I don’t want a lot for Christmas

Bear'y ChristmasI hate those ‘here are my predictions for next year’ blog posts – where people prognosticate on the broadest possible front so that at the end of the year they can say ‘see, I knew that new thing Apple was pumping millions into would happen’. Where does it get us.

I could make a prediction – in 2014, mobile P2P payments will be really important for the future of mobile payments innovation managers that want their end of year bonus. Mobile P2P payments are really simple. I have an account, you have an account, we send money to one another electronically and it’s all really great, fast, transparent and simple – or I could just give you some cash, from my wallet, and give you all my change. Think about it, in all honesty, when was the last time that you gave someone money in a situation where you didn’t have the cash in your wallet to do so? (queue pedantic mobile aficionados shouting down from their ivory towers…)

Over and over in the payments industry we keep inventing technologies for which there is no use case based in reality – and it is an industry, just like the companies that invented multi-vitamins and tell us that we should be scared if we don’t take them (here). Why the hell as a consumer would I want to do it that way when the current method works well and works for everyone… Don’t get me wrong, I am a STRONG believer in mobile payments, but people delivering solutions today just aren’t solving my problems.

What are the payment problems in my life that I want our industry to solve? Here’s my wish list for 2014:

  • I don’t want to worry about acceptance logos: If I go into a shop that has an EMV payment terminal, I want it to accept my card, regardless of scheme. I want it to do something mystical in the background that means if a merchant has a terminal, I can use my credit, international debit, national debit, paypal, bitcoin, I know this is a fantasy because ultimately the merchant has to pay for the payment method and it’s different in every case – but come on thinkers, how can we solve this. How can I, as a consumer, make the decision on how I want to pay. This is the convenience that I want.
  • I want someone to solve my REAL time-critical cash issues: It’s 8:30 and I need to get the kids to school, but just as we’re leaving my oldest reminds me that she needs to pay for her school trip today – and my wallet (as usual) is empty. The school has a bank account, sure, but they don’t have an individual account per child that allows me to simply transfer money without arranging it first. In some markets I’d use a cheque, here I need to go to the ATM – time I don’t have and pain I want someone to solve.
  • I want to shop the world to bag a bargain: It’s getting harder to work out which sites are genuine and which aren’t – particularly when you look overseas for products or prices not available in your own market. It’s one of the many reasons that CNP fraud is accelerating. What I want is basically an escrow service – someone that will hold my money until I get my goods and then pay the merchant, yet guarantee the merchant funds so that they will ship. Escrow services were promised yet still none come so I can either choose to refrain or leap into a risky transaction without a safety net unless I use my credit card.
  • I want to see where my money is (or isn’t) in a single place: It’s a holy grail even for most corporate treasurers – a single view of my cash position. My main bank already shows me my live current account balance and available money on my credit card, but I want to know right now, at this minute, which is the best way for me to pay for my soup and sandwich, one click to see all of my accounts regardless of provider. I want to be able to log my cash transactions once money is out of the ATM so I can check my coins without jingling and know how much is now down the side of my couch. My smartphone has made me information hungry, so gimme, gimme, gimme.
  • I don’t always want to pay you now, but I want you to be 100% certain that I am paying: I used to like cheques. In fact, as a student they were often a means of survival. However, people keep telling me that I must pay now, immediately, straight away. It’s purely selfish on their part TBH, they want the same gratification from a payment that the first ‘like’ on a facebook posting gives (for ’tis a lonely post that gathers no likes). However, I’m not always as giving as all that. When a bill arrives, usually it has a payment date – I don’t want to pay until then, but I want the biller to know immediately when I will pay it, and that I have agreed to do so. I can set up a future dated credit transfer, but how do they know that? I want a payment that tells on me, I want my payment to communicate and create anticipation. I want a cheque with no paper. I want to buy today and pay tomorrow but not some far off tomorrow, a real fixed point in time tomorrow, soon.
  • I don’t want to worry about my data being sold, stolen or spied on: I don’t buy many things that I don’t want the world to know about, but I do like a little anonymity in my purchases. It’s my right, and if you don’t respect it, I’ll have to use cash. I particularly don’t want people beyond the person that delivered it to know if I have expensive items in my home. I don’t want information specifically about me being sold or transferred – although I am very open to being a data point within a trend or indicative of my demographic. But hey, I’m a modern guy – I know that data and information is worth money, so perhaps if you split the profits with me, I might be a little more open to you selling my soul. Just don’t do it behind closed doors, sneakily, without me knowing, and then expect me to be happy it. Oh, and particularly don’t let it happen accidentally – if you have my data, it’d better be secure.

I’m sure many of you will relate to my Christmas wishes, and I’m sure many of you won’t. After all, I live in an affluent town in middle class Belgium with my family. My payment problems aren’t the same as a Guatemalan school teacher or a Japanese gardener. They’re probably not even the same as my neighbour’s payment problems (although my New Year’s resolution should be to ask her).  And all of this is the problem of our industry – how to create the payment solutions that solve as many of these problems as possible.  So what I’m going to do is make a real short list for Christmas:

Dear Santa, For Christmas this year I would like a payments industry that spends 2014 trying to solve real world problems. Not just mine, although that would be nice, but those niggly little issues that suck time out of my day and generally make cash an easier option. Oh, and a train set…

Merry Christmas!

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