In late February I attended the Technology Association of Georgia’s (TAG) most successful Financial Technology symposium yet. This annual one-day event has grown in each of its five years, this time convening over 400 industry leaders for panel discussions, emerging technologies, and networking.
Deluxe is a proud sponsor of TAG; in fact, Georgia’s stature as the US hub for financial technology and payments infrastructure prompted Deluxe Financial Services to establish its own innovation hub in Atlanta. And like the TAG symposium, this office is rapidly growing as Deluxe continually expands its portfolio of financial services offerings.
Here are a few of my favorite tidbits from an action-packed day:
The Internet of Things
During a panel on the “Internet of Things,” it was posited that the increasingly web-connected automobile has essentially become “our largest wearable device.” While some of the unintended consequences of that concept give me pause, it’s certainly an intriguing paradigm.
Linnea Solem weighed in on these concerns last November in her blog “Connected Cars and Privacy in the Era of Internet of Things”, it’s a great read if you haven’t yet had the chance to check it out.
Bitcoin’s Potential as a Currency
A lively discussion of Bitcoin helped illuminate the currency’s potential, but at the same time and perhaps inadvertently, it shed light on the momentous hurdles to be overcome for this idea to reach the mainstream.
The innovators and the regulators/compliance experts on the panel appeared to be speaking entirely different languages- both made solid points, but a meeting of the minds hardly seems imminent. Banks’ statutory requirements to perform OFAC screening on client transactions make Bitcoin a very difficult fit.
At the same time, Sheila James of Align Commerce drew cogent parallels to the development of VoIP technology, which in many ways sidestepped existing telecom regulations until the supposed complications were essentially rendered moot.
Digital Payment Systems
A State of the Industry panel inevitably honed in on the industry’s hot topics, Apple Pay and digital wallets in general. Former TSYS executive Paul Bridgewater sagely pointed out that “the payment itself is becoming less and less important; what’s interesting is the technology and customer experience enhancements going on around it.”
Head of Ernst & Young’s Payments practice Margaret Weichert attempted to apply a sanity check to the digital wallet space, reminding that “women don’t hate wallets, and women still do the majority of the shopping.” It was a great point of view that is probably often overlooked!
And in a sign that industry professionals aren’t immune to hype, an audience poll asked whether Apple Pay would reach 5% penetration among point of sale transactions by year-end 2015. While posing the question Weichert offered the perspective that American Express and Discover each enjoy roughly 5% penetration.
Despite this jury tampering, fully 60 percent of the audience believed Apple Pay would reach such penetration levels in 2015. I’m not much of a bettor, but this groundswell has me wanting to head to Vegas- although I doubt savvy odds makers would give me nearly as appealing an over/under.