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Innovation meets old fashioned banking at EFMA

What better way to spend a glorious late summer's day in Paris, than to be locked in the basement of the Marriott hotel for EFMA Cards & Payments 2011. But I can honestly say the day was lit up with some impressively juxtaposed sessions and interactive controversy.

Visa's Peter Ayliffe and PayPal's Laurent Le Moat warmed up the audience with impressive presentations of their respective ubiquitous payments infrastructures, with Visa firmly focused on the future, with a vision of the "Mobile as remote control for financial services", and announcing the launch of Mobile P2P payments in Oct 2011, while PayPal cheekily claiming that they did all that last year and are now extending their reach beyond payments right to the heart of the retailers relationship with their customer trough a series of acquisitions.

This mood of innovation and optimism was quickly grounded in by reality the following panel session where three real bankers discussed their most important issues, which after repayment of state aid, included: risk and limit setting, customer acquisition, cross selling, fraud, cost reduction and other stuff that generally contributes to a banks P&L.

However innovation is still seen as key, but tempered with realism and pragmatism and summed up by the comment that "Only 5% of innovations come from banks, but innovations that survive will be adopted by the banks"

Unfortunately we then turned to the ivory towers of the regulators and legislators

While I would dearly like to report a breakthrough, again there is nothing new. However the following Q&A session was very lively with the audience less than supportive of the view that the regulators were helping the payment market in Europe.

After lunch Discover presented how it is building a global acceptance network for their Discover and Diners Club cards, by partnering with local networks like JCB and CUP. Not only do they now have more acceptance points in China than Visa, they also seem to have done the SEPA cards thing on a global scale in only 2 years.

Other highlights from the day:

- Peter Ayliffe describing himself as the "Poor sad old guy" when told "We don't accept phones".

- PayPal's claim, "Not disintermediation - but a better user experience"

- The Chair (Annich McIntosh) asking the audience for comments on how to "get around SEPA".

All in all it was a good start, but I still hope to hear a greater focus on delivering both convenience and value to our end customers?


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