Money20/20 USA 2019: The Future of Money Here and Now
Money20/20 USA has been a key fixture on my autumn travel schedule since the very first event back in 2012. When the show began eight years ago, the year 2020 seemed a distant prospect and a good reference point to think about the future of money. Yet, Money20/20 is just as relevant with the year 2020 around the corner as it was in 2012 – it was always more about the “20/20 vision” rather than a specific year.
Celent again had three representatives at the event – Dan Latimore, Alenka Grealish, and me. Our colleagues from Oliver Wyman were also again prominent on stage, delivering insightful content sessions.
The advantage of running a global event is not only the global insights into the industry zeitgeist, but also the cross-pollination of organisational ideas and best practices. It seemed that the USA event this year borrowed a few ideas from Europe, particularly around the event layout. Instead of having content sessions across multiple floors and different ballrooms, like in previous years, this time the various stages were set up around the perimeter of the exhibit hall. That made it easier to pop into different content sessions in between discussions with the exhibitors, and it certainly created a lot more buzz and energy on the exhibit floor. I don’t know if the number of attendees has been officially announced, but it certainly felt very busy, as always.
Keeping busy is never a problem for us at Money20/20; meetings with clients and other industry experts start at breakfast and continue late into the evening. I also try to squeeze at least a few content and keynote sessions in between. However, as I’ve often said in the past, there is no way for any one person to absorb everything that Money20/20 has to offer, and the takeaways are inevitably personal.
In the same blog last year, I noted significant buzz at last year’s event around identity and authentication, and that buzz showed no signs of subsiding this year. It seemed like every other exhibitor had something to do with biometrics, identity, authentication, and security. And it’s not just the exhibitors – there were content tracks dedicated to Cybersecurity and Fraud, and Digital Trust, with many speakers sharing their experiences and debating the best approaches going forward.
At the heart of the debates is a fundamental and philosophical question – who is best placed to guard my identity? There are those that are firmly in the “trusted third party” camp, i.e. it should be a service provided by third parties, such as banks or governments. Others argue that “it must be individuals themselves”, i.e. identity should be self-sovereign. There are also different options and approaches available within each camp. To help our clients navigate this space, we just published a “primer” report on Customer Identity and Authentication: Core Capabilities and Vendor Landscape.
Of course, the exhibit floor at a trade show is not always the most accurate measure of what matters. There were a number of (still) relatively small companies with large and impressive booths, while quite a few large firms at the heart of payments and banking (e.g. ACI, FIS, Stripe, Visa, and others) were present at the event, but not exhibiting.
I also noted last year how Money20/20 has outgrown its initial focus on payments and fintech. The conversations on stage now reflect the key issues debated by society at large, such as financial inclusion and education or the importance of trust and diversity. This year, a new topic has been added to the debate – whether we are heading towards another financial crisis, and if so, how ready we are.
Fintechs like Chime and others have already demonstrated that you don’t need to be a bank to deliver banking services, as long as you can reach a community of users and have a clear value proposition. This year, Uber announced launching Uber Money, an integrated suite of financial products, from debit and credit cards to Uber Wallet, Uber Cash, and Uber Pay, designed to benefit both the drivers and the riders. For example, drivers earn cash back rewards on gas purchases, have real time access to their earnings on the platform, and can even benefit from $100 overdraft facility available to buy gas and continue earning.
One of the most anticipated keynotes was an interview with David Marcus, Head of Calibra. David argued that we need to “change how money moves around the world” and shared his optimism for Libra’s prospects. According to David, the association meeting that took place two weeks before the event was a “productive day” and the Libra association now has 21 members that are “passionate” and “know what they are getting into”. He also noted that “regulatory conversations are constructive” and expressed confidence that “banks will join Libra” once there is more regulatory clarity. At the same time, David acknowledged the challenges faced by Libra, and admitted that “the journey will take time”, and that the headlines may “get worse before they get better”.
Thank you to all who generously shared their time and insights in our meetings. And thank you to the Money20/20 team for continuing to inspire us all and for our ongoing partnership. I look forward to Money20/20 events in 2020!