Imagine a world where this happens.
You arrive at a salon to get a haircut … and its technology platform, already synced with your calendar to schedule the date and time, has shared your preferred style with the stylist.
Your bank has already determined which of your credit cards is best suited for this transaction, and which to use for any hair care products you buy. As you exit the salon, those transactions take place, enabled by digital recognition technology. The system has applied existing loyalty reward points toward the cost and recorded the new points you’ve earned.
You tip your stylist in crypto, their preferred currency, and immediately receive an email with a receipt and the details of your next appointment. You walk out of there, stylish cut and all, without ever opening your wallet or calendar.
This is the vision for seamless transactions discussed recently at Money20/20 USA, one of the world’s premier conference about the global money ecosystem. The big question is: Are we now at the digital transactions tipping point? Will your bank become your everything-in-life-embedded-fintech tool, or will some up-and-coming fintech company step over the big institutions to create this new utopia? More than 12,000 attendees gathered in Las Vegas for a glimpse at the future of payments.
Here are some other observations from four very busy days supporting clients at Money 20/20:
“Embedded finance” has turned to “embedded everything”
As fantastical as the salon example seems today, it’s not far away. Soon all our favorite conveniences and life hacks will integrate to make our lives easier and experiences more seamless. And payment is at the forefront of that movement. Banks and fintechs are at an existential fork in the road and racing to debut new technology that helps position their products and services in the payments ecosystem of the future. This trend was on display across panels, product announcements and just about every booth on the expo room floor. The future of payments – a phrase we’ve been hearing for over a decade now – might finally be here!
Open banking has gone mainstream
This was the unofficial theme of Money 20/20. You couldn’t walk 10 feet without bumping into someone talking about, selling or demo’ing a product related to open banking and open finance. The notion of financial institutions figuring out how to seamlessly share data for the benefit of the customer was energizing and truly a breath of fresh air. That was the most consistent topic across keynotes, panels, product announcements, media interviews and hallway conversations. In fact, Jess Turner, head of open banking for Ketchum client Mastercard, presented on the topic from the main stage on the Expo floor — and the crowd hung on every word!
Regulation is coming
Until now, fintechs have enjoyed a mostly unregulated universe with respect to their use of customer data — especially when compared to their regulated counterparts (and competitors) in the traditional banking space. But according to many attendees and execs, those days are numbered.
Perhaps the most newsworthy keynote of the week came from Consumer Finance Protection Bureau Director Rohit Chopra, who detailed the federal agency’s “new approach to regulation” for fintechs. This hint at regulation is actually good news for many fintech who are trying to compete and get ahead in open banking. For them, the R word isn’t scary at all. They are eager for long-overdue rules and guidelines to help open the doors to more competition and innovation, and thus embrace the need to engage with regulators as their industry matures.
Get a headset: The Metaverse is here to stay
According to Stephane Kasriel, Meta’s head of commerce and financial technologies, the metaverse is about to be a trillion-dollar opportunity for the handful of companies and innovators who jump in at the right time (meaning … now!).
Kasriel spoke at length in a primetime keynote about “money in the metaverse,” highlighting its overall progress and growth, early successes and challenges, and the importance of incorporating many of the exciting payment technologies on display at the conference. These days, consumers enjoy (and take for granted) completely frictionless experiences at point-of-sale and on their phones. His vision is to recreate that convenience in the metaverse, so when users pay for goods in the virtual world, it feels as seamless as the double click feature when they use Apple Pay. While that technology is still nascent today, paying for an app or a service in the metaverse is likely to soon mirror payments in real life.
Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) is seeing record growth, and new competition, for industry stalwarts
BNPL was a common theme. Hundreds of BNPL-focused startups have taken the industry by storm in recent years, focusing on niche verticals and offering targeted flexible financing to customers who might not otherwise get approved by a bank for traditional forms of financing. BNPL’s original bellwethers have been forced to get creative with their services and ancillary offerings to keep pace with new entries in the space. Should the economy sour into recession for 2023, this industry is one to watch. If consumers overindulge in BNPL and begin to spend at levels they can’t sustain, regulators won’t hesitate to step in to tamp down the enthusiasm.
Seeing the excitement, enthusiasm and sheer number of people taking part in Money20/20 this year, the payments and fintech industry is experiencing an extraordinary period of growth. This expansion has been led in part by big tech companies, but also fueled by scrappy young startups with visions of taking on the behemoths of traditional banking and finance.
However, it’s hard to imagine many of these smaller startups — many initially buoyed by historically low interest rates and pandemic-era digital growth – surviving in amidst an increasingly challenging economy, growing competition, and the rising costs of regulatory compliance.
As we look to the future, 2023 will no doubt bring additional change and disruption for this industry, including increased consolidation and layoffs as the industry continues to mature and adjust to the changing economy. That has attendees already thinking about plans for next year’s iteration of Money20/20, and how brands can get even more involved in this wave through thought leadership and other forms of financial and professional services communications.
Need help navigating this evolving fintech-centric world? Our Ketchum team stands ready to help.