Leveraging the payment networks for immunity passports

COVID-19

As if lockdown were not bad enough, many of us are now faced with spending the next year with children unable to spend their Gap Year travelling the more exotic parts of the world. The traditional jobs within the entertainment and leisure sectors that could keep them busy, and paid for their travel, are no longer available. The opportunity to spend time with elderly relatives depends on the results of their last COVID-19 test.

I recognize that we are a lucky family to have such ‘problems’. However, they are representative of the issues we all face as we work hard to bring our families, companies and organizations out of lockdown. When can we open up our facilities to our employees, customers and visitors? What protection should we offer those employees that must or choose to work away from home? What is the impact of the CEO travelling abroad to meet new employees or customers, sign that large deal or deliver the keynote at that trade fair in Las Vegas?

Identity – Customer Centric Design

The team put on an excellent webinar this Thursday (May 21st, 2020) in the Tomorrow’s Transactions series. The focus was on Trust over IP, although digital identity and privacy were covered in the round.

The panellists were Joni Brennan of the DIACC (Digital ID & Authentication Council of Canada—full disclosure: a valued customer), long-time collaborator Andy Tobin of Evernym and our own Steve Pannifer and Justin Gage. Each of the panellists is steeped in expertise on the subject, gained from hard-won experience.

Joni and Andy presented, respectively, the DIACC and ToIP layered architectural models (largely congruent) for implementing digital identification services. The panellists agreed that no service could work without fully defined technical, business and governance structures. Another key point was that the problems of identification and privacy merge into one another. People need to make themselves known, but are reserved about making available a slew of personal information to organisations with whom they may seek no persistent relationship or do not fully trust.

At one point, it was mentioned that practical progress has been slow, even though the basic problem (to put one aspect crudely, why do I need so many passwords?) of establishing trust over digital networks has been defined for 20 years at least. It could be argued that Consult Hyperion has earned its living by designing, developing and deploying point solutions to the problem. I began to wonder why a general solution has been slow to arise, and speculated (to myself) that it was because the end-user has been ill-served. In particular, the user sign-up and sign-in experiences are inconsistent and usually horrible.

Therefore, I posed the question “What is the panel’s vision for how people will gain access to personalised digital services in 2030?” The responses were interesting (after momentary intakes of breath!) but time was short and no conclusions were reached.

I slept on the problem and came up with some tentative ideas. Firstly, when we are transacting with an organisation (from getting past a registration barrier to download some info, through buying things, to filing tax returns), everything on our screens is about the organisation (much of it irrelevant for our purposes) and nothing is about us. Why can’t our platforms present a prominent avatar representing us, clickable to view and edit information we’ve recorded, and dragable onto register, sign-in or authorise fields in apps or browsers?

Now, there could be infinite variations of ‘me’ depending on how much personal information I want to give away; and the degree of assurance the organisation needs to conduct business with me (of course, it’s entirely possible there could be no overlap). I reckon I could get by with three variations, represented by three personas:

  • A pseudonym (I get tired of typing flintstone@bedrock.com just to access a café’s wifi; there are some guilty parties registering for our webinars too!)
  • Basic personal information (name, age, sex, address) for organisations I trust, with a need-to-know
  • All of the above, maybe more, but (at least, partly) attested by some trusted third party.

Obsessives could be given the ability to define as many options, with as many nuances, as they like; but complexity should be easily ignorable to avoid clutter for the average user.

I think it’s the major operating system providers that need to make this happen: essentially, Apple, Android and Microsoft, preferably in a standard and portable way. For each we would set up an ordered list of our preferred authentication methods (PIN, facial recognition, etc) and organisations would declare what is acceptable to them. The system would work out what works for both of us. If the organisation wants anything extra, say some kind of challenge/response, that would be up to them. Hopefully, that would be rare.

The Apple Pay and Google Pay wallets are some way to providing a solution. But sitting above the payment cards and boarding passes there needs to be the concept of persona. At the moment, Apple and Google may be too invested in promulgating their own single customer views to see the need to take this extra step.

I sensed frustration from the panellists that everything was solvable, certainly technically. Governance (e.g. who is liable for what when it all goes wrong?) was taken to be a sticking point. True, but I think we need to put the average user front and centre. Focus groups with mocked-up user experiences would be a good start; we’d be happy to help with that!

Would you use the NHSX app?

I listened with interest to yesterday’s parliamentary committee on the proposed NHSX contact tracing app, which is being trialled on the Isle of Wight from today. You can see the recording here.

Much of the discussion concerned the decision to follow a centralised approach, in contrast to several other countries such as Germany, Switzerland and Ireland. Two key concerns were raised:

1. Can a centralised system be privacy respecting?
Of course the answer to this question is yes, but it depends on how data is collected and stored. Cryptographic techniques such as differential privacy are designed to allow data to be de-indentified so that is can be analysed anonymously (e.g. for medical research) for example, although there was no suggestion that NHSX is actually doing this.

The precise details of the NHSX app are not clear at this stage but it seems that the approach will involve identifiers being shared between mobile devices when they come into close proximity. These identifiers will then be uploaded to a central service to support studying the epidemiology of COVID-19 and to facilitate notifying people who may be at risk, having been in close proximity to an infected person. Whilst the stated intention is for those identifiers to be anonymous, the parliamentary debate clearly showed there a number of ways that the identifiers could become more identifiable over time. Because the identifiers are persistent they are likely to only be pseudonymous at best.

By way of contrast, a large team of academics has developed an approach called DP-3T, which apparently has influenced designs in Germany and elsewhere. It uses ephemeral (short-lived) identifiers. The approach is not fully decentralised however. When a user reports that they have COVID-19 symptoms, the list of ephemeral identifiers that user’s device has received, when coming into close proximity to other devices, is shared via a centralised service. In fact, they are broadcast to every device in the system so that risk decisioning is made at the edges not in the middle. This means that no central database of identifiers is needed (but presumably there will be database of registered devices).

It also means there will be less scope for epidemiological research.

All of this is way beyond the understanding of most people, including those tasked with providing parliamentary scrutiny. So how can the average person on the street or the average peer in Westminster be confident in the NHSX app? Well apparently the NHSX app is going to be open sourced and that probably is going to be our greatest protection. That will mean you won’t need to rely on what NHSX says but inevitably there will be universities, hackers, enthusiasts and others lining up to pick it apart.

2. Can a centralised system interoperate with the decentralised systems in other countries to allow cross border contact tracing?
It seems to us that whether a system is centralised or not is a gross simplification of the potential interoperability issues. True, the primary issue does seem to be the way that identifiers are generated, shared and used in risk decisioning. For cross border contact tracing to be possible there will need to be alignment on a whole range of other things including technical standards, legal requirements and perhaps even, dare I say it, liability. Of course, if the DP-3T model is adopted by many countries then it could become the de facto standard, in which case that could leave the NHSX app isolated.

Will the NHSX app be an effective tool to help us get back to normal? This will depend entirely on how widely it is adopted, which in turn will require people to see that the benefits outweigh the costs. That’s a value exchange calculation that most people will not be able to make. How can they make a value judgment on the potential risks to their civil liberties of such a system? The average user is probably more likely to notice the impact on their phone’s battery life or when their Bluetooth headphones stop working.

There’s a lot more that could be said and I’ll be discussing the topic further with Edgar WhitleyNicky Hickman and Justin Gage on Thursday during our weekly webinar.

Our live five for 2018

It’s that time of year again. I’ve had a chat with my colleagues at Consult Hyperion, gone back over my notes from the year’s events, taken a look at our most interesting projects around the world and brought together our “live five” for 2018. Now, as in previous years, I don’t expect you to pay any attention to our prognostications without first reviewing our previous attempts, otherwise you won’t have any basis for taking us seriously! So let’s begin by looking back over the last year and then we’ll take a shot at the new one!

Goodbye 2017

This was the “live five” of technology-driven changes in the secure transactions field that we thought would have a real business impact over the previous year. In the spirit of openness and honesty and disclosure that we are famed for, let’s see how those predictions fared.

  1. RegTech. I think we did pretty well with this prediction. Interest in regtech has grown throughout the year and the ability of regtech to make real differences in major markets is established.
  2. Digital Identity. As we noted, one of the key regtechs, if not the key regtech, is digital identity. It did shoot up the agenda over the year and some interesting initiatives opened up.
  3. PSD2 (still). No commentary is needed!.
  4. Paying on the Go. We thought that a key use of open APIs will be payments, and very likely mobile payments. MasterCard’s purchase of VocaLink would tend to support this view!
  5. Invisible POS.  The shift from “check out to check in” paradigms is underway but it is fair to observe that we did not see the number of launches we were expecting as many of the projects remain in beta and will be holding to wait for the arrival of PSD2 (and CMA remedies in the UK).

Not bad. In fact, pretty good. So now let’s take a look at where we think the action will be in the coming year in our corner of the transactions treehouse. My guess is that you’ll agree with four out of the five – if not… let us know!

Hello 2018

From the perspective of our home base in the UK, the really big trend is easy to predict and wholly uncontroversial, since open banking is going to transform our industry. Thinking around this opens up a couple of adjacent areas as well. So…

  1. Open Banking. In the UK, the regulators’ determination to bring real competition to the financial services world means that we are about to see major disruption in the space. Last year I called this before a “crossing of the streams” (in an hommage to Ghostbusters!) because there are three different initiatives coming together.The first stream is the PSD2 provisions for access to payment accounts. As you may recall, these include a set of proposals that are due to come into force in 2018. A group of those proposals are what we in the business call “XS2A”, the proposals which force banks to open up to permit the initiation of credit transfer (“push payments”) and account information queries. Even at a pure compliance level these PSD2 regulations pose significant questions for the structure of the existing payments industry. While PSD2 does not mandate APIs (I think – it’s all gotten a bit complicated but as far as I know the screen-scrapers have fought a decent rearguard action) an open banking API is the obvious way to implement the PSD2 provisions.

    The second stream is Her Majesty’s Treasury’s push for more competition in retail banking. This led to the creation of the Open Banking Working Group (OBWG), which published its report in 2016.  It set out was a four part framework, comprising:

    • A data model (so that everyone knows what “account”, “amount”, “account holder” etc means);
    • An API standard.
    • A security standard.
    • A governance model.

    The third stream is the CMA report that triggered the remedies mentioned above. This envisages APIs to improve competition in retail banking by focusing on the use of APIs to obtain access to personal data that can be shared with third-parties to obtain better, more cost-effective services.

    These streams are coming together to create an environment of what is now called Open Banking. And it’s a big deal. And it begins in January 2018 when the nine biggest banks open up their APIs and the UK becomes a fascinating and exciting laboratory for new services. Who will take advantage of this new environment? Well, in our opinion, it’s not the fintechs. And we are not the only ones who think this.

    Much has been made of the rise of fintech [but] according to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), traditional banks are more vulnerable to competition from another source: tech giants like Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

    From Tech firms like Amazon (AMZN), Facebook (FB), and Google (GOOGL) are the biggest competitive threats to the banking industry — Quartz

    As we have pointed out for some time, it is not all obvious that what we refer to as the “challenger” banks in the UK (i.e., the new banks who have obtained licences in recent years) are really challengers at all. The era of the “challenger banks” is coming to an end as the internet giants compete to be the front end to the customers transactional financial services.

  2. Conversational Transactions. One class of application that will exploit API integration with banking and payment systems is chat, whether through standard messaging applications or “chatbot” interfaces. This is hardly a wild prediction, but we think that the early steps (e.g., Facebook Messenger’s recent UK payments launch) indicate a major shift in 2018. Right now, when my sons at University ask me for money on WhatsApp, I have to switch to Barclays Pingit to send the money. Not for much longer. And it is important to understand the roadmap here, because the link between conversational commerce and voice commerce is straightforward. It’s all small step from typing “Send £20 for the ticket” to saying “Send £20 for the ticket”.
  3. The Internet of Cars. Anyone who visited Mobile World Congress or CES or, I’m sure, many other events throughout the year, couldn’t have failed to notice the amount of work going on in the “internet of things” (we all understand just how important that will be) and how much of the IoT focus is on the automobile sector. You can see why this is: cars are expensive, so they can stand the cost of adding smart technology that can deliver new functionality. However, as Consult Hyperion have always said, doors are easy but locks are hard. It’s easy to connect the myriad systems in the modern car to the world, but it’s really hard to secure them. This is a great opportunity for organisations with skills in encryption, authentication, key management, operational security and so on to help the automobile industry,It’s one thing when your bank account gets hacked (because the bank has to give you your money back) but when the hackers are crashing cars for fun it’s another thing altogether. If we want our cars to engage in transactions then we have to be sure that the security infrastructure for those transactions is absolutely solid.
  4. Artificial Intelligence. Well, when it comes to money, and indeed absolutely everything else, there is no doubt that AI will be the most disruptive technology of our generation. We may be a long way from Terminators and HAL 9000, but the massive AI investments pouring into financial services around the world mean that the technology is going to our business, and soon. If you examine where banks are spending their AI budgets right now, machine learning is the main focus. An Infosys poll earlier in the year showed that two-thirds of banks were already spending in this area and this is no surprise. Banks have large quantities of data that in the past they have found difficult to extract wisdom from and they have large transactional flows that they find it difficult to manage in the context of increasing regulatory burdens. Machine learning systems excel at finding patterns and exceptions in such data, provided that they can be fed the voracious quantities of raw material, so the main use of the machine learning systems is currently fraud detection and prevention. This throws up an interesting strategic challenge for banks in the new Open Banking world, because there is a threat to risk management, information analysis and sales/marketing processes in the new environment where they may not get to see the data held by third-party providers but those providers have access to bank accounts.
  5. Tokens/ICOs.  Well, those first four predictions are mainstream. But it’s fun to pick something out of left field (as our American cousins would say) by looking where technology might mean very different kinds of assets being used in transactions. We might well see a new kind of money emerge in the coming year.  Not Bitcoin, but “tokens” (the basis of Initial Coin Offerings, or ICOs). When the current craziness is past and tokens become a regulated but wholly new kind of digital asset, a cross between corporate paper and a loyalty scheme, they will present an opportunity to remake markets in a new and better way. One might imagine a new version of London Alternative Investment Market (AIM) where start-ups launch but instead of issuing equity they create claims on their future in the form of tokens. The trading of these tokens is indistinguishable from the trading of electronic cash (because they are bearer instruments with no clearing or settlement) but there will be an additional transparency in corporate affairs because aspects of the transactions are public.  The transparency obtained from using modern cryptography (e.g. homomorphic encryption and zero-knowledge proofs) in interesting way iss, as an aside, one of the reasons why we tend to think of the blockchain as a regtech, not a fintech.

All in all, the coming year will see much more disruption than might be apparent at first because the shift to open banking, starting in the UK, is what will drive the reshaping of the sector while at the same time the advance of AI into the transaction space (transactions of all types, from buying a train ticket to selling corporate bonds) begins to reshape the way we do business.

Password security

The publication by NIST of an updated version of its digital identity guidelines marks a significant change in its approach to identity management. It highlights the importance of implementing digital identity in context, with three different elements replacing the previously monolithic Level of Assurance. These Levels are the Identity Assurance Level for identity proofing, the Authenticator Assurance Level for authentication and the Federation Assurance Level for use in a federated environment. Criteria for each Assurance type run from Level 1 to Level 3. This is intended to provide greater flexibility in implementation, for example combining pseudonymity with strong authentication for privacy purposes. Although optional, federation is positively encouraged for reasons of user experience, cost and privacy.

Risk management features prominently in the guidelines, with risk assessments used to determine appropriate identity choices according to system requirements. Although the requirements are technology agnostic, they are prescriptive regarding the assurance levels required for particular purposes. One area in which the guidelines are particularly refreshing is in their approach to passwords. Drawing on research into passwords exposed during data breaches, the use of unwieldy complexity rules is discouraged. Instead, it is suggested that users should be allowed to make passwords as long as they wish, encouraging the use of pass phrases and excluding very short passwords.

Faced with restrictive rules, many users will select predictable passwords which just meet the system requirements but are easily guessed. It is suggested that passwords should be checked against a blacklist of obvious choices and known compromised passwords, to filter these out. Randomly-generated secrets are therefore preferred to user-generated secrets.

The guidelines also highlight the importance of usability, supporting the use of password managers and only requiring passwords to be changed when there is evidence of compromise. There is some flexibility regarding displaying passwords on screen, depending on the context. In order to maintain an adequate level of security, a mechanism for limiting the number of possible failed authentication attempts is required.

This new, more person-centric approach from NIST follows on from UK government guidance published by GCHQ in 2016, advising ‘dramatic simplification’ of password management policies. This guidance also focused on achieving security by implementing processes which are easier for people to follow and therefore less susceptible to being undermined by users attempting to take short cuts through the system.

CHYP’s involvement in research has highlighted for us the difference between the way people say they behave and how they actually behave online. This kind of performativity may take the form of people describing how careful they are online (perhaps repeating recent official advice), while doing something conflicting on screen even as they are speaking. A similar effect can be seen when comparing figures produced from a user survey by the Gambling Commission, to usage statistics reported by gambling companies. The companies are able to draw statistics directly from their systems, while the survey figures are composed of gamblers’ reporting of their own behaviour. These discrepancies highlight the importance of observation when developing policies based on user behaviour.

It is encouraging to see a more effective approach to combination of privacy, security and usability in Identity Management being promoted at the highest levels. Even in local hospitals, it is now common to see screens showing simply ‘tap your pass or enter your passphrase’, where previously unpredictable processes were in place. Organisations such as FIDO have done a great deal to promote standardisation.

For a standalone organisation to adopt the new NIST rules would seem both positive and achieveable. They are in any case intended to be used within the US government. However, where organisations are already working in partnership and have existing legacy agreements regarding security requirements, it may be necessary to revisit these and agree a new set of password rules to replace existing, outdated approaches. Standardisation and education can go a long way towards supporting this process, although for larger organisations and those with multiple partners, it may take longer.

Publications such as ‘Why Johnny can’t encrypt’ and ‘Users are not the enemy’ have long been recognised for highlighting enduring issues with implementing security software. While education is important, attempts to fundamentally change people will inevitably fail, resulting in escalating support costs and unpredictable security risks. People are simply not equipped to adjust that quickly. In comparison, machines are generally designed by people and comparatively easily modified. Even with the advent of AI, machines are likely to remain reasonably malleable.

Where most user interaction involves people and machines, security tends also to involve mathematics. The NIST guidelines prescribe the use of appropriate cryptography at every stage. This is essential to securing the system but does not of itself guarantee that the system will remain secure. Appropriate system design and implementation are crucial to ensuring secure operations. This is exemplified by the recent flaw discovered in the WPA2 WiFi protocol. A mathematical proof is available for the security of the protocol but there is a vulnerability in the key management, which is not covered by the proof.

As in any system, a mathematical proof has to be ‘situated’ to be useful. Effective risk modelling will take into account the wider context of the system, focusing in on the most critical areas for greater attention. This process may have to be revisited over time, as the surrounding environment evolves. The increasing interconnectedness of the Internet of Things will require greater attention to disconnection technologies to preserve system integrity over time.

Does it matter if people tap their phones or not?

How are mobile payments getting on in the UK? According to the most recent figures from Transport for London, mobile phones now account for about 8% of their contactless transactions, so clearly there are plenty of people who already use the phone in their hand rather than reach for the card in their pocket. Yet as many commentators have observed, out in the wider world — whether AndroidPay or Tesco PayQiq, PayM or Barclaycard Mobile — mobile payments seem to be facing something of a struggle to become mainstream.

With Consult Hyperion’s annual Tomorrow’s Transactions Forum coming up this week, we asked our good friends at Crescendo to use their array of clever Twitter sentiment analysis tools to give us an up-to-the-minute snapshot of the UK. They found that in conversations about mobile payments (which are dominated by Apple Pay, accounting for almost four-fifths of the conversations) there are roughly twice as many negative conversations as positive ones! Now that might be because people are quick to vent on Twitter when something doesn’t work properly but slower to praise when it does (I’m certainly guilty of this), but if we take the sentiment analysis at face value it seems to show that customers by and large like mobile payments when they work but are frustrated with the experience because it just doesn’t work the way it should and where it should.

There are a variety of reasons for this, ranging from gaps in the training of checkout staff to a failure of education (most people still don’t realise that the £30 limit that applies to contactless cards does not apply to contactless mobile payments so you can use your phone for your weekly shop) and confusion about acceptance (in some shops, for example, you can pay by contact with some cards but not pay with those same cards using mobile contactless).

Now, mobile payments is not all about mobile contactless. It’s about mobile initiated transfer of money from one account (the consumer’s) to another account (the merchant’s). And while we use cards for this now (except in Starbucks where we all use our app), with PSD2 on the horizon and MasterCard’s purchase of VocaLink we can certainly expect to see more direct-to-account credit transfers in the consumer marketplace. So we asked Crescendo to see if there’s any talk around this. They found that right now those conversations are dominated by Barclays PingIt and while the negative comments still outweigh the positive comments it is, rarther interestingly, by a much smaller margin than for mobile contactless. I wonder if this is perhaps a weak signal that mobile payment apps will be more popular than mobile contactless taps?

Does any of this matter? Perhaps the way that mobile payments work now isn’t much of a guide to the way they will work in the future. Maybe tapping on things, whether a card or a phone or a wristband or anything else is all a bit last year? Maybe it doesn’t matter whether people tap phones or cards because in time all payments will be going in-app (or in-browser) and that’s where we should be focusing for the future. The web’s standard body, the World-Wide Web Consortium (W3C), is currently working on a standard for these payments and this will likely hasten the physical and virtual convergence.

You can hear about the status of the standardisation process from the W3C themselves at the 20th annual Consult Hyperion Tomorrow’s Transactions Forum in London this week. Oh, and you’ll hear all about the status of PSD2, the future for mass market payments, financial inclusion, innovative uses of the blockchain, privacy, the Internet of Things, transit payments and much else besides. 

At this point I would normally implore you to head over to our web site to score a ticket for this unique event. But there’s no point today because all the tickets have been sold and there are no places left. If you’re one of the lucky few with a delegate place,  see you Wednesday.

Post-Industrial Archeology

The BBC World Service has a podcast series called “50 things that made the modern economy” hosted by the economist Tim Harford. It features inventions ranging from COBOL and banks to antibiotics and, interestingly, M-PESA. This caught my attention because M-PESA is one of the Consult Hyperion projects from the last couple of decades that we might find ourselves chatting about at the forthcoming 20th annual Forum, Tomorrow’s Transactions 2017. The Forum will be held at the America Square conference centre in London on 26th/27th April and Kevin Amateshe, the current M-PESA product manager will be coming in from Nairobi to give us a detailed picture of where M-PESA is now and where it will be going next.

The Forum, thanks to the wonderful support from our friends at Vocalink, PaySafeGroup, WorldPay and Olswang, will once again provide a unique environment for learning, investigation, discussion and debate about the future of electronic transactions. The future of people, businesses and government in the post-industrial online and interconnected economy.

This year’s invited keynote will be given by Professor Lisa Servon, one of the world’s leading authorities on financial and social inclusion. All delegates will receive a copy of Lisa’s new book “The Unbanking of America: How the New Middle Class Survives”.

 Other speakers and panelists include Gilad Rosner (IoT Privacy Forum), Nick Telford-Reed (WorldPay), Amy Parsons (Discover), Sandra Alzetta (Visa), Terry Cordeiro (Lloyds Bank), Jane Zavalishina (Yandex Data Factory), Tim Jones (Mondex co-founder), Will Judge (MasterCard), Katie Evans (Money and Mental Health), Vasily Suvorov (Luxoft), David Rennie (gov.verify), Emma Lindley (Innovate Identity), Andy Tobin (Evernym), Ben Whittaker (Masabi) and other people who are shaping the future of retail electronic transactions right now will be discussing PSD2, shared ledgers, AI, real-time payments, the Internet of Things, financial inclusion, open-loop migration and everything else shaping strategy across a variety of industries.
 
In addition to a fireside chat about instant payments with David Yates (CEO, VocaLink) and Ron Kalifa (Vice Chairman, WorldPay), there will be an introductory keynote from me, the judging of the annual Future of Money Design Award for artists and at the end of the first day a 20th anniversary drinks and networking reception. You’d be mad to miss it. As always, the Forum is limited to 100 people to ensure every gets a chance to meet and interact with everyone else so run, don’t walk, to our web site and buy a place right now. I look forward to seeing you all there.

Incidentally, listening to the BBC podcast narrating the story of our good friends Nick Hughes and Susie Lonie (Susie will be at the Forum too if you’d like to come along and say hi to her) brought back many memories, so I decided to conduct a little bit of post-industrial archaeology and I tracked down the presentations on M-PESA that Nick Hughes and our very own Paul Makin (who led the original feasibility study for M-PESA!) ave at the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation (CSFI) in November 2005 when M-PESA had 300 users and eight agents!!! As of today, it has 25 million users and 261,000 agents across 11 countries.

You can read them here….

Nick Hughes [csfi_Nov_05_Hughes.pdf]Paul Makin [csfi_Nov_05_Makin.pdf]

See you all in April when we get together and try to work out what the next M-PESA will be!

Our live five for 2017

It’s that time of year again. No matter how much I complain that silly lists of what will be big in the New Year are trivial and superficial and not really representative of a more detailed analysis of key trends… I still feel I have to annoy my colleagues at Consult Hyperion into giving me a few ideas so that I can surf the end of year blog wave.

Goodbye 2016

Here we go then. As for the last few years, I’ve put together a “live five” of technology-driven changes in the secure transactions field that will have a real business impact over the coming year. But first, in the spirit of openness and honesty and disclosure that we are known for, I think it’s not right to bother you with this kind of thing without first assessing how we did last time so that you can judge whether to pay any attention to this year’s list or not! So let’s see how our live five for 2016 did:

  1. Amazonisation. We got this one right. The focus on APIs increased through the year and not only for the interfaces to 3rd parties but also as a mechanism for restructuring internal processes and operations.

    the more far thinking will be re-engineering their businesses to develop a whole bunch of APIs outside of PSD2 and will be working out the business models behind opening them out to developers and businesses.

    From Open Banking APIs: Threat and Opportunity | Consult Hyperion

    It’s been really interesting see how the bank (in particular) attitudes to the priority and scope of API strategies has evolved over the year.

  2. Mobile ID and Authentication. Again, largely correct. The European Directive on Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) means that banks and other financial services organisations have had to up their game and make significant investments in improving their authentication methods. For most, this has meant moving to solutions that somehow involve the mobile phone. The impact of the NIST report on 2FA (which said that one-time password sent by text message can no longer be considered a secure authentication method) has yet to be felt, but the shift to more sophisticated and comprehensive mobile identity solutions is underway.

    The NIST guideline goes on to talk about using push notifications to applications on smart phones, which is how we think it should be done.

    From SMS authentication isn’t security. And that’s official | Consult Hyperion

    Of course,  this means doing proper risk analysis on the mobile applications to make sure that they have the appropriate levels of security built in, but at Consult Hyperion we’re rather good at doing that, so it’s a sensible way to proceed.

  3. EMV Next Generation. Big for us, but I wouldn’t say it’s touched the mainstream yet. EMV is getting long in the tooth and needs to be refreshed.

    We celebrate St. Valentine’s Day on 14th February every year to commemorate the introduction of chip and UK In the UK on 14th February 2006. I am a payments romantic, so this is very special day.

    From Ten more years! Ten more years! | Consult Hyperion

    The work that we have been involved in, helping clients to assess and shape their strategies towards the future of EMV, continues.

  4. The Push for Push. When I wrote this I couldn’t have imagined just how right I would be. MasterCard spent a billion dollars on VocaLink.

    mark my words it was one of the most significant events in the evolution of the UK payments industry since Reg Varney got a tenner out of that first ATM in Enfield half a century ago.

    From MasterCard and VocaLink is a big deal | Consult Hyperion

    Enough said.

  5. Transparency. Mixed, I would say. I had expected shared ledgers to proceed further in the exploration of new markets and new kinds of markets but actually most of the work that we have been involved with (I mean paid professional services, not academic research) has continued to look at the ways in which this interesting new class of technology could be used to emulate, essentially, existing centralised systems. But I think our analysis, as set out in this paper, stands.

    The paper that Richard Brown of R3, my colleague Salome Parulava and I put together what seems like an age ago (a year is a long time in fintech) has finally been published!

    From A legacy of transparency | Consult Hyperion

    However, in one or two of the projects, the focus did begin to shift to new ways of doing things and we remain of the opinion that more transparent markets will come.

On the whole, not too bad I think. A good enough score, I hope, to make our thoughts about 2017 worth at least a glance.

EMV POS Upgrade

As you know, I’m all about new technology at the point of sale or service, so I’m going to choose five areas where new technology will make a significant difference to retail financial services – not only payments – over the coming year.

Hello 2017

On to the predictions for the coming year. I’m playing the same game as always here. I don’t want to give away any of the really cool stuff that our teams are working on for clients in business, NGO and government sectors right now, but I do want to make predictions that I already sort-of know will come true because we are already working with the technologies so that I can look clever! I’m sure you all understand how this works. Anyway, here goes…

  1. RegTech. A number of the new technology projects that we have been involved with recently have come to a similar conclusion, which is that the use of new technology to reduce the cost of transactions is a struggle, but the use of the new technology to reduce the cost of regulating the transactions has a much better business case.

    2017 will see the emergence of the next generation of innovation in fintech that addresses risk management and regulation for the bank. We expect that regulatory technology, also known as regtech, will emerge as a separate area of innovation…

    From 2017 predictions | Business Analytics 3.0

    For many of our clients, the costs of regulation are both high and out of control. If the blockchain or cloud or big data or biometrics or whatever can do anything to address the spiralling costs of compliance, they will have significantly more impact on the transaction space than if they could deliver a marginal reduction in transaction costs.

  2. Digital Identity. One of the key regtechs, if not the key regtech, is digital identity. It has finally risen to the top of the agenda and this year it will finally change the way business works. I notice that Karen Webster has come to a similar conclusion in her piece about the major trends for next year.

    More than just authenticating a consumer for a particular transaction, creating a secure digital identity will mean capturing a variety of attributes about that consumer that then can be selectively presented as needed.

    From 8 Big Shifts In FI, Retail, Payments | PYMNTS.com

    Indeed.  What’s more, implicit in this prioritisation, is the start of the identity wars as various constituencies struggle to deliver the mass-market identity solutions that we need. In some areas, it may be the government that does this, in other areas it may be the banks. But in some areas, it may be the big five: Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft or Apple. Either way, there are big implications for our clients long-term strategies.

  3. PSD2 (still). One of the immediate  needs for digital identity infrastructure is to help with the delivery of PSD2 in Europe. Along with the Secure Customer Authentication directive mentioned above, a practical identity infrastructure is an urgent requirement if the industry is going to make open banking and API access work cost effectively .

    European banks and payments companies will spend much of 2017 preparing for the second phase of the EU’s Directive on Payment Services (PSD2).

    From Predictions 2017: What financial services executives can expect | ZDNet

    Right now this is all a bit of a mess because the “standards” that the industry is waiting for our being delayed and it seems to me that the timescales will be further extended in the New Year. However, she is still possible for banks to develop their strategies around the demands of PSD2 even if the details of the specific standards are not yet known.

    Specifications.

  4. Paying on the Go. A key use of open APIs will be payments, and very likely mobile payments. Mobile payments are coming front and centre as a means to authorise access to payment accounts. Not for tap-and-go NFC but for the next generation of retail, transit, utility and other payments across all channels. As everyone has been saying, payments are vanishing inside the mobile phone and whether it is ordering your Starbucks via a voice interface or jumping out of an Uber or shopping at an increasing number of websites, the transaction will complete because of the identification and authentication (I tend to label these “recognition” for short) functionality of the mobile. Since the mobile delivers both convenience and security it seems to me unstoppable in this regard.

    Retailers across the board will adopt mobile payment solutions.

    From Retail Trends and Predictions 2017 | 12 Retail trends and predictions to watch for

    It is natural for retailers to want to manage the shopping experience in order to deliver the best possible service to their customers. As the bumper sticker says, they want to go from check-out to check-in.  One of the implications of this shift for our clients is that they will be delivering services to mobile app developers rather than end customers! Testing these mobile apps to make sure that they have the security necessary for the mass market needs specialist skills that Consult Hyperion has and that customers can rely on.

  5. Invisible POS.  In many of the markets where we provide professional services and indeed software to the transactions value network, the day when non-cash transactions will no longer be dominated by cards is now within the strategic planning horizon.

    No checkout lines. No registers. No self-checkout. No cash, credit or debit.

    From How To ‘Shoplift’ Legally With Amazon

    I’m not expecting the Amazon Go science fiction model to dominate world retailing any day soon, but the combination of mobile apps, instant payments and alternative payment solutions will combine to see volume shift away from the card dip, swipe or tap. Card payments (by card, by token etc) will continue to grow but as more and more of them vanish inside apps, so the nature of the card industry and the shape of the value networks will shift. And if you this is rose-tinted techno-determinist hype from engineers, have a look at what someone whose business this is think about it: 

    Amer Sajed, the chief executive of Barclaycard, says it will spell the steady demise of the physical plastic credit card, which his company introduced to the UK 50 years ago. “People will be able to seamlessly shop going between the web, an app or in store,” he says.

    From The invisible credit card of the future – BBC News

    When customers check in and then check out without plastic in their hands, the point of sale will undergo fundamental change. The competition between payment methods will be subject to new dynamics that are not yet visible or understood. Trying to introduce a new payment scheme to Tesco’s stores is one thing, but introducing a new payment scheme inside the Tesco app (with no changes to the stores, POS or any other infrastructure) is quite another. Our knowledge of both new payment methods and new POS environment help clients to make to informed decisions about their future retail environments.

What does this mean for our clients for the coming year? Given that by and large we work for the incumbents who currently dominate their markets, whether banks or card issuers or acquirers or retailers or government agencies, it’s all about linking these key trends together at a strategic level in order to be able to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the new technologies at the tactical level, working with new players where necessary, to stay on top.

My feeling is that these strategic trends will interact to cause some pretty interesting changes in our markets across the coming year, driven above all by the absolute necessity to restore sanity to the cost-benefit calculations around compliance. It will be regulatory pressures, not technology drivers, that shape most decisions in the next few months but we understand how to make effective use of new technology in responding to those pressures so that’s all good. Here’s to another great year in the world of secure electronic transactions!

The Tale of Money2020 Vegas, Part 2

It’s Vegas, so time for a glass of champagne. Luckily, they had some in the green room for the W3C panel on “One-Click Buying: New W3C Standards for Web Payments” so I poured myself a large one and went on stage to toast the guys while they discussed the working draft of the W3C Payments Request API (July 2016). They deserved it, because in-app and in-browser payments are going to be huge. Bringing chip and PIN security into the web and mobile world is huge. I went to a demo hosted by Amex to see it actually working, which it did. The new API is implemented in Chrome and on the Samsung mobile browser and I saw it with my own eyes work on both. The latter use case – mobile browser triggering mobile wallet with biometric authentication – was slick. Once I can use Apple Pay on my iPhone to buy from mobile web sites and apps, I can’t see that I’ll ever pay any other way.

CHYP on Tour Vegas 16

The impact of this is, if the people I spoke to were anything to go by, considerably underestimated. The ability to make secure and convenient remote payments is transformational and it will inevitably mean a significant growth in online business. But more than that, it will drive more transactions in-browser and in-app and this will mean that there will be more competition, because it is easier to introduce new payment mechanisms this way. Here I am explaining this to one of the international delegates. I told her that the marginal cost of introducing a new payment scheme (such as a direct-from-account “push payment” into an app) would be vastly less than the cost of introducing it a traditional point of sale and she told me to stop following her. 

 Money2020

The next day I was sent off to the Money2020 exhibition floor like a flesh and bone drone remotely piloted from Guildford. I was getting instructions like “go to stand XXX and see if the PIN on glass solution is in the TEE (it was) and certified (it wasn’t)” and then “go to stand YYY and see if the demo is real or simulated” and so on. So I did, and then I ran into noted venture capitalist Matt Harris. I decided to tell him my theory about regtech being a more important use of new technology than fintech for many of our customers because of the disproportionate and uncontrolled costs of compliance. I think I may have convinced him. Then I explained to him why it sometime makes sense for Manchester City to play a “false 9” against teams who lack pace at the back, because midfield runners can always move around the centre backs who are caught between tracking and sitting back.

CHYP on Tour Vegas 16

I went off to a couple of conference sessions but since my first meetings of the day were at 7am on all of the first three days, I found it a little hard to concentrate. When I went to the Cafe Presse to get a little pick me up (quadruple shot latte with an extra shot) I kid you not there were two guys in there who were fast asleep. Lightweights.

The Tale of the Princess and the POS.

Once upon a time there was a Princess. She went to see the King and told him that she was bored and that she wanted to be an entrepreneur so she wanted the money to set up a shop. She decided to set up a potpourri shop and it was very successful.

She ordered a lovely POS terminal and put it on the counter.

Several customers came in every time to buy potpourri, including a Prince, who was very attractive to her because of his tubby Dad body. The Prince paid with his John Lewis MasterCard but things didn’t go as smoothly as the Princess had hoped because it took far too long for the transaction to complete.

When she went to bed at the night, she couldn’t sleep. The POS was bothering her.

“It’s big and ugly Daddy and it takes up space that should be occupied by lovely potpourri”.

So the King got her a small POS and attached it to her mobile phone.

But when she went to bed that night, she still couldn’t sleep. The POS was still bothering her.

“Daddy all my friends have Venmo and Zelle, so why do we make them use stupid old cards like the peasants have?”

So Daddy took away the POS and next time the Prince came in for some potpourri, he Venmo’d the money to the Princess. And his number.

“That’s better Daddy” she told the King. “Now that there’s no POS I can sleep properly again. And my potpourri sales have gone up because of the loyalty scheme in my app”.

The Prince and the Princess changed their status to “hooked up” and they lived happily ever after.

Night night.

<- Part 1  Part 3 ->

The Tale of Money 2020 Vegas, Part 1

CHYP on Tour Vegas 16

Money2020 was pretty different this year. I’m glad I went, it remains one the most important events in our calendar and it’s a fantastic opportunity for Consult Hyperion folk to meet up with all of our key customers and soon-to-be customers. And I’ll go again next year. But… it’s not like in the old days. Money2020 has matured into a mainstream business event. It’s no longer a place where people go to see fascinating presentations on what a blockchain is or how P2P lending works. It’s not longer a place where people go to watch passionate debate on panels full of conflicting views of the future. It’s a place where people go to do serious business. Here I am, for example, engaging in an in-depth discussion about the business opportunities for Payment Service Providers (PSP) because of the European Commission’s Second Payment Services Directive (PSD) open API provisions on the retail payments ecosystem in the UK, in the light of the UK Treasury’s parallel initiative, the Open Banking Working Group (OPWG).

CHYP on Tour 16

I told our commercial chap Nick that I’d been into the conference and was a bit bored. He told me that we’ve done five times as much business at the event this year as we did last year. I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that next door to Money2020 was the National Fasteners Conference. I’m afraid to say it, but this is the vision of a successful future: a trade show where everyone goes to do real business year after year. I spoke to a few other people about this. There was a feeling like we all know that SXSW will be more fun, but Money2020 will make us more money.  And to be fair, Money2020 was bigger, better organised and easier to navigate than ever before. They’ve built a very successful show.

Vegas 2016

The main reason that I was at the event (apart from to make money for the company, of course) was because I had been invited to moderate one of the financial inclusion panels and I chose to focus on what the US could learn from emerging markets when it comes to the topic. They asked me who I would like to have on my panel and my first pick was Professor Lisa Servon from Penn. Lisa wrote one of the best papers on financial inclusion that I have ever read and I thought that the best way to explore the many aspects of the issues pertaining to the small percentage of American’s who are unbanked (perhaps around 7%) and the much larger proportion who are underbanked (perhaps 20%) would be to go to a Cirque de Soleil show, so I chose their Beatles show. It was great, by the way.

Vegas 2016

I was delighted to welcome Lisa on board along with Jed McCaleb from Stellar, Michael Schlein from Accion, Daniel Monehin from MasterCard and Arjuna Costa from Omidiyar Network. Michael wrote a very good blog post on the key takeaways from this panel so there is no need to repeat them here. What I will say is that the panelists received a well-deserved compliment later in the week when I was told that is was one of the stand out panels of the event, and I wasn’t surprised. I refused to have a set script so I asked them interesting questions and they responded with interesting answer, discussion and debate. A great start to the event.

Money2020

I started to become somewhat deranged on the second day, partly because of lack of sleep, partly because of the over-stimulation at Bruce Parker’s top secret Payments Illuminati dinner (which had, I have to say, one of the best ice-breaker strategies I’ve ever come across at such events) and partly because of the amount of nonsense being talked about the blockchain was getting out of control. As you can see, my mental state was beginning to deteriorate. Someone tells me that the blockchain is going to revolutionise something or other. So I say “wow that’s great – how?” and they begin to describe some fantastical elaboration of some sort of distributed database with wholly mythic qualities and tell me “there, see”. I think perhaps some of his has to do with Money2020 Europe locating in Copenhagen, home of Hans Christian Anderson and his fairy tales. The spirit is permeating the event. I swear I saw a presentation that might as well have been about magic beans for all of the actual content it had or education it delivered. I was losing it, no about.

Vegas 2016

In fact, the more I start to think about it, the more the whole thing seems like it was one big fairy tale. Most of the stories I heard weren’t true, they were marketing, and that’s a sort of fairy tale.

The Tale of the Ugly Blockchain.

There once was a little blockchain. He didn’t use proof of work to form consensus, so all of the other blockchains made fun of him. You’re a quack, they told him. Quack, quack. And the little blockchain was very unhappy. But one morning the ugly blockchain was out playing by himself, because none of the other blockchains would play with him. In fact, they were chasing him with a hard fork. But then, as passing consultant saw what was going on and came over to help him. “Hey,” said the consultant, “what is a beautiful shared ledger like you doing out here with these ruffians?”. He wasn’t a blockchain after all, he was a double-permissioned shared ledger with a practical Byzantine fault-tolerant multi-round consensus algorithm! And he lived happily ever after.

Night night.

Part 2>


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