[Dave Birch] Earlier in the year, Jacqueline Chilton from Glenbrook had a nice write up from CTIA and I remember making a note of it because of one particular point that she made. She reported on a mobile payments panel session, saying that:
In the end, there was general agreement that someone would make a big bet investment and turn the tide.
[From Glenbrook Partners: Report from CTIA – Mobile Payments Eventually]
I’m sure she’s right, because that’s the way of these things. Someone needs to be the American Express, the Apple or the Walmart that animates the new business models made possible by the new technologies. But who? If I actually knew, naturally, I wouldn’t be doing this job, but I think that some of our recent experiences might allow us to do better than random guesses or non-commital management consultancy blandishments. So here’s a bit of informed speculation. If it’s going to be a big bet investment, then it has to be a game changer, not simply the shift of some existing payment instruments over the handset.
Could banks themselves be the game changers? Other people are starting to wonder what the world might look like if banks started breaking off from the international payment scheme networks and becoming their own networks. Banks like HSBC, Citi, Bank of America could simply operate their own payment schemes: they have enough customers. If WalMart took Citi cards, that’s a lot of volume. But it’s also a different basis for competition. As the literature tell us, “two-sided” payment networks have to balance the interests of customers, retailers and banks to work. In practice, this means that the banks (who owned the networks) structure the business. One of the effects of this has been to send a portion of the merchant service charge (MSC) levied on retailers back to the issuers in the form of interchange. Banks then use some of this interchange to incentivise customers (I’m happy to say: my Barclaycard Paypass card is currently giving me 2% cashback on petrol and supermarket transactions). This is the source of a great deal of friction between retailers and issuing banks (not to mention legal action and regulation around the world).
But if a network isn’t competing to sign up issuer banks, perhaps the incentives change. This might lead to the development of real value-added services for merchants (data mining, e.g.) or to more meaningful product differentiation (not just variations in rewards programs) for consumers. In short, shaking up the structure of the payments field might encourage payment companies to do a little more thinking outside the box.
[From Credit Slips: The Visa IPO]
It seems to me, though, that banks have a quite enough on their plates at present and this kind of big strategic decision must be hovering around bottom of the list of strategic decisions that need to be made real soon now. So who else could be the game changer?
Continue reading “Movers and shakers”