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Who will own what piece of mobile payments is big concern: Fiserv exec

May 23, 2011

NFC technology not understood by consumers

Financial services technology provider Fiserv recently partnered with Forrester Research to look at financial institutions and their investment in the mobile wallet. The findings confirmed some fears.

What the companies found out was that financial institutions do not share a common view of the right strategy for mobile payments. In fact, many are taking a wait-and-see approach.

“If everyone has fast follower as a tactic, then who is leading where mobile payments are going?” said Calvin Grimes, product  manager of mobile solutions at Fiserv, Brookfield, WI.

In this Q&A, Mr. Grimes discusses the hurdles, challenges, fragmentation and opportunities in mobile payments. Here is what he had to say.

What are the hurdles to greater consumer adoption of the mobile wallet?
There is definitely a security story relative to consumers that we need to be conscious of.

Some local news stations are doing stories where they buy a NFC reader and use it to show how they can bump up against a purse and get someone’s credit card numbers.

Consumers end up  becoming afraid of putting their financial information on a cell phone when they see stories like this. But they don’t understand that moving to a mobile device may increase their security.

Consumers may have contactless cards in their wallets that have NFC chips and they don’t know even know it. The chip was put on there for them by the financial institution, but consumers aren’t getting any value because they aren’t aware it is there or how to use it.

But a smart mobile device can interact with a NFC chip, making it more interactive and enabling things like couponing and security features.

Consumers also are not necessarily getting the key message we have for mobile payments, that it enhances your life. We need to do a better job of showing them how it works, that you can take a picture of your check with a mobile device, deposit it and immediately transfer money to someone.

This is a powerful story once consumers understand and start to put all the pieces together.

Mobile payments can solve a problem, but we have to approach the marketing of it that way.

What challenges does the mobile payments ecosystem face?
There is a big concern over who ultimately will own a piece of what will happen in mobile payments.

Financial institutions bring consumers to the table and they want to make sure they protect their interests. But there are other parties that want a piece of the pie, too.

This has everybody very concerned and scared of the dynamics that we will be facing over the next few years. It has them jammed-up in the doorway and not able to move through to the next steps because of this uncertainly.

Combine that with the fact that Apple may have NFC embedded in its next phone, RIM has announced its intention to do an NFC phone by the end of the year, and that Google already has this out in the marketplace and there is the potential to have many NFC-enabled phones in consumers hands very soon.

This could bring things to a head.

The question is what are financial institutions and other doing about this? What is the model by which payments are going to be made when that happens? Nobody has any clear answers.

What is being done to address the fragmentation in mobile payments?
When the Federal Reserve met with handset manufacturers, carriers, merchants, card associations and financial institutions, it was the first time I had seen all these parties around the same table, talking about these issues.

It is really going to take a cross-ecosystem group to really bring a lot of this to a head. I don’t think any one group can solve this situation because you have so many interested parties.

What can interested parties do to help mobile payments adoption?
We’ve got to look at things more broadly. A lot of activity is focused on NFC technology. But we should be looking at mobile payments as a way to digitize payments.

Think about a future where you don’t have to issue a piece of plastic to give someone access to a home equity account. You can let the consumer choose where the payment comes out of.

With sticker NFC models, for example, you can’t have more than one sticker on the back of the phone and you can’t have more than one credit card on a sticker because there is no way to tell the NFC reader which sticker to use or to tell the sticker which account to use. 

There a lot of ways that a mobile wallet is superior to these initial efforts.

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