Things I have learned in the first two days here at Sibos in Osaka.
I encountered my first musical heated toilet seat; I learned that the ATMs here dispense coins, and I discovered that everything is incredibly expensive - a fact neatly illustrated by a stunned Financial Times staffer who discovered his room service club
sandwich had set him back £44. Good job he didn’t order the steak.
There have been some really good sessions over the past two days and I won’t attempt to rival the excellent coverage from Finextra and others, but there are a few stand-out themes emerging from the sessions and walking the floor.
The Innotribe session on the future of money was predictably packed out. The key theme in the debate was that although there are lots of really exciting new ways to send value to each other, they are not going to make the existing infrastructures redundant.
This is a theme that has popped up in a few places. The ‘big iron’ in core banking isn’t going to rust simply because someone has invented an app to send money with your shoes, but equally it takes the wit and inventiveness of these start-ups to change consumer
behaviour. People change their behaviour slowly, and they need to be given a compelling reason to do so.
Each part of the ecosystem has a part to play: you can’t build a payments business if you have to lay new pipes – it’s just too expensive, but you can’t expect the guys who run the pipes to be brilliant at marketing new payment apps to teenagers.
This theme was picked up several times in a dinner we just held in collaboration with The Banker. Our principal speaker was the excellent Makoto Shibata from The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, who educated us all in the ongoing Japanese love affair with
cash. Despite great smartphone penetration and a plethora of e-wallets and m-wallets, consumer behaviour hasn’t really changed that much, although it is starting to head in the right direction. The wallets have so far replaced small value transactions (one
guest described them as “e-purses” rather than wallets in the debate that followed), and this has led to a reduction in the use of coins, but not notes. It is also evident that the value of these wallets as a business is not centred on the relatively small
sums made from providing the payment; the real value is in the data about spending habits, particularly if combined with geolocation.
We also heard from David Yates, the VocaLink CEO, about the picture in the UK and in particular that the foundations for ubiquitous mobile payments are being laid by the development of the Payment Council’s mobile database. This will map your mobile phone
number to your bank account, enabling person-to-person payments next year. Based on the experience in Japan it is clear that consumer behaviour in the UK isn’t going to change overnight, but it’s a vital step forward.