Author: Todd Ablowitz

The Payments Standard Bearers Are Waking Up To The Payment Facilitator Opportunity (And Threat)

There is growing realization among researchers that the payment facilitator model is a rocket ship, and that old models in the payments industry have slowed their rolls at the PFs’ expense. Major players are now saying what we’ve been shouting from the rooftops for years.

In the past three years, I said: “We are seeing more ISOs looking to do frictionless on-boarding and move into aggregation. Support for the aggregation model among acquirers is also increasing.”

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Finally, An Event Where PF Is The Focus, Not A Footnote

Given how important payment facilitators are to the rapidly emerging and morphing payments landscape in 2016, it’s stunning how few places there are to explore the implications of being a PF today. Plenty of meetings and symposium exist for chatting about payments in general or virtual currencies or mobile payments, but the opportunities to really delve deeply into PF issues are practically non-existent. Until now.

If you can swing by Las Vegas on April 19, PaymentFacilatator.com—in conjunction with Double Diamond Group, Rich Consulting and the Electronic Transactions Association—will present our version of Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About PFs, But Were Too Geeky To Ask. Officially, though, it’s dubbed simply TRANSACT 16’s Payment Facilitator Day – In Depth and On Target.

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Square’s Design Miracle: EMV, NFC And An Amazing $49 Pricetag

FastCompany recently took a fascinating deep-dive into the strategy and tactics behind Square’s design. It’s a terrific read, if only to explain the design genius behind a thoroughly under-appreciated feat of engineering. It’s certainly no surprise that the Square team would have taken so much time perfecting it’s design, which delivers a beautiful—yes, I think it’s beautiful—fast and truly effortless interface. The biggest surprise here is how difficult it was to deliver the price they needed to hit.

It’s a longheld project reality that you can have your timeline, your price or your scope, but never all three. Such realities don’t cut it at Square. What is going on here is Square making a strategic longterm bet on mobile payments. Their top brass felt that someone has to suck it up price-wise to get the market moving. It’s a loss-leader mentality, but not in the quintessential razor-and-razor-blade mode. It’s more in the “we’ll pay a lot more now for a big slice of this worthless pie, betting that we can make this pie worth a bundle if we make the first move.” And Square’s engineering team has succeeded in a big way, not merely in capturing marketshare but in moving the entire market.

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Is The Cash Disappearance A PF Goldrush?

The friend of my monetary enemy is my monetary enemy. In short, as long as fraudsters take a liking to $100 bills in the U.S., 1,000-franc notes in Switzerland and 10,000-yen pieces of paper in Japan, they should quickly head to the economic graveyard. Turns out, they are indeed going there—and sooner than many expect. But this news is critically important to the payment facilitator world. It provides PFs an opportunity where banks are literally unable to deliver.

How does this impact PFs? Surprisingly directly, actually. As far as cash is concerned, someone has to terminalize the world, especially in emerging markets. Is it going to be the banks? Not a chance. PFs are positioned to create acceptance worldwide of digital payments. In many developing countries, this is a powerful opportunity for fintech companies in the PF world to fill the vacuum that is increasingly going to be left thanks to the rapid demise of cash. Small merchants dramatically outnumber their larger siblings and it’s those legions of small merchants that are driving these economies. Why won’t the banks do this? They can’t because bank business plans won’t permit it. Banks have a minimum bar for profitability per merchant and that number is simply far too high for many very small merchants. The banks have to spend the equivalent of hundreds of U.S. dollars for each merchant to onboard those small merchants, with endless paper and process.

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Financial Futility: Why Chip & PIN Sucks For Small Merchants

Given the huge importance of small merchants in the U.S. (especially one-location shops, which account for overwhelmingly more retail locations than any other merchant size segment), it’s impressive how little attention has been paid to how inappropriate chip and PIN is for those merchants.

In the wake of the U.S. EMV liability shift that kicked in on October 1, there’s been no shortage of debate about Chip and PIN vs. Chip and Signature. Once again, our old friend, the Durbin Amendment, is having its say. And for all the high-minded security-oriented thoughts being dished out, along with the many biased special interests trying to influence the debate, the small and micro-merchant have been left out, as usual.

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