A side note first, to put things into perspective: to address any of 6bn mobile subscribers, anywhere in the world, all you need is a 15-digit number (16-digit, in
some cases). To send someone an email, anywhere in the world, you need a simple name@domain.TLD address.
To send someone money, in 2013, you need this:
1. Beneficiary bank SWIFT
2. Account with correspondent bank
3. Beneficiary bank name
4. Beneficiary bank address
5. Correspondent bank SWIFT
6. National bank ID
7. Correspondent bank name
8. Correspondent bank address
10. Beneficiary bank account number (don't ask me how this one is different from 2)
11. Beneficiary name
12. Beneficiary account number
Alex Mifsud coined the term "Cisco for money" which I like a lot. The payment industry needs exactly that.
What could be simpler than sending $500#447766554433@Barclays:now? In fact, that's (almost) what Barclays' Pingit allows you to do already.
Today, I decided to send $500.00 overseas using Post Office International Payments, operated by HiFX Plc, to test their service.
My transaction was flagged up for screening. I called the Customer Service and was asked about the purpose of that personal money transfer. They told me they cannot put "Drugs, weapons and a small nuclear reactor", but declined to explain why not. They didn't
accepted "I am doing that for fun" either. How did they know that "I am just sending some money to a friend" was the right answer?.. Perhaps because they knew that when Mexico's Sinaloa cartel and Colombia's Norte del Valle cartel between them laundered
$881 million through HSBC's Mexican unit, they didn't do it in $500 chunks - it would had taken them over 65 man-years to do 1.8m transactions.
Referencing Payment Services Regulations 2009, "extensive due diligence" and a bunch of acronyms, HiFX then requested... DOB and home address of the beneficiary. I explained to them that I cannot divulge such third party's sensitive data to them, especially
without that party's consent, and suggested they contact that person direct, in the appropriate local language. I then queried the need for collecting such data, considering that it was an "account to account" transfer, i.e. both parties had been KYCed already
by their banks. That logic didn't get me far. I tried Dave Birch's "Sergio Aguero" approach.
When it comes to payments (or any business, in fact), there is one simple acronym that matters most - UX. If it sucks, the last customer leaving the room will not even bother switching off the lights.