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Does Invention, Innovation or Stagnation Best Describe the Payments Landscape Today?

Before answering this question, let’s further define these terms:

The Payments Landscape encompasses a wide and varied list, including but not limited to the following: payment methods, payment types, payment technologies, payment systems, payment networks, banks, software applications, hardware devices, payment processors and many, many more.

Invention can be defined as a new process, new product, new machine, new procedure, new technology, etc., and one that did not exist previously and is the result of some unique intuition or genius.

Innovation can best be described as the addition, alteration, deviation, modernization, adaptation, etc., to an existing process, product, machine, procedure, technology, etc.

Stagnation is best described as a status or condition of having stopped, a failure to develop, progress or advance, and a state of very little happening.

Has there been any Invention in Payments over the last 10 years? One can state rather emphatically that there has been no “new” Invention in the payments world, with one exception: a possible new payment system by the name of Bitcoin. The simple fact is this: everything that is “new” in payments has been the result of Innovation, not Invention. Many think mobile payment applications and mobile payment devices constitute Invention. That is just not the case. Mobile payments are not a new technology and they are not a new payment system. Mobile phones have been around for a very long time. The payment methods used with mobile devices have been around a very long time. Mobile payments surely represent some Innovation, as they are an adaption or alteration of an existing product or process for a new and more efficient use.

Some think reloadable payment cards (prepaid cards) are a new Invention. This is also not the case. In fact, they are really not that innovative, just a different way to create economic value on plastic. You also hear many so called experts stating that NFC (near field communications), which is used for Apple Pay and other mobile payments, is a new Invention. This is
just not an accurate statement. While NFC has been in use for over ten years, it is no more than a child of RFID (radio frequency identification) technology, which has been around since the 1980’s.

Apple Pay is often touted in the media and in the payments world as a new invention. There is no doubt that Apple has found a way to make mobile payments more consumer friendly, a little faster and a little more secure. However, Apple Pay is not a new Invention and one can say that it is not really a great and innovative payment application. Apple used an existing mobile phone product, existing NFC (RFID) technology, existing payment systems, existing payment networks and banks, and payment processors. This looks more like the proverbial “bright and new shiny paint job on a very old car.”

There is no doubt Apple Pay will be forced in the retail face to face and mobile payment landscape. However, because it uses so many old and existing systems, the same problems have already beset it. Some Card Issuers have reported fraud rates with Apple Pay of 8% of transactions. Historically, fraud in payments is less than 1/10 of 1%. Surprisingly, the fraud is not with the finger print or tokenization security added to the phone, which is a big step forward. The fraud is with stolen cards being added to Apple Pay mobile application, which has little security. Thus, the fraud starts before any
payment is ever made and tokenization cannot stop that. Criminals know how to beat a legacy payment system.

It is not just Apple Pay that speaks to innovation, but really offers the same old approach to payments. MCX, which has not yet launched and is expected to challenge Apple Pay, takes a different approach, using existing bar code technology (QR codes) to make mobile payments. MCX is all about reducing the cost of acceptance for merchants by using debit cards and ACH payments as the wallet funding and payment source.

The bottom line is this: There are only five electronic payment systems in the United States today. They are: ACH System, Checking System, Debit Card System, Credit Card System and the Wire Transfer System. These are the same payment systems that have been around for a very long time. This speaks to a simple fact: There has been no New Invention in Payments and there has been very little Innovation in Payments.

We are left with payment systems that are not real time, not fraud free, not efficient and not very innovative. It is the definition of Stagnation. Simply “bolting” on new payment applications and methods to existing and aging legacy payment systems is not very inventive or innovative. This results in costs that are ever rising. Businesses and Consumers deserve more alternatives and options, along with cheaper payment methods and payment types. We need New Invention. Otherwise, the efficiency and cost of inbound payments, outbound payments and treasury operations will continue to rise.

Vizant prides itself on delivering Efficiency and Cost Reduction to its clients. It is why we are recognized as the Thought Leader and Expert in Payments and Treasury.