UK politicians often accuse the banks of failure to innovate in payments. The UK Payments Council was at least partly created and empowered to change this position but has so far failed to make its presence felt. So what's gone wrong?
Firstly, the basic premise is deeply flawed. The UK payments industry is very innovative. Over the last twenty years there has been a broadscale adoption of new payment standards such that UK cardholders can now obtain cash and pay for services in almost
any location worldwide. The banking system has been enabled for online access, transaction reporting via mobile is widely available, Faster Payments means funds move instantaneously 24x7, and new media schemes like PayPal have transformed online trading.
If these successes aren't universally acknowledged, the industry needs a new PR agency.
But that's not to say there isn't room for more. I've previously commented on the banks' failure to capitalise on their Faster Payments investment by creating a homogeneous customer facing scheme. More critically, however, mobile payments is a huge opportunity
to create a revenue earning service before others like the mobile telcos steal it away. Why is it taking so long?
As with Faster Payments, the problem lies with the marketing teams in the major banks. A successful scheme requires broadscale interoperability which means a critical mass of banks need to adopt a single underpinning scheme. Getting that agreement takes
vision, technical knowledge and a great deal of determination. Every bank will want a different feature, a different timetable and a different tariff structure. Few people have the drive, knowledge and energy to bring all of this together, but they do exist
and banks need to find them fast.
Barely a day goes by without a card scheme, telco or specialist business announcing another mobile payments development. The banks need to make their play soon or risk ceding the market forever.