Mobile Money Canada 2013 – Retail and Payments Experience of the Future


Karena de Souza, Shift Thought distributor in Canada shares her thoughts on the payments scene in Canada having recently attended Mobile Money Canada 2013. Mobile technology is starting to go mainstream. Learn how Canadian innovations such as Mintchip are developing shoulder-to-shoulder with new offers from global players such as PayPal and MasterCard.

The most recent Mobile Money Canada conference, chaired by Brent Ho-Young took place on November 13, 2013. It brought together thought leaders across commerce, mobile, retail and technology in a discussion on the challenges in accelerating the acceptance of Mobile Commerce into mainstream Canada. A well designed agenda included a number of TedX sized presentations, interspersed with themed panel discussions.

Canada offers technologists and business a unique playground in which to experiment and fast-track consumer acceptance. With Canadians being an unusually tech-savvy population, platforms such as Interac launched and became mainstream ahead of their adoption in other countries. An enabling yet protective regulatory environment provides an umbrella within which local businesses, Telcos, payment processors and banks are free to partner and innovate.

Presentations built on recent announcements:


Rogers David Robinson presented the next generation of suretap wallet, offering Rogers customers an all-in-one branded Telco-based mobile money experience – from branded NFC enabled handset containing a secure SIM, with payment made from a Rogers’ branded prepaid MasterCard or retail gift card.

imageWe also heard about Ugo’s latest plans. A few days ago Loblaw, Canada’s largest retailer, joined Ugo as their first retail partner. Ugo claims to be Canada’s first open mobile wallet that offers multiple payment and loyalty as a single package. Two major banks are involved: PC Financial and TD Bank Group. Both MasterCard and Visa cards will be loaded.


imagePayPal showcased their cloud based app – a first aimed at masking ‘payment’ within the greater transaction ‘experience’. The use of BLE allows a new proposition – customers check-IN instead of checking out.


imageMintchip is an innovative offering from the Canadian Mint. We heard about  the MintChip Challenge: MintChip now in R&D stage has developers participating in a challenge to develop what aims to be the evolution of currency.


The panel on Mobile Commerce & Payments for Retailers chaired by Pierre Roberge engaged Tanbir Grover from Lowe’s, Nurez Khimji from Urban Barn, PC Financial’s Jimmy Dinh and SecureKey’s Christian Ali. Retail is embracing the reality of a connected customer base and extending ways to offer them a more complete shopping experience. A big challenge in this sector is how to cost-effectively integrate the various existing technologies and legacy infrastructures to present a seamless environment for the customer. Also, in a consumer culture that is getting used to ‘want it now’, virtual stores pose a challenge to physical delivery in a country the size of Canada, given the transportation infrastructure.

An engaging panel that included Blackberry, Visa and MasterCard – and a very entertaining Timothy Grayson from Canada Post – discussed the components necessary to achieve that tipping point in the Canadian market that will encourage consumers to gravitate towards mobile as their main choice for payment.

A number of initiatives appear to be aiming to break the Tap&Go resistance barrier by cajoling the client to park their many loyalty cards conveniently within one mobile wallet.

The evening was packed with presentations filled with interest, intellect and innovation. “3 Ways to Launder Mobile Money” caught my attention. Others were informative – the Kili POS and Vince Kadar’s review of Telepin’s global timeline.

But for me, the most compelling presentation of the evening was by Nicolas Dinh for MasterCard. It spoke to the spirit of innovation present in Canada, in the best traditions of a nation that has given the world technologies such as Interac and Blackberry.


The N>XT challenge sponsored by MasterCard resulted in many innovative ideas. Watching the presentation of a $10,000 check by Kevin Faragher of CIBC to the  Crescent School Coyotes was inspirational. These five 11th and 12th graders won the CIBC People’s Choice award. They had a waiter use his/her smartphone as a POS to calculate the tab, split it between the customers and then process the split payment from 4 different patrons using NFC technology.

I came away with 3 main impressions:

  • Mobile technology is seeping into the mainstream. Mobile operators and financial services providers have established good building blocks and infrastructure and are ready to partner with retail to extend the mobile experience into many areas of our lives.
  • Retailers are now on board to engage a customer base that is technically connected as they walk into the virtual and bricks & mortar stores. They have to work on joining the older vertical infrastructures behind the scenes so that the customer is presented with an integrated seamless shopping engagement – from the point of browsing, through shopping, payment to final physical delivery.
  • Canadian innovations such as the Mintchip and the Kili POS are well-poised to be potential enablers for a new shopping experience.


Karena de Souza is a forward thinking and entrepreneurial professional with a special interest in payment streams for small business. Karena’s focus on mobile finance blends the challenges and opportunites she faced as a small business owner in Canada with her experience using technology to facilitate financial services while at Morgan Stanley in New York. She graduated from the University of Westminster with a BSc (Hons) Mathematics and Computing.

Q&A from our “Disruptions in Digital Payments in China” webinar

Thanks very much to all of you who helped us to make this live webinar (our first!) a great success. With representation from over 20 countries, we received a number of questions and were not able to answer all of them in the time available. The post below addresses these and we hope you will find this useful. There is never just one point of view, and we would love to hear your comments and your unique ways of approaching the questions. If you missed it, catch the free replay here.


Q1: Is it advisable to partner with a Chinese company when seeking to enter this market?

A1: In general you may not have a choice in this. The question is with whom to partner and how to set it up so as to remain in control. An example is Yahoo China and Alipay. In Jack Ma’s speech at Stanford on May 14, 2013 he mentioned that Alipay digested Yahoo – they simply ate Yahoo and would not have been able to do their P-2-P advertisement platform without that.

This is a great question and to do full justice would probably need a session in itself. As a guideline, it depends on your industry, your ambitions and the roadmap you plan. Suffice it to say that I have seen careers made and broken largely due to the manner of handling this issue.

Q2: In your experience what is the biggest threat to successfully entering the Chinese market?

Timing and partnerships. Possibly in no other market could I say more strongly that a 360 degree understanding and a watching brief is critical. You cannot afford to walk into this blindfolded without opening yourself and your company to high risks, neither can you afford to do nothing. Understanding, anticipating and planning is highly important. It is equally important to understand Chinese culture and history as much as you deeply absorbing knowledge on the payments ecosystem and timeline.

Products and services must be made fit for the unique expectation of the market. For instance the clean streamlined experience of Amazon is not what is preferred – online shoppers want a busy, “happening” website. Similarly, there is a very different online-offline-CSR engagement in the consumer journey that one needs to learn.

There is a window of opportunity that must be well understood. We have found that players who act too soon have faced problems. On the other hand due to the need for domestic partners, it is advisable to act before all the “good partners” are taken.

Q3: How stable is the regulatory landscape in China? Is it prone to sudden changes?

In general it has taken many years so far for changes expected and talked about to actually happen. For instance I recall I first studied proposed regulations for licensing third party payment providers way back in 2006. They actually came out in 2010.

Similarly it is not uncommon to have a mass rollout, big commitments and plans in a specific direction only to see it overturned (example RF-SIM). For players who have built these products specifically for the Chinese market this can represent a serious setback.

Q4: Who are the companies to watch in this space?

I touched on the main players in the China payments ecosystem during the webinar, so for those who have not heard it, it could be useful at this point to listen to the free replay here. Of course our 295 page “Digital Money in China 2013” viewport offers you the whole list of players, partnerships and initiatives with our best understanding of their importance and traction. There is so much happening in parallel and there is a high degree of cross-over. What we tend to do is to note how the payments gatekeepers are proceeding – CUP, CM, The big 4, the big 3 large PSPs and more.

Q5: What are the best partners to work with?

This depends on who you are and what is required by the regulatory environment. If you are to apply for a license there is a lead time involved.

A good example is Western Union’s recent thrust into China in partnership with ICBC and CUP.

Q6: How should we interpret Digital Payments in Hong Kong? How does the Chinese government and market incorporate the progress and regulation of that market?

The webinar only dealt with Mainland China. We plan a separate webinar that will address Hong Kong, China as also other countries in the region. In general the approach is One Country- Two Systems. This is why Hong Kong, China has a critical role to play in digital payments relating to Mainland China. More when we tackle this topic. Please register to our website (registration is free, takes seconds, only requires email address and provides you a much greater access to the overall content on our portal) so we can send on an invite to you once plans are in place.

Q7: Would you clarify your definitions for "digital wallet" and "digital money", thanks!

The Digital Money domain has been described by Shift Thought™ as a way to understand the ecosystem, products, services and infrastructure involved in the digitisation and transfer of value. We use this term to refer to a host of financial services that use innovative alternative channels, technologies, providers and payment instruments.

For a full definition and understanding of our approach please see Blog #3: What is digital money?

The Digital Wallet domain has been described by Shift Thought™ as a means of understanding the whole range of stored value products aimed at digitising value and enabling the owner to utilise it in a way that offers a superior experience as compared to traditional payment methods. Services utilise an account and stored value or e-money that may be utilised across various channels and services. This includes prepaid cards, vouchers, mobile wallets, e-wallets and more.

Q8: Is there any real digital money in China (I mean digital money that is not dependent on bank account or credit card)? All mobile payments solution are NOT based on digital money.

This is a good point. Please look at my response to Q7 on what is Digital Money earlier. We track an extended set of initiatives to do justice to our definition. However, specifically to answer yours, there is E-money that has been around for a while now. Prepaid cards, both open and close loop exist as discussed in our Webinar and covered in detail in our Viewport. More importantly, digital wallets and mobile wallets are very much in use.

You are right that all mobile payments are NOT based on e-money and a number of them require a connection to a bank account or card account. In the way we cover each of the 50 key initiatives on our portal, you’ll see our icon and descriptions that exactly show what payment instruments are supported for Senders and Receivers of each kind of service.

I hope this answers your question. Please feel free to reach out for a quick chat to discuss further. Also, this is not set in stone. We found an absence of accurate definitions in the marketplace and in those cases provided our own. Where possible we comply with the way in which CGAP, GSMA, Mobey Forum, NFC Forum and other key bodies and thought leaders already use these terms.

Q9: After utilising your China 2013 viewport, I also obtained your comprehensive Indonesia 2013 report. I noticed how in each country, both APAC members have approached and regulated differently - How would Shift Thought help a potential customer navigate these different markets?

That is a great question and thank you for the compliments on our viewports. Shift Thought is fortunate to have compared 19 different APAC countries in terms of regulatory approach as well as the predictor framework we use to project the growth of each of the 32 services we class as Digital Money.

We maintain a highly comprehensive knowledge base of regulations that impact on all these services, and understand how they may apply from each perspective. This, along with our deep understanding of player competencies puts us in a great place when we consult with large mobile operator, banking and money transfer groups in search of the right partners.

We’ll talk more on this in the Indonesia webinar. If you pop me an email on which countries you want to know about first I’ll consider this as we prioritise the webinars scheduled.

Q10: Charmaine - do you see an opportunity for mobile point-of-sale devices targeting Merchants in China much the same way that Square has addressed small Merchant needs in the United States?

Absolutely, and as is always the case in China, one of these providers currently cutting their teeth in the highest populated country in the world could well become a challenger to the Square, iZettle and huge number of mPOS providers currently starting of from the East. But it’s not just China. We’ve seen very interesting and innovative approaches elsewhere in APAC. This blog is getting too large, maybe a separate post later?

Q11: Sub Saharan Africa population is forecasted to reach China's in 20 years. What similarities if any do you see between these 2 markets and what learnings can Africa derive from China now to foster further successes in the contribution of digital money to more financial inclusion of unbanked populations.

Wow, this is a biggie. Thanks for this great question and sincere apologies that I can’t do justice to all of this today. However, I put it the other way, what can China learn from Africa including sub-Saharan Africa? – That is the real question. As the access that people have differs, I’d like to do fuller justice to this in a later post.

Q12: Hi - how pervasive are contactless payments in PRC? Thank you

For all the years I’ve worked with China there has always been something planned – most were trials, pilots. The real progress is in terms of installation of POS that supports contactless payments and cards. Once that is in place and China has elected to support the NFC standard, the people who currently use smart cards for travel all across China could very quickly change their behaviour to use of a mobile device instead. So to answer your question, contactless payments by card are already surprisingly pervasive!

I hope you have found this post useful. Again, this is just my perspective and I would love to hear from you as that is when the learning process really gets enriched. Thanks for the wonderful outpouring of support to me and thanks for being a valued member of our little fledgling Shift Thought community. Together we can make things better.

Get inside your competitor’s head with the Shift Thought Digital Money SAGE


Although mobiles and smartphones present an exciting new dimension for consumer payments, the Shift Thought Digital Money SAGE offers payments providers a panoramic view, so as to prepare for the eventual growth that is essential for building alternative payments services.

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New mobile payments standards in China – how will they shape markets worldwide?


In China online payments took off since 2009 and reached mass markets, triggering the release of third party non-bank payments provider regulations in 2010. With digital wallets from providers such as Alipay enjoying 500 to 700 million registered users, we’re talking very large mass markets here. Now the same looks set to happen in mobile payments. This blog shares Shift Thought analysis from our recently published “Digital Money in China” viewport.

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Contactless payments with BarclayCard PayBand at BBST Festival, UK

This summer Barclays is promoting their PayBand contactless payment in the UK through a marketing campaign that directly targets segments that are most likely to appreciate the convenience, in the ambience of the British summer festivals. This wearable prepaid device is free and available even to consumers without Barclaycards, and it will not  activate for transactions over £20.


PayBand made it’s debut at music festivals in the UK last year. It can be used to make contactless purchases of up to £20 at UK retailers accepting Mastercard PayPass contactless payments. The service neatly sidesteps issues regarding potential misuse, firstly in the manner of presentation (it may be a little obvious using a bright blue band to launder money), but also through limits - the maximum balance you can have is £200, and consumers are not able to load and spend more than £500 during the lifetime of a PayBand.

This summer it is being heavily promoted as a cool way to pay for food and drink at UK festivals at Barclaycard presents British Summer Time (BBST) in Hyde Park on 5-14 July 2013.

Considering all the firsts from Barclays: The first UK credit card on 29th June 1966, the first UK debit card in 1987, Pingit launched in February 2012 - it seems to me that Barclays is well placed to usher in this payment trend, right here in the UK. All the work put in through NFC trials since 2007, commercial roll-out of contactless cards in UK and more has prepared the stage for the bright blue band to earn its place as a favourite memory that people will look back to in years to come.

UK awareness of contactless payments has doubled as per the latest study, with over 53% having used their mobile to make a contactless payment purchase, compared to 47% last year.