faregate.

2. Underpinning all of this is the urgent need to address cyber-resilience. Not a week goes by without news of some breach or failure by a major organisation putting consumer data and transactions at risk. With the advent of data protection regulations such as GDPR, these issues are major threats to the stability and profitability of companies in all sectors. The first step to addressing this is to identify the threats and vulnerabilities in existing systems before deciding how and where to invest in countermeasures.

Our Structured Risk Analysis (SRA) process is designed to help our customers through this process to ensure that they are prepared for the potential issues that could undermine their businesses.

3. Privacy and Open Data, if correctly implemented and trusted by the consumer, will facilitate the hyper-personalisation of services, which in turn will drive customer intimacy. Many of us are familiar with Google telling us how long it will take us to get home, or to the gym, as we leave the office. Fewer of us will have experienced the pleasure of being pushed new financing options by the first round of Open Banking Fintechs, aimed at helping entrepreneurs to better manage their start-up’s finances.

We have already demonstrated to our clients that it is possible to use new technology in interesting ways to deliver hyper-personalisation in a privacy-enhancing way. Many of these depend on the standardization of Premium Open Banking API’s, i.e. API’s that extend the data shared by banks beyond that required by the regulators, into areas that can generate additional revenue for the bank. We expect to see the emergence of new lending and insurance services, linked to your current financial circumstances, at the point of service, similar to those provided by Klarna.

4. One particular area where personalisation will have immediate impact is giving consumers personalised payment options with new technologies being deployed, such as EMV’s Secure Remote Commerce (SRC) and W3C’s payment request API. Today, most payment solutions are based around payment cards but increasingly we will see direct to account (D2A) payment options such as the PSD2 payment APIs. Cards themselves will increasingly disappear to be replaced by tokenized equivalents which can be deployed with enhanced security to a wide range of form factors – watches, smartphones, IoT devices, etc. The availability of D2A and tokenized solutions will vastly expand the range of payment options available to consumers who will be able to choose the option most suitable for them in specific circumstances. Increasingly we expect to see the awkwardness and friction of the end of purchase payment disappear, as consumers select the payment methods that offer them the maximum convenience for the maximum reward. Real-time, cross-border settlement will power the ability to make many of our commerce transactions completely transparent. Many merchants are confused by the plethora of new payment services and are uncertain about which will bring them more customers and therefore which they should support. Traditionally they have turned to the processors for such advice, but mergers in this field are not necessarily leading to clear direction.

We know how to strategise, design and implement the new payment options to deliver value to all of the stakeholders and our track record in helping global clients to deliver population-scale solutions is a testament to our expertise and experience in this field.

5. In the transit sector, we can see how all of the issues come together. New pay-as-you-go systems based upon cards continue to rollout around the world. The leading edge of Automated Fare Collection (AFC) is however advancing. How a traveller chooses to identify himself, and how he chooses to pay are, in principle, different decisions and we expect to see more flexibility. Reducing congestion and improving air quality are of concern globally; best addressed by providing door-to-door journeys without reliance on private internal combustion engines. This will only prove popular when ultra-convenient. That means that payment for a whole journey (or collection or journeys) involving, say, bike/ride share, tram and train, must be frictionless and support the young, old and in-between alike.

Moving people on to public transport by making it simple and convenient to pay is how we will help people to take practical steps towards sustainability.

So, there we go. Privacy-enhanced resilient infrastructure will deliver hyper-personalisation and give customers more safe payment choices. AFC will use this infrastructure to both deliver value and help the environment to the great benefit of all of us. It’s an exciting year ahead in our field!



SRC enters the secure digital commerce arena

Secure Remote Commerce (SRC) officially launched in the US last week, supported by a limited set of merchants, with more to launch by year-end and into early 2020. We’ve been tracking SRC for some time now as it moved through the specification development process within EMVCo. It has emerged at launch as a customer-facing brand called “Click-to-Pay,” unless you’re using an Amex card, where it’s also called “Online Checkout” in confirmation emails received after registering a card.

4 Essential Trends in Money for your Business

By Sanjib Kalita, Editor-in-Chief, Money20/20

This article was originally published on Money20/20.

We are in the midst of seismic societal changes of how people interact and transact.  Across societies, geographies and segments, digital is the new norm. Change has accelerated, placing greater value upon flexibility and speed. Historically, money and finance have been among the more conservative and slower changing parts of society, but this has changed dramatically over the past decade by viewing money as an instigator of change rather than a lagging indicator.

Whether you are a marketer in shining armor conquering new territory, a financial wizard casting spells upon the balance sheet, or the queen or king guiding the whole enterprise, here are 4 trends about money that you should keep in mind for your business.

Platforms are the new kingdoms

Platforms are the base upon which other structures can be built.  For example, App stores from Apple and Google provide the infrastructure for consumers to complete commercial transactions and manage finances through their mobile phones.  While these companies develop their own digital wallets, they also enable similar services from banks, retailers and other companies.  Building and maintaining the platform enables services that they would not have created on their own, like Uber or Lyft, which in turn, have created their own platforms.

Marketers trying to address customers’ needs can plug into platforms to broaden offerings or deepen engagement with target markets. Platform-based thinking implies that product and service design is ongoing and doesn’t stop with a product launch.  Jack Dorsey didn’t stop when he built the Square credit card reader.  The team went into lending with Square Capital.  They got into consumer P2P payments with Square Cash.  Their ecosystem has grown through partnerships with other companies as well as in-house development.

Digital Identities open the gates

How do your customers interact with you?  Do they need to create a username and password, or can they use a 3rd party system like Google or Facebook?  Are security services like two-factor authentication or biometrics used to protect credentials?  Is your company protecting customer identities adequately?  The importance of all of these questions is increasing and often the difference between being forced into early retirement by a massive data breach or surviving to continue to grow your business.

While identity management and digital security might not be top of mind for most marketers, they are table stakes for even the most basic future business.  History is full of tales of rulers successfully fighting off armies laying sieges on castles and fortresses, only to fail when another army gets access to a key for the back door.

Context rules the experience

Credit card transactions moved from predominantly being in-store, to e-commerce sites accessed from desktop computers, and now to mobile phones.  As the point-of-purchase expanded, so did the consumer use cases and thought processes. In tandem, mobile screens presents less information than desktop computer screens, which in turn presents less information than associates in a brick-and-mortar environment.  Companies best able to understand context and deliver the right user experience within these constraints will build loyal customer relationships.

Apps or services created for a different use cases on the same platform, such as Facebook and Messenger apps, can help achieve this. Banks and have different apps for managing accounts or for completing transactions or payments. On a desktop, you can access these services through a single interface but on the mobile, forcing users to select their use case helps present a streamlined experience on the smaller, more time-constrained mobile screen.  The use of additional data such as location, device, etc. can further streamline the experience. Marketers that don’t think about the context will lose the battle before it even begins.

Data is gold

While a marketer’s goal is to generate sales, data has become a value driver.  In the financial world, data about payments, assets and liabilities has become critical in how products and services are delivered.  PayPal, a fintech that began even before the word ‘fintech’, has recently been using payments data from their platform to help build a lending business for their customers.  Similarly, an SME lender named Kabbage has grown to unicorn status by using data from other sources to make smarter lending and pricing decisions.  In the payments industry, Stripe distilled a previously complex technology integration into a minimal data set, accessed via API, to easily build payments into new digital products and services.

Those that are able to harness the power of data will be able to predict what customers want and more effectively address their needs.  In some cases, it might be using data from within your enterprise or from other platforms for targeting, pricing or servicing decisions. In other cases, it might be using data to reimagine what your product or service is.

Looking for more insights on key trends in money? Hear from 400+ industry leaders at Money20/20 USA. Money20/20 USA will be held on October 27-30, 2019 at The Venetian Las Vegas. To learn more and attend visit us.money2020.com.

This article was originally published on www.money2020.com.

GDPR: Consequences, Fines and Responses

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has finally done what it’s been threatening to for a while and levied enormous fines on British Airways’ parent International Consolidated Airlines (£183 million) and Marriott Hotels (£99 million).  While subject to appeal, these are the first signs of how the ICO now has real teeth and is prepared to use them. The question is, what lessons can we learn from this?

Well, firstly, we can observe that card payments aren’t optimised for the internet.  The BA breach looks like it was at entry point – i.e. it wasn’t that the data was breached while stored in a database but that someone managed to get hacked software to intercept payments in flight and capture the details. The point here, of course, is that the paradigm of giving your card details to the merchant so they can pass them to your issuer originated in the 20th century when we didn’t have a choice. Now, given that we have this internet thing it makes more sense to contact our issuer directly and tell them to pay the merchant. Realistically, this may be the only way we can be sure merchants won’t lose our card details – don’t give them to them.

This points to push payments a la PSD2 APIs. But given that these won’t be pervasive for a while then the next best option is to tokenise cards to either limit their use to a single merchant or even a single transaction. Both of these are areas we’re seeing lots of interest in, and ought to be high on the agenda of heads of IT security and payments everywhere.

Secondly, we can note that static credentials are a sitting target. Seeing email addresses and passwords breached opens up companies to all sorts of horrible consequential damages under GDPR – let’s face it, most people reuse the same combinations across multiple sites so a breach on one site can lead to exposure on another. Any company relying on static credentials should basically assume they’re going to get some level of breach.  

Fixing this requires two factor authentication and we have a ready-made, state-of-the-art, solution here in the EU. PSD2 SCA is about as strong an approach as you could ask for and we have banks and authentication providers drowning in relevant technology. There simply is no excuse for a company using static credentials if they get breached.  We’ve been working closely with providers to look at how to take these solutions into the wider authentication market, because there’s been a certain inevitability about the way a lot of companies have dealt with their data breach protection.

Finally, note that the point that BA have made – that they haven’t seen any impact due to their breach – needs to be quantified: “yet”. Hackers tend to sit on breach data for 18 months before using it, waiting for the identity protection schemes that are often engaged post these events to expire. GDPR allows affected companies and individuals to sue – up until now the costs of a data breach have been borne by banks having to deal with fraud and issue new cards and consumers having to sort out identity protection. The ICO fines may yet be just the be tip of a very expensive iceberg as GDPR ensures that the costs more appropriately allocated to the offending parties.

SCA: the end of merchant liability, and other authentication factors

The EBA’s recent Opinion on the elements of strong customer authentication under PSD2 was, apart from moving the goalposts on when SCA will be enforced, full of interesting information about what constitutes a valid SCA element. It closes some doors, opens others and ends any notion that merchants can take liability and not do SCA themselves.

Taking the final point first, there’s been a view that Article 74(2) of PSD2 permits merchants to carry on without implementing SCA as long as they take liability. We at Consult Hyperion have long argued that that is an optimistic and overly legalistic reading of the regulations and this has now been confirmed. The EBA states:


In addition, even if there were a liability shift to the payee or the payee’s PSP for failing to accept SCA, as articulated in Article74(2) of PSD2, this could not be considered an alleviation of PSPs’ obligation to apply SCA in accordance with and as specified in Article 97 of PSD2.

Basically, Article 97 takes precedence – PSPs (aka Issuers) must apply SCA so if the merchant chooses not to then rather than end up with a payment for which they’re liable they’ll end up with no payment at all. Which, you’d imagine, would rather miss the point of being a merchant.

Beyond this point the Opinion has lots of interest to say about inherence, possession and knowledge elements.

On inherence two points stand out. Firstly the Opinion unambiguously states that behavioural biometrics can be a valid factor: this opens up a world of possible low friction SCA, and we expect to see lots of innovation in this area. Secondly it states that 3DS-2 does not support inherence as none of the data points being gathered relate to biological or behavioural biometrics but – and we view this as important – 3DS-2 is a valid means of supporting SCA.

This is critical because the dynamic linking process behind 3DS-2 is not straightforward and there have been differences of opinion over whether this is compliant. Given that 3DS-2 appears to be the only game in town for CNP transactions having a statement that it’s OK is mighty important.

On possession, the EBA clarifies that OTP SMS is valid and also that mobile app based approaches can be – but only if the app is linked to the device. We’ve been arguing that this is obviously the case for a while, so it’s good to see this confirmed: although there are going to be a few app developers out there that need to revise their approaches pdq (we can help, of course!).

Also on possession the EBA has stated something that really should have been obvious to anyone taking more than a moderate interest in the topic – printed card details such as PAN and CVV or user ids and email addresses are not valid possession or knowledge elements. As a number of prominent industry players have been taking the opposite approach this could lead to some interesting developments in the coming weeks, particularly as the Opinion states that if the CVV is not printed on the card and is instead sent on a separate channel, then it is a valid knowledge element.

Overall, the analysis and discussion in the Opinion on valid SCA elements is welcome, if a trifle tardy. To be fair to the EBA, we don’t see anything in their analysis that a proper reading of the RTS wouldn’t have produced. However, it’s been clear for some time that many industry players have been making a highly liberal interpretation of the requirements usually based on a legal opinion. But PSD2 and the RTS are about principles, not rules: if you need advice on this you need to talk to the people who understand this stuff. Which, by the way, is us, not law firms.

Alchemy at Money 20/20 Europe

The most sought goal in alchemy is turning metal into gold. Our colleagues at Money 20/20 Europe chose this as the apt theme for this year’s event. What better way exists, other than alchemy, to describe a congregation of pretty much everyone that matters in the financial community, experimenting with propositions, skills and technologies, catalysed by their unwavering dedication, to determine the right mix that creates that metaphor? A symbolic representation of a continually evolving and innovating financial ecosystem that will yield a golden age of solutions for financial services. As I witnessed this event, numerous inspirational people spoke about different aspects, goals and aspirations of such an evolving ecosystem, hopefully grounded in adequate regulations that don’t stifle innovation.

Various sessions described the ongoing architectural paradigm shift in the ecosystem towards cloud-based platforms for acquiring, banking, issuer processing and digital wallet solutions, which enable existing and new players, including airline operators and retailers, to enter the market to provide financial services to their customer base with relatively less capital and operational expenses.  These platforms are built using microservices, which allow for various functions to be developed and deployed in a modular fashion with minimal impact to existing services. Such a paradigm allows a banking system, for instance, to easily scale to the demand as required, whilst being resilient in an agile manner to changing product requirements and needs of their stakeholders including regulatory authorities.

There was also a focus on highlighting the benefits of collaboration and partnerships at various levels to innovate and to fight crime, whilst ensuring fair competition amongst existing and new players.  Partnerships between BigTech and FinTech companies provide the required resources, including the right talent to maximise the use of latest technologies and access to various data sources, to build innovative value propositions and commercial models that deliver enhanced and personalised financial services that meet customer needs. 

The concept of being open has featured heavily in various sessions throughout the event.  Of course, this included the Open Banking track, brilliantly chaired by our own global ambassador, Dave Birch, where the current state of the matter was discussed, along with the opportunities and challenges that Open Banking has presented.  However, the concept of openness extended beyond that, with panellists at the Financial Crime Summit calling for open collaboration, amongst financial institutions and regulatory authorities, to efficiently share AML and KYC data to combat financial crime, particularly to reduce identity theft, fraud and money laundering. This was reiterated when discussing real-time payments which could benefit from access to different data sources and techniques for detecting fraud in real-time and, as a minimum, keeping one step ahead in this adversarial game with fraudsters.  Speakers sanctioned the idea of open communication, with an aim of unifying the ecosystem through standardisation, to circumvent challenges, break down barriers and plug vulnerabilities that fragmentation brings about.

The future of commerce was discussed, including the role of data along with ubiquitous and reliable connectivity, made possible through 5G. They will be key in providing personalised customer experience and engagement. I was thrilled to see innovative on-demand insurance models from WeFox and Lemonade, leveraging Machine Learning (ML) and IoT, to dynamically tailor their products to their consumers. It was only a couple of years ago that Consult Hyperion started discussing the possibility of pay-as-you-go commercial models revolutionised by technologies like IoT and ML. In fact, Dave Birch has even highlighted these predictions in our Live 5 this year, including the need to understand the risks these models incur.

The correct use of AI was an interesting panel discussion covering various points. They pointed out the need to leverage and operate technologies, like ML, in a transparent and accountable manner, addressing issues like ensuring customers know when they are dealing with an AI agent or a human and, addressing potential data bias by ensuring proper breadth and depth of data being sourced to fuel ML algorithms.

Various speakers emphasised the importance of placing the consumer at the centre of this evolving ecosystem. It is the key factor that ensures we design consumer-centric, personalised services, which help improve their quality of life, whilst protecting them and rewarding them for their loyalty. This was corroborated by OVO when they presented the incredible work they accomplished, in Indonesia, by deploying innovative mobile-based, instant credit and lending solutions to aid businesses and help boost the developing economy.

In an era of fake news causing a reputation crisis, digital identity and authentication schemes warranted a whole track, which was insightfully chaired by our COO, and resident Identity expert, Steve Pannifer. Various speakers and panellists discussed the importance of such schemes to enable data security and privacy controls in line with increasingly demanding privacy regulations.

Ultimately, I was glad to have come across various sessions promoting the need for diversity and equal opportunity in this financial ecosystem, so that we can capitalise on skills from a talent pool, without regard to gender, race or age, and better reflect the society that we serve.

Indeed, Money 20/20 have enabled dialogue and championed collaboration amongst different players in the financial ecosystem for the betterment of financial services. Therefore, in the spirit of this year’s theme, aim to be an alchemist and surround yourself with ones at the next event, and maybe you too can experience the magic! As Consult Hyperion, we are proud to have taken part in this dialogue, shared our knowledge and experience, and will continue with our hard work in helping various clients evolve along with the financial ecosystem. 

P.S. If you missed out on the winner announcement of the wacky payments race around the world between cash, crypto, card and mobile. I am glad to report that Team #mobile emerged victorious, revealing that Seattle, home of some of the big tech companies, was ironically the most challenging location in accepting mobile payments. Team #crypto found it the most difficult – the fact that the value of a crypto coin changed every five minutes probably didn’t help! 😊


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