Payments systems in the US – A sleeping giant awakes


This weekend as we joined in wishing our American friends and family around the world a wonderful Independence Day, my thoughts turned to how Payment Systems are changing in historic ways in America, in many ways setting off a chain reaction that will transform the way we transfer value, not just in the US but world-wide.


The danger was that the land that introduced the first universal credit card back in 1950 had done such a good job of meeting consumer needs that it would be hard to get people to adopt new methods. It took a number of different initiatives of a decade or more to finally get this to happen.


Mobile Payments starts to take off at last

Did you know that mobile payments in America are expected to grow from $3.5b spent by 16 m shoppers in 2014 to a massive $27.5b by next year? Even then this will still be just a fraction of the $4.3t retail store payments made in the US. The common man or woman in America is seeing changes in the way they pay for tolls on the roads and how they pay each other, as well as pay bills and shop online.


Digital wallets – not there yet, but on the move

For the longest time it seemed as if this would not happen, especially after the strong push towards digital wallets in 2011 seemed to fizzle out. However now it seems this was simply the calm before the storm. Each side has reinforced itself as major battle commences to win hearts, minds and mobile wallets, but this time I believe what happens in America will not stay in America.


The US market becomes NFC-ready

Finally this year we have seen important moves towards new forms of mobile payments vi a NFC, QR Codes, MST, BLE and more, with a reported 70% increase in mobile commerce in the US since 2012.

On the one hand US POS is finally beginning to support EMV, as the October 2015 deadline looms.  As the difference between the cost of contactless and non-contactless terminals is not vast, retail outlets are increasingly becoming NFC-ready.


Retailers look for online and mobile innovation

On the other hand top US Retailers have finally realised that the future of their brands depends on a golden braid of inextricably woven marketing and payments campaigns that rely on ever deeper market understanding to help get, keep and grow their customer base.

As in other countries, transport is becoming one of the first applications for consumer adoption of digital payments, as existing methods for paying get removed and replaced by new ones. Online payments are now widespread, but fear of loss of identity and security breaches still leaves a gap to be filled, causing a lot of focus on biometrics, authentication and fraud prevention. However for adoption to deepen across America the real driver will be offers and marketing campaigns.


Marketing  and Payments: Perfect Partners

Here is where mobile payments comes into it’s own, with a unique appeal with respect to marketing. By 2016 over 196 million smartphone users become accessible to persuasion to buy in new ways. When Amazon was founded on July 5, 21 years ago (Happy Anniversary Amazon!), Jeff Bezos and team showed that deep understanding of what we want can actually be used to help us in finding what we’re looking for without proving overly offensive. Now we are at the cusp of a new revolution, as every possible route is being explored in pursuit of a new American Dream. The subtlety with which the new marketing capabilities are used will largely decide how quickly people adopt new payment methods.


Loyalty provides an incentive for change

Today store-issued credit cards and store rewards are being added to Apple Pay, Google Android Pay. Soon Walgreens hopes their 80 million members of Balance Rewards program will be able to use loyalty points with Apple Pay, and all eagerly anticipate smartphone, device and watch payments to increase. The new mobile payments methods will allow consumers to save on their shopping, by directly saving with the use of loyalty rewards.


American providers look for world markets

But this time American providers have a much larger canvas. If they get the digital loyalty-payments nexus right, there are other markets in a high state of readiness across the Atlantic that can help their brands grow. Apparently I am not the only one to leave my loyalty card behind, on the day when I find a retailer has one of their nicest sales on - in the UK unused loyalty cards reportedly cost us shoppers an estimated £5.2 billion.


The future – real time payments

But as I have said before, the real value comes when channels are made to properly work together, and this is what is starting to happen in the US. On my recent visit a short while ago I found payments really getting embedded into very interesting user experiences thanks to growing investment in FinTech.

Consumers and merchants are likely to see a lot of value-add over the coming months and years as Americans increasingly declare independence from cash payments, especially if payments can become real-time, something that has proven elusive until now. Importantly, it will not be long before the ecosystems grow beyond the US, and partnerships that are under formation now are likely to be important at least in the first phase of expansion.


Happy Independence Week America!


Facebook aims to grab a chunk of the US Money Transfer market


Facebook is to launch P2P Money Transfer from Facebook Messenger, online and via Android smartphones. By the end of the year people in the US will be able to send money with no fees, using a Visa or MasterCard debit card.

If Facebook has not yet made it big in payments, this is not for want of trying. At Shift Thought we've monitored a number of failed launches associated in some way with trying to get social users on Facebook to make payments. So what do we expect to happen, and what’s at stake? Read on!




What’s Proposed

Facebook Payvment launched in March 2011, claimed to be the number one social commerce platform on Facebook, attempting to reinvent online shopping leveraging social conversations. In January 2013 Intuit acquired the Payvment team and closed down the Payvment platform.


Past Experience

Perhaps the best known was Facebook Credits, a virtual currency launched in July 2010 that was available in over 15 currencies including US dollars, Pound Sterling and Euro. This was offered as a secure way to play games and buy digital content on Facebook. While we were expecting this to eventually extend to music, movies and more, as Facebook announced a share in their 2011 revenue of 15%, this was not to be. In June 2012 Facebook announced any credits would be converted to native currency and the service phased out by 2012.

Facebook Card launched in January 2013 as a reusable gift card supported by Sutton Bank. At launch Facebook has over a billion users worldwide, with 618 million active each day. Have you heard much about Facebook Card, or considered it for gifting? Probably not.


Why won’t people bite and will this change?

Why have more people not adopted services that in theory had everything going for them? Why did Amazon close their WebPay P2P Service? Why has Google's gmail money transfer not yet become more used? For me the answer has come through my chats with consumer focus groups over the years. It seems people were not ready to trust Facebook and other social media providers with their money yet. Yet in February this year millions of Chinese used Tencent's WeChat messenger app to send traditional Red Envelopes digitally.

So as Facebook has not had much success in breaking through into payments, what's different this time? In two words: David Marcus. As Chief of Facebook Messenger since June 2014, Marcus brings a wealth of understanding of the money transfer business from his days as President of PayPal.


Who is likely to be impacted?

Domestic money transfer in the US is a core business for the three world leaders in money transfer, Western Union, MoneyGram and Ria Financial Services (Euronet). In April last year MoneyGram shares took a beating on an announcement that Walmart would do this business through Ria instead, with the launch of Walmart-2-Walmart at more than 4,000 stores.


How much is the market worth?

In 2014, market leader Western Union generated revenue of $5.6 billion. Consumer-to-consumer revenue from North America constituted 19% of this, so I estimate US domestic money transfer revenue for Western Union to be $1 billion. Home to over 46 million international migrants, the US is the largest Send Country for remittances, and both domestic and international migrants form an important part of the money transfer market. While international remittances is going to prove a harder market for Facebook, actually domestic remittances outside of the US is a very hard market for international money transfer operators anyway.


What to expect next

For me money transfer via social media could be set to take off. So it's not just Facebook. Expect to hear more from Skype, Viber and all the various messenger apps that have been taking the Asian markets by storm. Definitely a space to watch! What do you think? Do share your thoughts on this rapidly evolving space.


Charmaine Oak is Author of The Digital Money Game 

and co-author Virtual Currencies – From Secrecy to Safety

Join me on Twitter @ShiftThoughtDM and The Digital Money Group on LinkedIn

The impact of HCE and Tokenisation on the US Payments Market

Host Card Emulation (HCE) and Payment Tokenisation (or Tokenization for readers in America) are two highly significant new developments from 2014 that have the potential to radically change the way online and mobile payments are carried out and address some of the issues regarding security and fraud. These are not just about technology but about creating shifts in the control of payments that could impact the business models of key players.

As part of our review of the key developments in payments over 2014, I had a really interesting discussion with Sai Casula, a payments expert and Banking, Cards & Payments Consultant for Tech Mahindra. Sai shared his thoughts on Digital Payments, Tokenisation and HCE: What these mean and how they may affect the US in particular, as well as other markets world-wide. Below I share highlights from our discussions, to offer a basic introduction to these two important areas that are poised to bring about big changes in the way we pay.


Sai Casula, thanks for your time today. Please could we start with a bit of background about yourself and your organisation, Tech Mahindra?

I work for Tech Mahindra where we support customers worldwide, and in particular I am engaged in key projects with MasterCard. With the acquisition of a majority stake in Comviva in 2012, Tech Mahindra gained a strong foothold in Digital Payments space including mobile wallet, mobile POS and Cloud Payments technology. Mahindra Comviva has over 120+ deployments across 55 countries. Our mobiquity® Wallet and mobiquity® Money platform supports 2 of the top 5 Mobile Money installations globally. mobiquity® Wallet supports NFC, QR Codes, BLE and other contemporary technologies to enable mobile commerce.


NFCPaymentsHCE is an important development going back to end-2013. Could you share a bit about what HCE is?

Host Card Emulation (HCE) was introduced by Google in November 2013 as part of their Android 4.4 KitKat update. It allows for cards to be issued from the cloud and used by mobile payment transactions anywhere. This was a highly significant move from Google, who had earlier faced a pushback from mobile operators in the US at the time of the launch of their Google Wallet in May 2011. It is significant because it for the first time created a level playing field for all to participate in NFC.

Prior to this it was mobile operators who could dictate terms, thanks to their control of the SIM and hence ability to own and control the Secure Element (SE) in the Universal Integrated Circuit Card (UICC) which is the smart card used in mobile phones.

With the introduction of HCE consumers with Android devices could make NFC payments using Visa or MasterCard cards provided by the consumer’s own banks. This gives banks the freedom to deploy mobile/digital payment systems everywhere.


Thanks for this background on HCE. Could you shed some light on tokenisation?

Historically there is too much fraud involved in online payments and card not present (CNP) scenarios. Consumer concerns of fraudsters stealing and using their cards online have historically inhibited people from fully enjoying online shopping.

Merchants and Card issuers in particular bear a high cost from fraud relating to payment cards. Apart from the online fraudulent transactions we also see large scale security breaches similar to Target and Neiman Marcus where the card numbers are stolen in millions and the card issuers incur an extremely high cost to replace all the cards.

Tokenisation is a model that stands to change this. Payment tokens are surrogate values that replace the Primary Account Number (PAN) with the alternate card number or “token” in the payments ecosystem. Tokens are mapped to the funding account, leveraging existing payments infrastructure and messaging formats for authorization and processing. Tokenisation reduces fraud for the entire digital payments ecosystem.


How is Tokenisation being received by the various players in the US payments ecosystem?

This brings advantages to a number of players across the ecosystem.

Firstly, the Bank Issuers really like this. When issuers provide a token to a consumer for the purpose of making a payment, this limits the use of that token to a single transaction or context, as appropriate. If there is a breach then, it is only that token that is compromised, and not the original payment card. This is also an opportunity to extend the existing card business in digital space, with more secure transactions and fewer chargebacks.

Secondly, The Networks also like this as it benefits their customers the Bank Issuers, and helps bring down the cost of fraud, within an established card scheme model.

Thirdly, any mobile wallet can accept a token, Itworks seamlessly with existing mobile payments systems and needs no changes to the Point of Sale (POS) Fourthly, merchants like this as the same token can be used on the internet as also across other channels such as mobile and POS. This brings the advantages of reduced chargebacks, faster checkout, more security and more payment options.

Last, but by no means least, consumers benefit due to better user experience and added peace of mind as they would be spared the anguish connected with a loss of a payment card or worse still the wider effects that this may have on their identity and credit history.

So there is an immediate business case and ROI for the key players through the potential reduction in fraud and the reduction of friction in Ecommerce.


What is the importance of HCE and Tokenisation in the US in particular?

Given the high-profile breaches suffered for instance by Target, Home Depot and Neiman Marcus in 2014, merchants are very concerned and anxious to reduce their exposure that comes from the existing card-on-file model. That is where Tokenisation has a welcome role to play.

The implementation of Apple Pay is an interesting case of HCE principles and Tokenisation that come together to create a seamless payments experience.


How is all this likely to affect the adoption of NFC in the US over 2015?

NFC has had a good ride recently. After a slow and unsteady history over the last 10 years, Apple Pay has created a resurgent interest in NFC. The strong user experience with Apple Pay has also increased the adoption rate of Mobile Wallets in the US Market.

Of course, NFC has a number of uses beyond payments. For instance Apple’s new iOS 8.0 is geared to health care applications.

I think the biggest war in 2015 is going to be the tokenisation war.

The big questions are who will own the key positions in the newly developing value chain? Who will manage tokens? Who will issue them? So apart from the payment networks such as Visa and MasterCard, there are many more players lined up for this. The Clearing House – Secure Token Exchange, Mahindra Comviva, Gemalto, FIS, Fiserv and First Data are all keenly interested.

At Tech Mahindra we feel uniquely position to provide an “End-to-End Cloud Payments Solution” including Cloud Payment HCE/Module, Tokenization and Mobile Application Module. We believe that our expertise in Mobile Cloud Payments, out of the box solutions and Integration expertise can help Bank Issuers bring enhanced digital experience to their customers in short time span.


So all in all we agree this is a very important space to watch then! Thanks so much for sharing your very interesting thoughts with us and I wish you every success in the key projects you are managing this year.



Sai Casula is VP and Banking, Cards & Payments Consultant for Tech Mahindra, and is currently based in the Greater New York City Area.

Through years of experience in the banking, cards and payments industries, Sai has acquired a deep understanding across these connected areas, with strategic and operational working experience across several regions worldwide.

Charmaine Oak is Author of The Digital Money Game and co-author of Virtual Currencies – From Secrecy to Safety

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