Payments and Identity in a Fog of devices

This week, Chase Partnership ends up a Hail Mary pass for MCX, and the 94 Million preloaded cards constitute the single most benefit. Elsewhere, Apple Pay looks to Amex as it rolls out to Canada and Australia – a partner who has sufficient margin in interchange to stomach a toll fee, but smaller market share in comparison. Finally, the platform moves from Mastercard to extend MDES and Express to the Internet of Things is interesting less because of payments, and more when you view it against the backdrop of name-centric identities giving away to algorithmically derived ones. This post is part of my November Newsletter. You should email me at cherian(dot)abraham(-at-)experian(.dot.)com to be added Continue reading

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Commerce is a conversation

Last week I joined Sherri Haymond of MasterCard and Bharathi Ramavarjula of Facebook on a panel moderated by Paul Moreton, for a CapitalOne summit on Payments. When asked what was more important for the future of commerce – Sherri spoke of how security and trust is key, and I talked about how messaging has intersected with payments, (and in Wechat’s case) now intersecting with lending – with Bharathi eloquently summing it up as – “Facebook sees Commerce as a conversation”. Continue reading

Payments and Commerce Newsletter – September

This is a portion of my biweekly newsletter that I started earlier in 2015 to a small group of people that I communicate with often – a mix of Founders, Bank and Retail Execs, VCs, and others who find their work intersect with mobile and commerce. The last one to go out is pasted below, so you could see what it’s normally about: my posts, thoughts about other posts I have read, my take on interesting industry bits, and other perspectives. If anyone wants to be included in the distribution – email me at cherian(.)abraham(at)experian(.)com.

What it is -> A quick read and meant to be useful.
What it is not -> Not meant to make you buy stuff, not meant to use your email for other things. Continue reading

Key debates in payments tokenization – Cost & Control

In Payments, Tokenization has surfaced two key points of debate for financial institutions. The first has to do with bank partnerships with technology providers like Apple, Google, Samsung et al – and how these partnerships need to be equalized around the topic of cost and control. Though the fear of disintermediation isn’t new, concerns about costs, data sharing and customer privacy has received a disproportionate share of this internal debate. Following is a brief perspective on how this is further shaped within banks and the downstream impact to those who intend to wrap them. Continue reading

Dumb pipes and Wide moats: Networks and Tokens

For Apple Pay, tokenization is the process by which card information is protected and subsequently shielded from the merchant and other parties in the transaction flow – till it reaches an entity equipped to reverse the translation and submit the authorization for bank approval. With AP – this role is entirely owned by the card schemes, even though the specification put forth by EMVCo places no such stipulations and allows third party “Token Service Providers” to exist. Apple is said to have welcomed “non-card scheme TSP’s” to operate within Apple Pay for a couple of reasons – the ability to support non-payment tokens as well as a hedge against putting all its eggs in one basket. For network TSPs like V and MA – tokenization represents a real advantage that dis-incentivizes disruption, while opening their rails to far more potential than just payments. Continue reading

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Apple Pay and MCX – Misunderstood dynamics

When BestBuy chose sabre-rattling and reject Apple Pay from its stores, it made little sense that it will reduce its righteous anger to be about something that is transitory – as the state of a radio on a phone. And now that NFC has found a path to acceptance in BestBuy’s own payment terminals – we can put that chapter behind us. And treat it as the correct decision from a merchant, whose future on a quarterly basis is entangled with the products it sells on behalf of Apple. As Apple experiments with the highly personalized and curated retail experiences of products like the Watch, it is important for channel partners like BestBuy to appear to be more aligned than before, to smooth over any appearance of a conflict. Continue reading

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Rampant: Explaining the current state of Apple Pay Fraud

Two quick notes before I trade a chilly 36 for a blistering 96, and spend the next few weeks in India. First up is on Samsung’s acquisition of Loop Pay. Second is a followup on Apple Pay Fraud that has now graduated from an itch to a raging infection. Continue reading

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Smart Mouse Traps and Lazy Mice

“Building a better mousetrap merely results in smarter mice” – Charles Darwin

Credit card issuers in general have a good handle on fraud. They manage it under 10bps (i.e. losses of $0.10 or less per $100 of transactions) on transactions made with a dumb plastic card lacking any additional context. So Issuers wishing for Apple Pay fraud to fall between 2-3bps was not totally out of character, considering the protections in place by Apple and Networks to keep fraud away – including Issuer support during provisioning, NFC, Tokenization, a tamper proof Secure Element and TouchID. But fraud seems to have followed a different trajectory here. About a month post-launch, it seems like fraud has come to Apple Pay. (in one case – as high as 600bps for an issuer that I cannot name). Though what follows was written in the context of Apple Pay, much of it translates to any other competitor – irrespective of origin, scale, intent, or patron saint. Continue reading

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A change of canvas & A focus on design

Smart move by Capital One.

Certainly not the first time it has done it. And not the only bank either.

As banking moves from branch to app – from a wholly owned and curated experience inside a branch – TO – an app that vies for space in a “democratized” and crowded home screen, banks must realize that they no longer own the entire canvas. Instead they merely follow the design principles set by the most-used apps on our phones. I no longer compare my bank app with that of another bank, I compare it against the services I use often – Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Apple Pay, Uber etc. And if who you compete with on this platform has been redrawn to include brands who have nothing to do with managing money – then you have to try as hard not to be boxed in as a bank.

Having both the talent required to design these new experiences, and the capital to acquire them will only serve to further differentiate banks that have this focus as a priority vs those who will in the end get wrapped.

Digging a wider moat: Apple shifts to loyalty


Apple eschewed banks for a retailer focus onstage at the WWDC when it spoke to payments. I sense this is an intentional shift – now that stateside, you have support from all four networks and all the major issuers – Apple understands that it needs to shift the focus on signing up more merchants, and everything we heard today drove home that note. That includes Square’s support for NFC, as well as the announcements around Kohls, JCPenney and BJ’s. MasterCard’s MDES (opposite Visa’s VTS) is the tokenization service that has enabled these partnerships – specifically through MA’s partners such as Synchrony – their press release linked – (former GE Capital) which brought on JCPenney, Alliance Data which brought on BJ’s, and CapitalOne which enabled Kohls. Continue reading

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Apple Pay : What happens when it hits 100%


What happens when Apple Pay hits 100%? I am not talking about 100% merchant acceptance, as much of that is driven by an alignment of merchant interests – cost reduction, potential for increased sales and marketing etc. Instead, I am talking about coverage – the share of total available cards across US banks that can be provisioned into Apple Pay. Today, partly due to the diligence of networks in signing up banks for AP, cards that are responsible for 90% of total retail payment volume are now ready to be provisioned. Separately, I am told 90% of issuer portfolios will be tokenized by end of 2015. (Forget/Ignore Private Label and Discover, for the moment) Continue reading

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