Tuesday Recap: Money 20/20

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Money 20/20 continued today, starting with a keynote by Ken Chenault, longtime CEO of American Express. What was interesting was both how much Ken embraced disruption, and versed he seemed in technology and  his views on prospects that many conference attendees would be seeking to take market share from American Express. Beyond noting he welcomes competition, he stressed that he was not at all afraid to cannibalize his own business in order to reinvent AMEX.

Chenault said he “could care less” if plastic eventually goes away – eliciting a strong response from the audience, and sees AMEX as poised to continue to succeed in today’s more digital world. He also said he was disappointed to see Dan Schulman leave American Express to run PayPal, but expressed confidence he had a deep bench on his management team.

Chenault was excited that American Express was part of launch of ApplePay, and dismissed a question asking whether Apple could eventually disintermediate them, saying he doubts Apple sees that as their core business and seemed fairly unconcerned about MCX and CurrentC. I think that both sentiments are correct, although it is early stages of the game.

Next up was Tom Taylor, VP of Amazon Payment Services, extremely compelling speaker, and lot of the session was dedicated to a case study of a UK retailer, AllSaints, that essentially does everything (design, make & sell its own clothes; design, build and operate all its stores and web site using its own people) except for its strong partnership with Amazon.

Another good session was on payments for affiliate networks, marketplaces and direct sellers. Bill Clerico, CEO of WePay made good points about how handling marketplaces are very different from traditional e-commerce, with the need to manage the risk of buyers and sellers.

Another session — wittily called Planet of the API’s: Making Banking & Payments Programmable — explored how API’s can change how consumers will interact with their banks. Zach Perret of Plaid spoke on how creating an ecosystem of bank API’s could lead to all kind of new end-to-end experiences with online services that would not necessarily come from your bank.

While Yodlee CEO Anil Arora said he doesn’t see the need for every bank to publish its own API’s — it’s just a technology he said, and doesn’t solve anything in itself (and of course, his company has built out integrations with over 10k financial institutions, a source of competitive advantage for Yodlee).  But Perret of Plaid took an alternative view, saying that Plaid expects to see at least 10,000 new start up’s / apps leveraging bank API’s over the next couple of years.

There were a couple of other good sessions today: Turning the topic to lending and the changing world of credit, there was an good discussion of alternative credit markets, with a roundtable featuring Ken Lin, CEO of Credit Karma, Aaron Vermut, CEO of Prosper Marketplace, Mike Cagney CEO of SoFi and others.

Key take away is that these companies are all solving for different issues in the current credit marketplace, where some find it difficult to obtain credit, or overpay due to market inefficiencies. Most agreed peer-to-peer term is overused, and emphasized use of risk models, data, and fact they acquire customers in new and traditional (direct mail!) models, just with a different mix.

The last session of the day was a debate on ApplePay, featuring Jim McCarthy, Global Head of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships at Visa, and Jim Smith, EVP and Head of Digital & Direct Channels at Wells Fargo, among others.

Jack Stephenson, SVP of First Data, commented on the “reality distortion field” attributed to Steve Jobs, being a factor, on some level, in that he’s never seen anything as big and complex come together until this effort to work with Apple.

Jim Smith said his team had been looking “for some time” for the right model for mobile payments, and were excited to be involved in the launch of Apple Pay, which will bring together banks, card networks, merchants and the right security model.

But many said it’s still early in the game, and Google Wallet will continue to evolve, with some noting that partnerships with biometric firms and other changes leveling the playing field, while adding the media were “missing the point” with MCX vs. Apple Pay story, a view supported by the team at Paydiant, the Boston-based software platform behind MCX.

A fitting end to the recap for today’s events at Money 20/20 – an event that some said might as well be called ApplePay 20/20 – with the day’s chatter commenting on the fact that Money 20/20 had just been bought by a European company (no word on whether the payment would be made in Bitcoin).

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