Money2020: It's All About Managing Expectations
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Back in September I wrote a blog post about the start of the conference season. I am pleased to say that the extensive travel is nearing the end - four major events down, one more to go, as I am off to CARTES in Paris next week. Just last week I came back from a multi-stop trip to the US. I first went to Las Vegas, to check out Money2020, the "new kid on the block" of the conference circuit. From there, I flew to Phoenix, AZ to join the ATM, Debit, and Prepaid Forum, where I moderated a panel discussion on merchant-funded rewards. Once again, thank you to my panelists from Affinity Solutions, Cardlytics, FreeMonee and Linkable Networks! It's such a pity that the timing of these two events overlapped considerably this year. As I've written in the past, ATM, Debit and Prepaid Forum in recent years has become a "must-go" event for anyone with interest in cards and retail payments. The introduction of Money2020 that same week presented a dilemma for many, and I know I wasn't alone in trying to juggle and attend both. I knew the Forum would be good, but Money2020 also promised to be good, very good indeed. The marketing machine of Money2020 dazzled us for 6 months or so coming up to the event with promises of outstanding keynote presentations, networking parties, and many other delights. So, how was it in the end? Well, it certainly had a wow factor. Its 2,000 attendees or so seemed to represent the "who is who" of the payments industry, although clearly with a bias towards alternative payments. You could almost touch the energy, excitement and buzz in the air. After all, it even had its own Money2020 theme song! However, in the end I couldn't help but feel somewhat disappointed. The big announcement from Google was that "there will be an announcement next month"; the keynote address from MCX turned out to be a merchant panel moderated by MCX itself, after which many of us still left the room wondering what MCX is or is hoping to be. Of course, we all understand that players don't want to reveal their cards before they are ready and the realities of life are such that even the best planned announcements occassionally get delayed. However, the favoured conference format outside of the keynote speeches seemed to be panels, where many speakers appeared to be reluctant to go beyond re-stating the obvious or promotion of their own solutions. Don't get me wrong, Money2020 was a good event and the organisers deserve a lot of credit for it. I did meet people and I did learn - two of my objectives for any conference. My relative disappointment only comes from measuring it against my expectations, overly inflated by the event's marketing machine. My old consulting mentor's advice to "underpromise and overdeliver" seems applicable to the event organisers as well. The next year's dates have been announced and I was pleased to see that I would be able to give my full attention to both ATM, Debit and Prepaid Forum and Money 2020. Or even "Money 2020 v2.0", as the marketeers are already calling it.