The changing face of payments

person paying using a bank card

EMV is at the heart of global payment card processing. As a specification it governs the processing of billions of transactions globally, with the vast majority of those flowing through the international payment schemes. As a technology it has been incredibly successful, reducing fraud levels everywhere it’s been introduced and its extension into contactless payments is now the fastest growing area of face-to-face payments. The idea that EMV might soon be obsolescent seems far-fetched, to put it mildly, but there are reasons to believe that its hegemony is under threat.

So, you want to be a card issuer?

shopping business money pay

Card issuing seems to be hot right now. Despite the rise of alternatives to card payments, many Fintech’s appear intent on adding payment cards to their product portfolios. And it is not just the “me too” start-up banks.

For example, some international remittance services are adding payment cards to their offerings.  This allows customers to spend the money they receive directly but also means that customers do not withdraw funds immediately upon receipt. This extends the customer relationship adding value to both the customer and the Fintech.

Mondex Memories and CBDC

Mondex paraphernalia

Deep in the mists of time (that is to say, the early-1990s), I led the team from Consult Hyperion responsible for Mondex specification, design and development. For those not familiar with paleo-payments, it was one of a clutch of (contact) smart card based electronic cash systems, none of which survived beyond, let’s say, early adolescence. There were two main reasons for their demise, one technological and one business. The concept was ahead of the capabilities of the underlying technology. Transactions took about the same amount of time as cash plus change, which wasn’t a compelling reason for anyone to leave their wallet behind. The promoters of the schemes (retail banks and payment brands) did not target particular niches where there may have been a business case (I always thought car parking might work) but instead blanketed retail outlets in particular cities or small countries. So, mostly unused devices were put under the counter, and people forgot about the schemes after an initial blaze of publicity.

Chip and PIN? Remember that?

three red roses

This weekend marks an anniversary. Although Consult Hyperion’s romance with smart cards had started many years before that, it will be fifteen years on Sunday that chip and PIN went live in the UK. I remember St. Valentine’s Day 2006 as if it was yesterday!

Black Friday, Cyber Christmas, and a Contact-Free New Year

paper bags near wall

For most of us 2020 isn’t going to be a year to linger fondly in the memory. It’s been a monumental slog in the face of grim news and little cheer but from a payments perspective we’ve seen an unsurprising surge in interest in all things payment related.

People have moved from cash to electronic payments – contactless transaction numbers have soared. People moved from face to face purchases to online. And, there’s been a ton of stress on payment systems as people have demanded refunds for holidays and flights they couldn’t take due to various travel restrictions. It’s been a year like never before.

We can expect this to be exacerbated over what will likely be an extended Black Friday and Christmas holiday shopping period. Online payments are expected to grow even though economies are in recession. For us in Europe it’s the last hurrah before PSD2 requirements on strong customer authentication come into force on January 1st. Merchants and payment companies will be well staffed on News Year Eve as they wait and see how the systems will hold up, and what sort of abandonment figures they’ll see as puzzled customers are presented with confusing authentication screens. We can probably expect a flood of concerned calls about phishing which are actually Strong Customer Authentication requests.

Rail usage up, so what?

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has just made a quarterly statistical release for Passenger Rail Usage. So what?

There are relevant economic and social trends to which public-sector bodies must respond with transport policies:

  • Circa 60% of the UK population lives in cities. Congestion is a real problem which in turn leads to increased pollution and reduced air quality.
  • As a population, we travel substantially less today than we did one or two decades ago.
  • We are travelling less by car and more by train and bike. Fewer of us are getting driving licences, and we are getting them much later in our lives.

A key response to these trends is to try to drive modal shift from privately owned cars to mobility as a service (MaaS). Rail is a key mode in MaaS solutions, and Rail, in the UK, is undergoing a root and branch review which was announced by Chris Grayling and the Department for Transport in September 2018. Keith Williams is leading the review, supported by an expert panel. Amongst other things, it will look at the structure of the whole rail industry, regional partnerships and improving value for money for passengers and taxpayers. Any emerging reform plans will be implemented from 2020.

One can imagine that there are many problems to be addressed as part of this review and that fares and ticketing might not get much of a look in. However, the ‘value for money for passengers and taxpayers’ part seems significant.

In a February meeting with DfT about the future of fare collection and transport payments, Consult Hyperion was asked to respond to the recent Rail PAYG Consultation covering:

  • what a Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) travel area is, and how it would work in general
  • where a PAYG travel area could cover
  • the changes to fares that could be made within the area

The consultation ran from February to the end of April 2019 and now the Department for Transport is considering the responses.

In the context of this activity, the ORR statistical release makes perhaps more interesting reading than it otherwise would have done.

 “Passenger journeys using ordinary tickets increased by 5.0% in 2018-19 compared to the previous year. This was driven by a 6.9% growth in anytime tickets. In contrast, the number of passenger journeys made using season tickets fell for the third consecutive year, down 0.4%. Market share of season ticket journeys was 36% in 2018-19, down from 48% a decade ago.”

These would seem like exactly the right market conditions for introducing PAYG on rail beyond London. Today’s passengers cannot easily predict their journeys in advance, but would like to be rewarded for frequency of travel; which, by choosing Rail, will help meet social and environmental goals. Granted, PAYG is not well suited to long-distance Rail if ticket prices are high, but there are many train journeys that are in the right price bracket.

In time, it would seem desirable to phase out season tickets. Ticketing should be tailored to the increasingly flexible patterns of work: perhaps for a specified number of days per month or the use of digital carnet tickets (to be enabled prior to departure). It would seem that smartphone apps are ideal for handling this.

Flexibility is also required within each day. Passengers travelling out in off peak times frequently don’t know until they start their return journey whether it will be peak or off-peak. In addition, designations of peak and off-peak are complex, localised and require further study.

A PAYG solution which focuses primarily on the gate line may limit subsequent progress. Mobile ticketing has an important role to play. It provides the means to offer a variety of ticket types on a single device and is comparatively easily updated. It also offers much greater flexibility for passengers travelling from unmanned stations, where gate lines don’t generally feature, and ticket machines are frequently vandalized. Another benefit of mobile ticketing is the quality of travel data that can be collected (while respecting passenger privacy).

We have recently been advising three UK Sub-national Transport Bodies (STBs) and recently facilitated a transport operator workshop to discuss options for fare collection and transport payments. The thing that the operators seemed most excited about was PAYG.  The kind where customers just turn up and travel without having to worry about the tariffs in advance and trusting that they will be charged a fair price. Inevitably, the discussions dipped into which technologies are good at this and which are bad, but the fact remains, they are clear what their customers want and truly believe that by giving them what they want, they will receive increased ridership in return.

Clearly, this is what Transport for London already provides and their offering is slowly extending out from London into the SE region, for example to Gatwick Airport. However, the open-payment-based PAYG models (using contactless bank cards) are limited in the amounts up to which fares can be aggregated before payment is taken. This is for reasons of risk of payment for the journey never being received, but it also makes sense from the point of view of the customer who does not want to travel on trains all day not knowing how many hundreds of pounds they will be charged at the end and they also want to benefit from any available capping of fares.

What is needed is flexibility. Open-loop transit payments are better than conventional card-based transport cards for travelling within cities. As we have said before, open-loop transit payment suffers from the passenger identifier (their bank card) being tightly coupled to just one of their payment mechanisms (one of their bank accounts). We have been exploring other mobile-based solutions with the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) recently and are hopeful that such customer-centric alternatives will emerge soon.

If you’re interested in finding out more, please contact: sales@chyp.com

Merchants, payments and the open banking ecosystem

A major focus for the entire merchant payments ecosystem in the coming year, will be the new threats, opportunities and players in the emerging open banking world. Starting with the U.K.’s move to open banking in January (the implementation of the Competition and Market Authority’s “remedies”, or the “CM9”) and moving ahead with PSD2 across Europe, the ability for trusted organisations to access consumer bank accounts to not only obtain transaction information but also to instruct payments, will inevitably change the landscape.
 
There are new opportunities for acquirers to become broad-spectrum merchant service providers (MSPs) to facilitate interaction between the open banking infrastructure and the merchant community. This very appealing vision of the future (for merchants) will draw them towards a once in a generation change at point of sale. Merchants can easily afford to incentivise customers to switch to account-to-account “instant payments” and at the same time offer considerable customisation based on customer account data.
 
Merchants definitely need some help, and it’s not all about payments. A recent Consult Hyperion survey found that more than 90% of merchants want to use PSD2 to reduce card fees, three-quarters of them also want to use it to reduce the impact of fraud and data breaches. An Accenture survey last year also found that half of the retailers they surveyed want to use customers’ bank account data to provide special offers and customised services at POS.
 
Apart from anything else, we expect to see a resurgence of interest in the “decoupled debit” proposition whereby platform-provided strong authentication to retailer apps will allow them to bypass the existing card infrastructure (with some projections indicating that a third of European card volume could disappear in the coming years) and perhaps even the physical POS itself. It’s easy to imagine self-scanning around the supermarket and hanging up the scanner at the end, to see the store app popping up on the customer phone with the total, prompting touch ID to confirm, and the merchant instructing an instant payment from customer account to merchant account.
 
As a customer, the instant payment proposition seems just as familiar as a debit proposition: customer walks out of the merchant and the money walks out of the customers account. The fact that it never goes near the existing rails isn’t something a customer knows nor cares about. This, as is often pointed out (by me), is a great opportunity for new players (eg, Google, Apple, Facebook and so on) to join the ecosystem. These are players with a business model built on data, not merchant service charges, and thus the business models in the ecosystem will reorient. This was one of the key themes picked up at last year’s Merchant Payment Ecosystem conference in Berlin, and I wrote at the time that my impression was that some of the big plays coming would be big data, analytics and machine learning.
 
Having said that the existing rails may be bypassed, open banking also provides an opportunity for the schemes to reinvent themselves and their propositions. (As we think that the UK is about to become an interesting, exciting and unpredictable laboratory experiment in open banking, it seems to us that Mastercard’s work with VocaLink should be a focus of industry attention in this regard.) After all, a payment scheme isn’t just a data switch that connects consumers, banks, merchants and retailers. If it was, there wouldn’t be any. Rates, rules and rights are fields in which Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Discover et al have decades of experience to leverage through both their existing relationships and the new ones that will arise.
 
The retailers themselves, especially the millions of small retailers, will also benefit from this transition because a variety of new products and services will spring up to help them to manage their bank accounts, funding requirements and general financial services needs. I’m no expert on small business financing but the ability to see the details of a retailer’s bank account will surely lead to new opportunities for specialist financial services providers.
 
All things considered, 2018 is going to be a pretty interesting year and we are very much looking forward to learning about the new possibilities at Merchant Payment Ecosystem 2018 in Berlin. If you want to meet me or our Principal Consultant in the POS field, Gary Munro, at the the event then just drop us a note and we’ll see you there.

Using Big Data to Identify Fraudulent Transactions

With Thanksgiving upon us and the drive for mass consumption to continue through the Black Friday and Cyber Monday purchasing frenzy in the US, we regularly hear the comment from US merchants that the migration to EMV (contact) payment cards has driven the increase in Card Not Present (CNP) fraud. I guess to a small extent they’re correct; smartcards are more difficult to clone so the fraudsters have been forced to look for alternative sources of income. However, I would suggest that the main driver has been the increase in the efficiency with which fraudsters collect and use PII (personal identifiable information) and account information.

The days of shoulder-surfing people at the ATM for their PIN and/or stealing a phone for the PII and account information stored within it are confined to the minor or opportunistic criminals. Today the specifications for PANs, test PAN numbers and real PII and account information from data breaches within the many high street names, can be purchased on the internet. These are used by organized criminals as the basis for attacks in which a range of PAN and CVV numbers are sent to multiple merchants to identify valid combinations. Valid account information is the then used to procure goods from a range of merchants.

Luckily for the merchants and banks that Consult Hyperion work with, there is a wealth of information available to determine whether or not a transaction is valid. The mobile network operators, either directly or through brokers such as Payfone (USA) and Enstream (Canada), can provide the location of the account holder’s mobile phone, which should be close to the location from which the payment transaction is initiated. The account holder’s behavioral patterns can be monitored to determine whether or not the transaction is out of character. Device fingerprinting companies such as InAuth and mSignia can tell them if the transaction has been initiated from a new device, or one with odd characteristics, such as a foreign keyboard.

However, not many companies understand the scope of the information that they have in their possession or how it can be used to mitigate the risks associated with fraudulent transactions. Recognizing the opportunity, a number of third parties are offering AI based services to help such organizations to use the patterns in their data to identify fraudulent transactions. Consult Hyperion’s customers have benefited from a more rigorous analysis of the data in their possession and how it is generated, before they started working with these third parties.

My colleagues at New York and Guildford, UK, have a detailed understanding of the messages passed between the Merchant and Issuer and all parties in between in a retail payment transaction. Over the last 15 years, we have used this knowledge to de-bug or optimize the flow of information between all parties. More recently we have been asked to evaluate how patterns in the data can be used to identify fraudulent transactions. You would be surprised how often the PAN number is included in the transaction message. Comparing each instance of the PAN will allow you to check that the criminals have not tampered with those messages.

The results of our analysis helped our clients to focus their engagement with prospective vendors. They now have a better understanding of how the different parts of their authorization systems interact with each other, what data can be monitored and why. Their initial discussions with third parties have moved from “Is this possible?”, to “This is what we want to do”.

I hope that you have a Great Thanksgiving if you are in the US or London this weekend and that between them, Uber, Equifax et al have left you with sufficient credible payment credentials to allow you to enjoy the consumer fest that follows. Me, personally, I am heading somewhere I can be off-grid for the weekend, if only to stay away from all those tempting offers.

The Challenge of Delivering mPOS Services through Off-The-Shelf Mobile Devices

 

The last few months have been exciting if, like Consult Hyperion, you are attracted by the mobile POS (mPOS) sector. We’ve seen significant announcements from Mastercard and Worldpay and heard interesting rumours about the current work within the PCI Security Council, suggesting that the use of off-the-shelf mobile devices as card acceptance devices is likely to happen in the near future.

Targeted at small to medium sized and mobile merchants who do most of their business in cash or cheques, but have the occasional customer who prefers to transact by card, the mPOS dongle (card reading device) has been seen by these merchants as their first venture into the “expensive” world of credit and debit cards. However, the cost of the dongle and the power required to run it are often cited as barriers to the adoption of mPOS services.

Magnetic stripe dongles are effectively given away; their cost refunded through reductions in the fees levied against the initial transactions; their power derived from the phone, when inserted in the audio port. Chip & PIN dongles are more complex and so more expensive requiring their own power supply or battery. The business case to subsidize the additional cost of these devices through reductions in transaction fees is more challenging.

The higher cost and more power-hungry elements of a Chip & PIN dongle are the display and keypad. If we can replace these components with the capabilities of an off-the-shelf smartphone, can we bring down the cost and power requirements of the Chip & PIN dongle closer to that of the magnetic stripe version? If we can deliver the service entirely through a mobile application, can we simplify our distribution channels? These are the sort of questions that get the team at Consult Hyperion excited as they present big information security challenges, which we like.

Generic, off-the-shelf mobile devices have none of the physical and electronic countermeasures designed into a payment terminal to secure the personal and account information in the payment transaction. Nor do they have the specific assets required by the payment scheme such as the secure PIN entry capabilities. Equally, the Acquirer doesn’t have any control over the other applications loaded onto the phone or tablet, which could include malware designed to impact the performance of their mPOS service or monitor any communications to or from it.

So, the challenge is; can we develop applications for generic off-the-shelf mobile devices that deliver, as far as practical, similar levels of security to the hardware in the payment terminal, whilst withstanding repeated attack from hackers interested in capturing assets that they could use to attack the payment schemes’ international networks?

There are many companies delivering solutions which could protect the mPOS application against some of these threats and/or give the Acquirer a level of assurance about the identity of the individuals involved in the transaction. However, no one solution is likely to deliver against all of the PCI’s security standards, should they be published, and not every solution works on every mobile device.

So, the team designing your mPOS solution for off-the-shelf mobile devices must understand in detail the threats to which the application will be exposed, the most cost-effective countermeasures against those threats, how they work together and how they need to evolve in response to new fraudulent attacks. Experience would suggest that they will need to understand in detail the operation of the EMV payment application, transaction security and the smartphone operating system, whilst having considerable experience of implementing the best-of-breed information security tools.

People with such experience are few and far between. Many are my friends and colleagues, which makes my job interesting, exciting and rewarding. It looks like a busy end to the year!

Why can’t digital identity be easy, like payments?

 

I have often seen payments (especially the card networks) used as an analogy for digital identity. In fact, I brought up the analogy myself at the fun OIX meeting in Amsterdam last Thursday. Certainly when you look at something like GOV.UK Verify there are some striking comparisons:

  • A central scheme with a brand, rule book, governance body and switching infrastructure (i.e. Verify itself),
  • Issuers (i.e. the private sector identity providers), and
  • Merchant acquirers (well merchants anyway, in the form of government relying parties).

We have to keep reminding ourselves that these card networks did not appear overnight. What we have today is a result of 60 or more years of evolution. Admittedly the pace of change has increased significantly but we need to recognise it often takes time to build scale and gain adoption. There are special cases of course. PayPal, for example, grew out of a significant pain point within eBay – which gave it immediate scale.

There is however one key difference between payments and identity. You cannot sell stuff online without a means to receive payment and normally that means integrating with a payments scheme that works for your customers. You can however sell stuff without leveraging an external identity scheme – you just give the user an ID and password specific to the service. This is however bad news for users – resulting in the fragmented personal data and password mess we find ourselves in today. There needs to be an incentive for merchants to do something different to this. Perhaps merchants need a big stick? Like GDPR for example. Merchants are going to have to be a lot more careful with personally identifiable information in the future. One thing they could do is use an identity provider to hold that data and in the process reduce their risk.

Individuals also need to realise that their personal data is valuable, just like their money. That is going to require some education because so far they’ve been taught to share data without considering the consequences.

In the UK, arguably the most significant digital identity initiative over the past 5 years has been the GOV.UK Verify programme. They are at the stage where they need to grow. The scheme is up and running and so they are now busily signing up citizens and services. It is a critical point in its development. We are very pleased that David Rennie who leads industry engagement on the programme will be taking time out of his busy schedule to join us at Tomorrow’s Transactions. Come along and find out how it is going.

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