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Payments, What’s New? Heavy Hitters at London Tech Week

By Charley Brooke Barnett (Digital Editor)

On the third day of London Tech Week, the TFT team headed to Barclays Rise, a start-up playground in the heart of Shoreditch. The location played host to the ‘Payments, What’s New?’ event, which brought together a room of industry professionals ready to dissect the subject at hand.

The panel, moderated by TFT’s own senior editor Matthew Dove, consisted of Howard Young, (Global Head of Channel Partners, Western Union Business Solutions), Mark Bolsom, (MD UK, M3 Payments), Nigel Green, (MD, GPS Capital Markets) and Aleks Stefanovski, (VP Banking, CurrencyCloud).

Young opened proceedings on how the rate of change is making the payment space more aggressive. The nimble fintechs have created a playing field which is better, cheaper and faster for the consumer. The sheer size of the big banks and their decaying technologies make them far less agile in orchestrating innovation. Stefanovski put it succinctly, “banks have to embrace change and partner or risk falling behind.”

Next up on the agenda was the impact of open banking. The panel unanimously agreed it’s here to stay but regulation will govern the journey and time will tell of its value proposition. Green stated that regulation needs to sit behind the technology and forecast that the younger generation will see an omni channel world of payments that’ll only make life easier for business and consumer.

As technology directs the future of payments, understanding regulation and championing the creation of partnerships will be critical to survival in an industry as dynamic as this.

Following the US President’s recent touchdown on British soil, it was timely for Dove to ask the panel for their thoughts on the “very stable genius” Trump and the trade war between the United States and China.

Bolsom urged the audience to consider the actions of China before casting judgement, whilst Young quipped, “when the US sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold”. But our panel soon acknowledged the dispute won’t necessarily leave Europe reaching for the lozenges.

Onto emerging markets, the discussion moved to the widespread growth of mobile wallets in Africa and Asia. Stefanovski praised the opportunities technology has provided but warned of a “fragmentation of standards” as regulation differs between countries which complicates cross-border payments. In agreement, Green highlighted his trouble sending a payment from China to the UK and encouraged worldwide regulation to be more consistent.

Dove then steered the conversation onto the cashless society debate. As managing cash is such a cumbersome operation, Bolsom told us its use will inevitably decline as technology advances. This may be the case in London, but Young was quick to point out that in his Welsh town, there’s only one Uber. Until suppliers cooperate, he won’t be ditching cash just yet.

Whether the UK becomes completely cashless or not, infrastructure has to be in place to support the transition. Cybersecurity issues and personal preferences were cited as factors against going completely cashless by Stefanovski.

As technology directs the future of payments, understanding regulation and championing the creation of partnerships will be critical to survival in an industry as dynamic as this.

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