Money 2020: The Future of Currency and Payments: Part 1 of 3

Money 2020 GlassI attended the Money 2020 conference in Las Vegas this November. It’s a gathering of over 7,500 financial and technology professionals from over 60 countries. Essentially we all talk about the innovation of money and payments, both of which are undergoing unprecedented disruption. It was the forum’s 4th year but my first and I found it exhilarating and thought provoking.

The conference format is multi-layered. Big room keynote presentations, breakout sessions that are panel discussion style, live demos and an exhibit hall with hundreds of booths. I also found it to be a bit of a homecoming event as I ran into at least a dozen people I previously worked with or worked for me at one time. Nice to see friendly faces again and catch up on what they’re doing.

The breakout sessions are set-up in tracks; regulatory, security, e-commerce, retail banking, etc. My role in the bank is very broad, so I elected to pick and choose across the tracks and ingest a bit from each. The conference doubled in attendee size from last year but it occupied the same space in the Aria Hotel. Needless to say things were very crowded. Some people got shut out of sessions because they arrived on time or a bit late, only to find them already full. Standing room only in many of the sessions I attended.

Money Crowd

The content covered a wide range of topics so I don’t claim this post to be a summary of the conference itself. Instead it’s my perspective. What I observed through my lens of “convergence.” I gleaned four distinct themes of content and exploration.

  • Consumer Research: Who will influence change
  • Mobile Payments: Who will win?
  • Crypto Currency: The reinvention of money?
  • Fraud and Security: Will hacking impede progress?

Consumer Research

Lots of the latest consumer research was unveiled at Money and I carefully planned to attend as many of these sessions as possible. We know the world is big, but thanks to Social Media and the news cycle we tend to lose appreciation for that fact. Check out these insane numbers.

Global Stats copy

3.6 Billion unique active mobile phone users on Earth! People are saying they’d give up a lot of things in their life before they would give up their mobile device. You’ve see those studies. Indeed the mobile phone has been embedded in our lives and are neurally connected to our finger and hands. It’s happened in the blink of an eye. Steve Jobs released the first iPhone on June 29, 2007. Many think that the phone has materially impacted the way people pay for things, but the following chart reveals that the change began a decade and a half ago and the tectonic plates of payments has been steadily shifting ever since. The phone has not influenced nearly as many people to consider their payment options as debit and credit cards. Plastic still rules. Note: many of these slides were taken with my iPhone from audience seating. I apologize that some are of low fidelity or are not well framed.

15 Years Transactions

As we can see, while checks and cash dominated the transactions of choice for U.S. consumers in 1996, it has been forever overshadowed by credit and debit. Cash is not going away any time soon and if the security of credit and debit cannot be substantially shored-up, the never-ending rounds of retailer database hackings could keep cash and checks on life support for some time to come.

One study asked consumers how they will pay for things in the future. Every one of the presented forms of payment rose except credit, debit and cash. All three showed a decline, with cash leading the way. Certainly it’s very hard to be confident about a survey looking six years out. In the technology innovation mind it’s an eternity. Many disruptive species will be born in that time. But the scale and footprint of payments is vast and when you add in the generational and geographical aspects one cannot be faulted to remain skeptical.

Future Payments 2

Notice in the chart above that the green line (future) and black line (today) are not that divergent. People say they are expecting to pay in newer ways in greater numbers than now, but those shares are still small. Is this due to the momentum and the buzz around P2P money movement tools as well as the growth of PayPal? Is this how people will prefer to pay in the future?

The chart below puts a future date on the survey questions of 2020. When you look at the numbers by instrument they are not widely different from the above study. What’s interesting is the orange square in the bottom left. An overwhelming number of consumers prefer to use a familiar network provider (Discover, Visa, Master Card, etc.) to provide them with payments choices. Not Square or PayPal, or whatever Silicon Valley garage door opens, but the old guards of payments. Certainly the disrupters definitely have a head start on what attracts consumers. One could say however that it’s the Network’s and Issuer’s battle to lose.

Pay in 2020 2

The Emergence of the Millenial

When you wander a conference and keep your ears open you take note of the words or phrases that are repeated in nearly every type of content session as well as what’s said over a libation or two. One of the words that stood out without a doubt at Money was, Millenials. This generation is defined by most as a combination of Generation Y (25-34) and Generation Z (18-24). Seems like a very wide range, but when coupled with exposure to technology and shifting attitudes towards work and education, one can see why they can be coupled.

All camps that I observed lauded the Millenial population as one that brands − old and new − must attract and retain to ensure growth and to maintain relevance (otherwise known as survival). It doesn’t necessarily require a complete reboot, but it does mean we should guard against doing old things new and focus instead on doing new things that accomplish longstanding needs. This will be hard for financial institutions, but the future is all about change in relevance.

Millennials

Our young friends are absolutely adorable. They are confident and have an “I can” attitude. They are book smart and savvy, which means they carry a significant share of the $1 Trillion student loan debt now piled up in the U.S. As such, many live with their parents because they can’t afford a mortgage. An alarming share are under-employed, experiencing a large and confusing cognitive gap between their image of a job while in school and the reality of what they are doing Monday through Friday. This somewhat explains, at least to me, their zealous interest in getting promoted. Dues (literally) have already been paid in the form of tuition and they are looking for a faster track to pay back.

Research I saw at Money outlined an interesting persona of Millennials . They ike to have fun first then hard work next. They are close to their parents, many who have doted on them as children. They buy prestige brands and will spend more to design or customize a product to reflect who they are. As social natives they have more intense relationships with brands and don’t think twice about calling them out for either handing things well or dropping the ball. Their use of Social Media gives them an outsized voice that smart brands are addressing.

What is most fascinating to me is how they leverage technology to positively impact their financial position. We know they are getting their driver’s license later than previous generations, relying on Uber and public transpiration to get to where they want/need to go. Owning a car, actually driving a car is not at all important. They do not define themselves by the cars they drive.

When it comes to consuming content they don’t have a monthly cable bill the size of a car payment. They’re not cord-cutters because they never plugged in the cord. Television ownership is also much lower among Millenials . TV is on a grid. You have to be in the same physical space as a television to watch it. How barbaric! Why do that when you can stream almost anything to the glass surface of your smartphone, tablet or laptop? Oh yes, they don’t own desktop computers either (how mainframe of us).  Oftentimes they share Netflix passwords or Prime accounts so everyone can get on the same series. The CBS network recently announced “All Access,” a content streaming service. For $5.99 per month subscribers can watch full seasons of current primetime shows and leading daytime and late night CBS Programming. Others will likely follow.

Another bit of interesting research came from a study on values Millennials rated as important vs. Gen X’ers rating at a similar life stage. Millennials value enjoying life, having fun, authenticity and stable relationships much higher than their Gen X counterparts. They moved freedom, close friends and knowledge down in importance.

Millenials vs. Gen X

Y’s and Z’s were influenced by the internet in their formative years. Gen X is actually more closely aligned with the Boomers in that they were more or less adults before they were faced with the prospects of a digital world. One study drew closer connections between Millennials and Boomers than I would have even imagined. It seems the two categories to be reckoned with, especially among financial services are the Boomers of course (we have all the money) and the Millennials who will eventually have all the money. They will just interact with it in a much different way.

Understanding what your customers value, particularly a segment with this much power is critical to financial success. My next Money 2020 installment will cover Mobile payments and eWallets.

Read Part 2: Mobile Payments and Crypto Currencies

Read Part 3: Tech Crime Takes Off.

Image Credits:

Money 2020 magnifying glass: Money 2020

Crowd at Money 2020: Steve A Furman

Various Slides: Taken during live sessions by Steve A Furman

Image of Several Millennials: Mirus Reporter

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