Fingerspitzengefühl is the more polite European version of the American POOMA and means an approximated figure or opinion based on a hunch or unsubstantiated evidence. Working in the more leading edge areas of the payments world means that you run into this a lot – “Apple will change the face of payments with it’s NFC phone”, “Facebook will be the way that we all pay in 2012” – clearly challengable statements but both featured in credible press articles during January this month.

Fingerspitzengefühl can actually be quite a useful tool if used properly – particularly when you’re investigating a greenfield market or launching a new innovation. However, what has become clear during my time in the cards and payments market is that things never happen as quickly as prognosticators would expect. Take EMV for example. The business case for EMV migration is (moderately) sound and has clearly benefitted the markets where it has been rolled out. Yet since the first EMV payment was made in 1996 or so, it’s only due to a regulatory mandate that many EU acquirers made the transition. Contactless (and with it NFC) is another case where the transition from hype to mass adoption is considerably greater than originally anticipated. And why is this? Primarily due to the massive infrastructure changes that were needed, but also due to the lack of pull from the vast majority of consumers. Sure, it would be cool to pay with my mobile, but will it fundamentally impact my life? Probably not, as payment is only a small subset of the many things that I do.

So when looking at the futue of payments, perhaps more fingerspitzengefühl should be contextualised with the realities of our industry – or am I talking OOMA?


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