SMART MONEY: What Was Trending at Money20/20

I recently attended Money 20/20, the largest FinTech and payments conference in North America, featuring over 1,000 exhibitors, speakers, and workshops. In scale, scope, and in the learning opportunities it offered, it was mind-blowing. The CEOs of Paypal, Nasdaq, and Citigroup were there, but what I found the most fascinating was learning about the future of payments. Global Co-GM of Samsung Pay Thomas Ko, among others, set the direction for how money will be moved between payer and payee in the very near future.

Imagine watching an advert on TV for Tide detergent and launching an app called Soundpay: The app hears the sound from the ad, deducts the $2.59 from your bank account and the next day your Tide detergent is at your front door. The future? In fact, it’s the present; this app is already available in Canada.

How many of you have Apple Pay, Worldpay, Samsung Pay or Google Wallet? According to the MEF Global mobile money report, 69% of mobile media users carried out a banking activity via mobile, while 66% have carried out some form of transaction. To be honest, though I like to think of myself as proactive with adopting new technology, I only got Apple Pay two weeks ago. But in just those two weeks, I’m hooked – and I’m frustrated when I come across a retailer who’s not using Apple Pay.

Besides the big five mobile payment apps, some of the best proprietary payment apps are combining loyalty points and payments, which totally makes sense. Starbucks is processing about 8 million mobile transactions a week from 16 million users - and it opens up automatically when I just walk past a Starbucks. I love it; who has time to waste looking for that one app when you have a hundred of them on your phone?

            Money 20/20 was completely overwhelming, in a good way; here some of the most interesting insights I came away with:

  1. Card-less and screen-less transactions are the here and now, as physical cards and computer screens are increasingly being replaced by mobile payment systems.

2.      Physical gift cards and other prepaid cards are being replaced by digital and virtual versions that are more convenient for customers to purchase, and eliminate the need to carry physical cards everywhere. I have experienced this firsthand; I just finished a tennis lesson and was walking off the court when my coach shouted back to me, “Hey, no “Happy Birthday” for me?” I winked and said “I didn’t forget!” picked up my phone, logged into Amazon and sent him a gift card before he got off the court. Saved the day!

3.      Stressfreemoney.com; prepaid branded Mastercards that become a payment vehicle for payroll globally. Watch out, Ceridien!

4.      Bitcoin was another hot topic at Money20/20 this year, with an even greater focus on the blockchain: If anyone understands Bitcoin’s blockchain technology and how it will impact the financial services industry in the next few years, please, please, please explain it to me!

5.      Financial inclusion – how to deliver new financial services into mass markets that lack conventional banking infrastructure – was a hot topic.

Of course, every innovation presents new opportunities for career criminals, too. With the rise of so-called omni-channel comes omni-channel fraud, which throws up a range of new challenges for the innovators in this sector; the more common digital payments and transactions become, the more motivated hackers will be find ways to breach their security.

So, it’s goodbye to countertop cash registers and paper cash (just as we in Canada were getting used to plastic-coated currency) and hello to the cashless future. Just be careful that your payment apps aren’t launched this evening as you’re watching TV, as you might find a stack of products at your door tomorrow with a big bill hanging over you.