Money 20/20 Wraps Up

As Money 20/20 comes to its conclusion, there were few major announcements to report, but the day began appropriately with a keynote by Dekkers Davidson, CEO of MCX (Merchants Commerce Exchange, a  retail-led consortium building a payments platform, for those who’s been off the grid the last couple of weeks), perceived as a key Apple Pay alternative.

Davidson used his keynote to emphasize plans for its network to be an “open platform” – able to work with its own mobile wallet, CurrentC,  as well as merchant-run or bank-sponsored cards. He sought to correct the myths on the exclusivity terms with retailers like Rite Aid, that will in expire in months not years to counter the criticism from likes of Walt Mossberg.

In a keynote, and an excellent interview with The Verge, the CEO outlined how his platform will offer advantages over Apple Pay. But in conversations I’d had with industry executives, who want to see MCX to succeed, privately they express clear frustration how communications have been handled — and MCX’s hacking incident clearly was a source of embarrassment.

Yet, the retailers backing MCX are impressive — 7-Eleven, Best Buy, CVS, Lowe’s, Sears, Shell, Sunoco, Target and Walmart, among others — so don’t write them off yet. But you have to ask whether the consortium, which announced its plans in 2012 and is still operating in beta, can pull it all together, especially in contract to the speed of roll-out of Apple Pay?

Will MCX share the fate of Mondex, the failed electronic cash project in the UK? Time will tell, but so far, while I hear concerns, I think it’s too early to tell, especially after speaking to the team at Paydiant, whose mobile wallet is licensed by MCX. Paydiant was impressive and has solid backers, such as General Catalyst, so I give MCX the benefit of the doubt for now.

Other talks on the final day were less memorable — and included fewer big names, generally. But a packed session covered a welcome change of topic (I think more a few attendees were suffering from payments burn out…) on UX and Designing the Future of Commerce.  

Covering the topic of the user experience, a star-studded panel including Google’s Ethan Eismann (who leads UX for Google Commerce, including Google Wallet, Offers, Shopping, Travel, and Billing and Payments), Square’s Andrew Lin, and Satish Kanwar from Shopify led an interesting discussion.  Eismann highlighted the value of using the MVP model and Line noted that design is key to the problem solving process.

Earlier in the week, the president of Visa was effusive about the experience of using Square’s Order app to have his cup of coffee from the SF Ferry Building’s Blue Bottle coffee ready by tracking him using his location to have it ready when he arrives…

Another good session on Acquiring Innovation was moderated by Financial Technology Partners‘s Steve McLaughlin, and included CEO’s of TSYS, Vantiv, Heartland Payment Systems, along with First Data (whose president, Guy Chiarello, is former CIO of JPMorgan Chase, and was CIO/CTO of Morgan Stanley when I started my career there). Most echoed the views of the head of Visa, who like the major processors, is rapidly trying to become more open architecture and agile as an organization.

Jared Hecht spoke about creating Fundera, and how the alternative lending models provide a source of capital for those SMB’s that historically may not have had access to credit to grow their business. While all the speakers noted it was hard to size the market for new forms of SMB lending, and that they were both competing with banks — which Jared said typically do provide the cheapest credit to qualified borrowers — and partnering with them.

Megan Austin Karlen of Radius spoke about how its software can enable smarter marketing to SMB’s by collecting and helping analyze wider sets of data, to drive down customer acquisition costs. Radius is not widely known yet, but given its backing by Formation 8, the venture capital firm founded by Joe Lonsdale, who’s shown success at picking winners such as Oculus should be a force in the market.

Finally, IBM — who had not been a major presence in general at Money 20/20 — covered in a compelling way how cognitive computing and its Watson technology can make an impact at retail. Brian O’Keefe, CEO of SellPoints. SellPoints using the power of big data to monitor user behavior and help identify ways to improve sales online, using IBM’s Watson technology.

That wraps up coverage of Money 20/20…. What’s incredible was this year’s event was roughly double in size over last year’s event, and next year, Jonathan Weinstein told attendees the event will moved to The Venetian, since a bigger venue is needed.

It should be good event given FinTech covers an dynamic subset of the new digital economy, spanning online financial services, mobile banking and through payments, and e-commerce, via consumer services, e.g. Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Amazon’s Login and Pay.

And who knew it, the FinTech crowd knows how to not take itself too seriously – as seen in this video from Money 20/20.

That’s a wrap from Las Vegas.


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