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What do you do when 900 startups are targeting your service?

What do you do when 900 startups are targeting your service?

Finance executives talk about how to remain relevant as customers have more choices with mobile money and digital payments

Caroline Ada, country manager for Visa, describes the ongoing disruption in the payments industry this way: "There were 900 payment startups last year. It is a fast paced and rapidly evolving category.

“The majority of solutions are there to remove the friction from everyday life, which is buying stuff,” she says.

Nowadays, there are so many ways to make payments than just the usual card transaction, Ada says.

“It is not just presenting your card or inserting it anymore. It is tapping it, using your phone to buy, click and collect.”

“As an organisation, we have to accept we are not going to have all the answers,” she says.

“Our role is to create an environment or ecosystem for any party to innovate with us,” says Ada, who spoke at a forum on ‘Payments Evolution’ by the Trans-Tasman Business Circle.

Her co-panellists were Rob Ellis, chief executive, Semble; David Bullock, director for products and technology, BNZ; and John Scott, managing director, Bartercard New Zealand.

Panellists at the Payments Evolution Forum (from left): John Scott, managing director, Bartercard NZ; David Bullock, director for products and technology, BNZ ; Caroline Ada, country manager, Visa; and Rob Ellis, CEO, Semble
Panellists at the Payments Evolution Forum (from left): John Scott, managing director, Bartercard NZ; David Bullock, director for products and technology, BNZ ; Caroline Ada, country manager, Visa; and Rob Ellis, CEO, Semble

Removing friction

Ada says some of the things Visa is working on are around data APIs.

She likens this to what Uber does with Google Maps. “It takes the Google Map API and adds a whole lot of funky stuff in front of it.”

An Uber user, for instance, can see where the car is and how far it is from his or her house.

Ada says consumers are hunting out new technologies that remove friction from their experiences, and Uber is an example of this.

“You don’t have to present your card, you get an emailed receipt, you know who your driver is. That is a fantastic solution developed by a startup. It removes friction from using a taxi.

“A lot of what Visa is doing is opening up the edges of our network so that players and startups and everyone in the ecosystem can co-develop with us.”

Our role is to create an environment or ecosystem for any party to innovate with us.

Caroline Ada, Visa

This will lead Visa to launch market leading solutions whether for risk management, anti-fraud or loyalty solutions for their cards, she says.

Ada says that is the future, and this is exemplified by Semble.

Semble was launched in March 2015 as New Zealand’s first mobile wallet, and is a collaboration among two banks (ASB and Bank of New Zealand), three mobile network (Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees and payments network Paymark

Read more: The challenger’s cloud platform

Co-opetition and collaboration

It is “co-opetition or collaboration”, she states. “I don’t think as organisations we can continue to operate behind a 40 foot wall.

Related: How New Zealand Enterprises can ensure they are the disruptors – and not the disrupted - in the fast-paced digital environment.

“The key word is relevance,” says another panellist, David Bullock of Bank of New Zealand.

“No matter what organisation you are, or how big you are, you need to think about what change is going on outside your industry or business, and think about if the pace of change occurring in your industry is as fast as that or slower. If it is slower, your company is losing relevance.”

Read more: P2P currency exchange startups disrupting the finance sector

At BNZ, Bullock is driving this thinking around customer utility and making it frictionless for the customer.

Semble shows “we need to create ecosystems and care about what the customer wants and the benefits the customer can achieve rather than trying to hold on to customers ourselves and saying, we will do it ourselves", he says.

Rather than companies signing up for the technology bank by bank, they will deal with an ecosystem, he states.

He stresses the need to be vigilant on technology trends.

“I am a really believer that we overestimate the short-term impact of these technologies, and underestimate it in the long term.”

He cites, “Can you imagine the mobile phone having the same power as supercomputing today? What are the possibilities that can create? That is mindbogglingly challenging.”

Read more: ‘Breakthrough industry collaboration’ leads to NZ’s first mobile wallet

Can you imagine the mobile phone having the same power as supercomputing today? What are the possibilities that can create?

David Bullock, BNZ

He says BNZ has teams thinking of these things “to ensure we remain relevant”.

“Relevance is absolutely critical for any business to think about,” says another panellist, Rob Ellis of Semble.

But given the number of choices to customers that are available, there comes a point where you have to back up one or two horses, he says. The decision “should be informed by your customers’ experience”.

He says while Semble began with payments, that is just a starting point.

Read more: Digital unleashes new business continuity challenge - and your organisation is most likely unprepared for it

“Our vision for the consumer is to replace everything out of your physical wallet,” he says.

These will include plastic cards, loyalty cards and paper-based documents like coffee cards, discount vouchers and coupons, “through to driver’s license, building access, control cards, car keys, hotel keys.”

“Smartphones are increasingly becoming central to our daily life,” he says.

“We are coming to that ecosystem creating essential technology and utility capability that enables the consumers to get all those physical bits out of their wallet and into their smartphones.”

Related:The five steps to successful digital transformation

Read more: Unshackled from eBay, PayPal re-emerges as a payments giant
Semble CEO Rob Ellis
Semble CEO Rob Ellis

Relevance is absolutely critical for any business to think about.

Rob Ellis, Semble

Another panellist, John Scott of Bartercard, says companies face a challenge in deciding which areas to invest in.

“Where do you invest? What technology device will you utilise? What are common standards around it?

“How do you know it is going to be there in three to five years?

“For all of us it is a case of understanding and making clear investment decisions."

The Privacy Act is a key thing to consider when we deal with technology, he adds. “Technology is changing everyday, how do you think legislation can keep up with that?"

Send news tips and comments to divina_paredes@idg.co.nz

Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap

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