The world of electronic payments continues to excite like no other sector of consumer finance and 2014 was no exception. Bringing together diverse players such as established banks, venture capitalists, fintech entrepreneurs, mobile telcos, retailers, e-commerce players and payment systems the sector is a goldmine for analysts, bloggers and the media.
So the fact that there is a surfeit of overblown hype and daily calls from gullible and excitable PRs to this desk is to be expected. As it is the time of the year for forecasts, here are few from EPI.
2015 will not witness anything approaching a payments revolution nor the death of cash. There will be a continuation of the gradual move towards a cashless society but it will not be accompanied by the death of what might be termed traditional retail banking. So more of the same: evolution not revolution.
We will continue plenty more about Apple Pay and Bitcoin, some would argue far too much on both subjects.
Despite repeated pitches from certain vested interests trying to kid us on that conventional banking methods will become outdated, prepaid at least in the UK is not going to replace the traditional current account.
Nor will cheques disappear any time soon; if anything, cheques will be given a kiss of life with the roll out of remote cheque deposit in the UK and not a moment too soon.
We will see and hear more about mobile wallets and in certain markets, the UAE and Italy for example, there will be interesting news to cover. In the main however, much of the comment relating to mobile wallets finally taking off will again be in the hype category.
Talking of hype, there will be plenty of excitement relating to wearables – again that brings in Apple. If the PR fraternity is to be believed, this launch will revolutionise payments. What we will actually witness will be the release of an expensive high-end fashion item to accompany the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6+.
For what seems like an age now, at this time of the year we are told that next year is going to be the years when NFC finally takes off. Well perhaps there is reason to be optimistic that NFC mobile proximity payments will enjoy a stellar year with help from Apple Pay and HCE developments elsewhere.
A focus on improving the consumer experience will doubtless encompass progress in merging in-store payments and online cloud-based payments.
Looking back at the diary from exactly a 12 months ago, I note that it was on this day in 2013 that I received two calls from ‘Bitcoin experts’ with their forecasts for 2014. I still have my notes. A year ago, the price of Bitcoins was $683. The first call forecast a price a year ahead, i.e. today, of $2,500.
The second call was even more upbeat, confidently forecasting a price a year ahead in the range of $4,000-$5,000. For the record, the price of bitcoin as EPI goes to press is $333.
Tempting as it might be to name and shame, I will resist the temptation.
To you and yours, seasonal greetings and very best wishes for the year ahead.