Reflections from EFMA Cards & Payments Conference
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6 October 2011Zilvinas Bareisis
The conference season continues with gusto. After a hectic week in Sibos, I found myself last week on a Eurostar heading to Paris for a three-day Cards and Payments conference organised by EFMA, where I was invited to speak on Day 1. I don't know if others have the same experience, but I view these events as falling into one of two categories. I call the first category "trade shows", which may have a conference running in parallel, but the main attraction (at least for me) is the exhibition floor with its many participants. Usually my diary during those events is full of meetings, which is a great way to catch up with clients, prospects and industry experts. Personally, I put Sibos and BAI Retail Delivery into that category - I know that both have a strong conference programme running in parallel to the exhibition, but I am lucky if I get to attend any of the sessions. The other category is a true "conference", where the main attraction is the content of the presentations and the ability to interact during the breaks with the speakers as well as other participants. I have to say that EFMA's Cards and Payments conference in Paris was one of the best I've attended in recent years. The organisers, and Julia O'Hegarty and Patrick Desmarès in particular, have done an excellent job in attracting interesting speakers and a great audience - over 360 participants from 40 countries! The conference started with the Leadership Forum, which had many of the major industry names among the presenters and panelists, such as Peter Ayliffe, CEO of Visa Europe, Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell, formerly of ECB, Gerard Hartsink, Chairman of EPC, Rita Wezenbeek, Head of Payments Unit, Directorate General for Competition at the European Commission, senior representatives from MasterCard and PayPal, and a panel of esteemed bankers. Annich McIntosh, Managing Editor of C&M Publications did a fantastic job at chairing the session and moderating the discussions. Here are a few of my key takeaways from those discussions: - SEPA is still a success, but we need patience. Much has already been achieved and the march towards common standards will continue irrespective of what happens in the eurozone markets. - Competition between schemes is heating up. Visa Europe re-affirmed its European status and independence from Visa Inc, and announced new solutions, such as card-based P2P payments and secure digital wallets for the banks. MasterCard talked about "the new retail world" and their partnership with Google Wallet. PayPal also talked about the need to create a new retail experience and re-assured banks that they are "moving into physical retail space, not banking." - Despite this increasing competition, European Commission would "welcome new card schemes" in Europe, particularly because of "risks of some domestic schemes leaving the market due to investments needed for Sepa compliance". However, EPC said they had "no policy or mandate" to implement an additional European card scheme, leaving it firmly in the hands of the market. - Of course, the topic of interchange received quite a bit of attention. Many issuers in the room must have breathed a collective sigh of relief to hear that Europe is unlikely to follow in the footsteps of Australia and the US and that there would be "no regulatory initiative at EU level." Throughout the three days, contactless, mobile and payment innovation continued to be strong themes. My own presentation was on how mobile financial services can help meet diverse customer payments needs. However, for any of the innovations to take off, security and fraud issues need to be addressed and those were discussed at length as well. A presentation on a fingerprint-based biometric authentication solution sparked a witty exchange in the audience via Twitter. If a finger replaces a card, do the hands become a wallet? And if all 10 fingers are linked to different cards, how do you remember which is which? By tattooing the respective brands on the fingertips? :) One of the speakers in the fraud session was a great example of the organisers' resourcefullness and creativity. We heard from Elliott Castro, an ex-fraudster, who has been convicted and served time in the UK for his fraudulent activities in the past. Elliott is now working with the Financial Services sector to help improve security practices. His tip? Banks should vary the questions they ask an individual for authentication. Many of his schemes relied on him knowing what a given bank is going to ask him and obtaining relevant personal details from his victims. It was three days well spent - I learned, I got food for thought, I made new contacts. That's exactly what all conferences should be about. I am off to BAI Retail Delivery in Chicago next week. Celent Banking Team will be well represented with many of my colleagues attending. Our diaries are filling up quickly, but we still have a few slots available for meetings. If you are going and would like to meet with any of us, drop us a line. See you in Chicago!