Vendorcom’s Connecting Payments conference round-up

PaymentEye attended Vendorcom’s Connecting Payments conference in London. The event’s speakers provided interesting insights into everything from trends and shape of the payments industry, the virtues of Blockchain technology and potential of data in retail.

Geoff Barraclough, a payments observer and consultant, kicked things off with his presentation Making sense of FinTech & Payments. He started as no payments presentation does, with a reference to Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant, The Fat Duck. Blumenthal once remarked that people’s dining experience was frequently ruined by the bill, or worrying about the bill.

The point he was making was that the payments experience is usually the most important part of most processes, be it food, retail or transport. It is so important it can have a retrospective effect – if the payment experience is bad, then everything that came before it will also become bad.

And if the experience is bad, not only does it taint everything before it, it is also highly likely to put people off in the future. Geoff mentioned the example of Apple Pay usage on TfL’s network. First time usage was very high as everyone was excited to try the new tech, but inevitable delays caused by TouchID not working first time or as quickly as contactless cards meant that people were put off using the tech a second time to avoid the social embarrassment, a factor that Geoff says should not be underestimated when it comes to considering what makes a particular payment method successful. He therefore found it amusing that MasterCard’s recent ‘Fare Free Monday’ offer encouraged people to use Apple Pay, which clearly isn’t best suited to the pressured experience of tapping in and out of public transport.

He concluded his presentation by stressing that the winner of FInTech will be one who manages to deliver real value to merchants and customers and cited PayPal as the perfect example i.e. merchants sell more with PayPal because customers like to use that method.

Following Geoff was Colm Lyon, founder of Fire Financial Services; chairman of Fintech and Payments Association of Ireland and the former founder and CEO of Realex Payments. He spoke about The Challenge & Opportunities of Innovating in Payments, exploring the idea of the access and service model and even discussing Blockchain. He said the technology is a “great catalyst” but at its own expense since it actually encourages other systems to evolve faster than if Blockchain wasn’t there.

After a brief coffee break Adam Blowman took to the podium to discuss An Options-based Approach to Successful Payment Partnerships. His presentation was all about creating an ecosystem and partnerships that are founded on trust. He also took some time to underline that the industry is experiencing “a tremendous amount of change and there is no certainty about the next big thing”. He said we should be “admitting that we just don’t know what will be the hot new tech in 1,2,3, or 5 years”.

Adam cited examples such as Uber and Airbnb who have managed to create successful partnerships and relationships based on an open/sharing economy. They possess two key elements according to Adam – tech openness and commercial openness. Both opened their APIs to developers and ‘democratised’ their sectors. Ultimately this led to them becoming a taxi company that owns zero taxis and an accommodation company that doesn’t own any accommodation.

After a quick spot of lunch, Nick Williamson spoke about Blockchains Unlocked – Fixing the Broken Processes in Payments. He said that “Blockchain will do for trust networks what the cloud did for computers”. Interestingly, particularly in the context of it being a payment conference, Nick said that “Blockchain isn’t fundamentally about payments” but rather everything in payments’ orbit. The technology can help smooth out the bumps and friction around payments and make it easier for those interested in the field.

Michael Lynch, chief strategy officer at InAuth, carried on in the vein of security with his presentation on Securing Remote Payments. He discussed the ongoing transformation of how people access financial services. First it was face to face, then it moved to the telephone, the computer and now most recently mobile. He also highlighted the key issues affecting financial services including the increasing risk of fraud – according to WorldPay some 75 per cent of organisations expect to see a rise in mobile fraud, and Michael believes the stat is probably even higher than that in reality.

He also underscored the need to simplify processes when there are still 25 per cent of people who abandon transactions and cater to the consumers’ demand of being able to have the same functionality on a mobile as they have online.

Michael Wilkinson of Invaya closed the conference by discussing how consumers should be completely in control of their data, who can access it and when. He raised the idea of constructing the digital self, an Avatr. For example, a customer walks into a store, and turns on his Avatr via mobile. This Avatr possesses all the data that the person is comfortable with sharing at that particular location at that particular moment in time.

That data can be used to enable a new customer experience, creating a totally ‘personalised and contextualised’ payment experience. Michael also highlighted that the changing face of retail sees more and more people integrating their mobiles into in-store purchases be it through researching the product or conducting a price check.

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