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Mobile Payments - Apple's is not the only fruit!

Nobody can ignore Apple Pay. And nobody is ignoring Apple Pay. Must-have designer technology, heavy hitting icon brand and high profile merchant signings have finally aligned, like so many stars in the payments heavens. Together, and for once the use of the well-worn cliché seems justified, they deliver a 'user-friendly solution' that accelerates us several million light years towards payments nirvana.

We can at last empty our straining wallets of their multiple cards, coupons and vouchers and finally dispense with cumbersome forms of personal identity. Free to roam the malls of the world, we will be able to shop as the fancy takes, with just our smart phones to take care of the previously complex matter of funding our consumer gratification. We will, won't we?

Well, not quite. And this is not a question of nit picking until we find the worm at the core of the Apple. It's a simple statement of fact that, while Apple Pay (and several other payment solutions) are undoubtedly exciting from the consumer's viewpoint, they are still fundamentally limited in terms of their deep impact on the underlying payments system.

A somewhat cloudier, but perhaps more realistic, version of the juice on Apple Pay is that it does not represent a transformational advance in the infrastructure of the payments ecosystem itself. Yes, there is no arguing that it carries huge potential for payments volume stimulation, especially in the U.S. But that volume will come at a cost, and in at least two ways.

First, it will (potentially very severely) strain the current infrastructure.

Second, no bite out of this Apple will come as a free lunch. In the U.S., Apple is taking a share of interchange fees from issuers and will surely seek a growing share of transaction revenues from the banks.

Point two is a commercial issue that market forces will doubtless finesse over time. Point one, around the infrastructure, should occupy more of our time and more urgently. The real issue is this: even apparently 'universal' payments solutions that appear to crack the conundrum of consumer convenience are in reality isolated and limited.

At present, payments channel models (including mobile) typically rely on a capability to solve unique and isolated problems and specific needs. They build their market profile through providing 'single product-centric' solutions.

What we need now, urgently, is a a new approach to building true and universal interoperability into payments. The goal is a scenario where banks adn financial technology companies are able to collaborate effectively. Banks can then extend their businesses to create value for all participants in the mobile payments ecosystem, including merchants and customers.

It's a bold vision. We believe it can be made real. In fact, if payments - mobile and otherwise - are to finally liberate customers and restore banks to their truly central role in value creation, it must happen soon.

Comments: (1)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 14 January, 2015, 11:05Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Hi Marcus,

Great piece thank you for sharing.

I worked on the implementation of Apple Pay in the US on behalf of one of the schemes. I am now looking at its portability and scalability particularly in the UK but also China.

There are well documented challenges for high value contactless payments in an offline environment such as UK and some other markets, but that is a whole blog post in its own right.

I do have something that I would like you to clarify if possible, as follows. It your post you suggest that there are 2 potential “snags” the first being

“ it will (potentially very severely) strain the current infrastructure.”

I was hoping that you would be able to describe how you believe this will manifest itself.

Many thanks

Steve