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This wirelessly connected planet

I was asked to chair a panel at the end of a one day conference on the future of payments.

I therefore listened to every presentation carefully and, in opening the panel, was asked to give a ten minute summation of what I had heard that day.

Here’s what I said:

There are a number of themes that emerged today, many of which allude to the march of technology.  The keys were:

  • Using data to mine for improved loyalty, service and sales;
  • New forms of payment emerging thanks to contactless, mobile, contactless mobile and digital wallets; and
  • The need for improved collaboration  to allow us to manage identity better.

The bottom line was that this is all about the war on cash and, if you think that the world is defined by the predictions in programmes like Star Trek, then take note that in most futurist films there are no cash or physical payments.

However, more importantly, it’s about what happens when you transform the world and eradicate cash?

Transformations take place by changing people, process  and technology, and what we have here is technology transforming people and process.

The technology is mobile and contactless, but it’s more than this – it’s the connected planet.

Until recently, businesses were connected with businesses and governments with governments via mainframe systems.

That changed with the PC, but the PC only connected those with a lifestyle that covered the costs of the technology.  That meant only those who could afford one, and limited the world of connections to the developed economies consumers.

Now, thanks to mobile ubiquity and low-cost, every single person on the planet is connected wirelessly.

Everyone has a connection to each other, P2P, in their pocket, purse or loin cloth.

That’s the big difference and, for finance, the massive difference is that we have reached a tipping point where transaction engines for payments are in the hands of every person on this planet.

That changes the process.

The process changes because it is not just simple transaction engines that are in the hands of every person on the planet, but a whole range of mobile financial services from mobile contactless to mobile proximity, from mobile money transfers to mobile bill payments, from mobile online payments for physical goods to mobile online payments for digital goods, from mobile as a point of purchase to mobile as a point of sale, from mobile as a loyalty programme for coupons and offers to mobile identity and authentication. 

The mobile planet is a raft of innovation and change, and it is difficult to keep up with all this innovation and change in our processes because we are hamstrung by our heritage.

We embedded our world in old style business to business systems, and now the consumer driven world is demanding rapid change to those systems which are hard to change (note: this is why I cannot get a charge card that works on my mobile or even on the internet).

We also are seeing so many forms of payment – contactless, QR, mobile – that it challenges us to know where to focus and invest … after all, changing processes means changing organisation products, services, structures and that’s costly too. 

Just as contactless emerges as mainstream, it’s already overtaken by QR codes and proximity payments.

Or is it?

Is this replacement, evolution or co-existence?

Do you have to adapt processes to support some forms of mobile payment or all?

Where do you place your bets?

Finally, if the technology and process changes, so do people.

We are told that Google, mobile and social media is rewiring our brains.

We all suffer from attention deficit disorder.

You’re all sitting there now playing with your iPads, iPhones, androids and blackberries, more interested in who’s connecting virtually than who is here in reality.

I don’t blame you – I do the same.

But the reason we are all here talking about mobile and new forms of payment is because our customers are.

Customers are more loyal to their mobile connections than their partners

A new study shows that four out of ten women would be devastated if they lost their phone, although in India a toilet is more important than a mobile.

So the question from the people side of change is two-fold.

First, we need to break the shackles of being hamstrung by heritage.  As many people tell me, the only place we engage with old technology is when we go to work. 

Second, we need to work out how to keep our information secure as, right now, it’s not.

Sure, we need to analyse customer data to sell more and service better, but the customer doesn’t want to be digitally raped.

We talk about permissions based marketing, but the customer wants to keep their privacy.

However, conversely, the customer then goes onto Facebook and gives away their email, mobile, relationships and more.

There is no privacy or security, so how can we keep ourselves secure and private?

That’s a good way to start our debate with the panel, so firstly to …





About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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