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Take On Payments, a blog sponsored by the Retail Payments Risk Forum of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, is intended to foster dialogue on emerging risks in retail payment systems and enhance collaborative efforts to improve risk detection and mitigation. We encourage your active participation in Take on Payments and look forward to collaborating with you.

Take On Payments

August 19, 2019


Why Should You Care about PSD2?

The revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) is major payments legislation in the European Union (EU) that is intended to provide consumers increased competition, innovation, and security in banking and payment services. PSD2 specifications were released by the European Banking Authority in November 2017 and requires all companies in the EU to be in compliance by September 14, 2019. Earlier this year, the European Banking Authority had refused a request by numerous stakeholders in the payments industry for a blanket delay of the regulation, citing a lack of legal authority to do so, although it announced it would permit local regulatory authorities to extend compliance deadlines a "limited additional time." In the United Kingdom, however, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced on August 7 that it was deferring general enforcement of the PSD2 authentication provisions until March 2021, and allowing the industry an additional six months beyond that to develop more advanced forms of authentication. The Central Bank of Ireland has also granted an extension that is expected to be similar to the FCA's, but one has not been announced as of this writing.

The PSD2 has two major requirements: offer open banking and strong customer authentication (SCA). With open banking, consumers can authorize financial services providers to access and use their financial data that another financial institution is holding. (Application programming interfaces, or APIs, allow that access.) The FCA had mandated that open banking for U.K. banks be in place by early 2018 while the rest of the EU kept the open banking compliance deadline the same as that for SCA compliance. While open banking represents a major change in the EU's financial services landscape, the rest of this post focuses on the PSD2's strong customer authentication requirements.

Generally, PSD2 requires financial service providers to implement multi-factor authentication for in-person and remote financial transactions performed through any payment channel. As we have discussed before in this blog, there are three main authentication factor categories:

  • Something you know (for example, PIN or password)
  • Something you have (for example, chip card, mobile phone, or hardware token)
  • Something you are (for example, biometric modality such as fingerprints or facial or voice recognition)

PSD2 compliance requires the user to be authenticated using elements from at least two of these categories. For payments that are transacted remotely, authentication tokens linking the specific transaction amount and the payee's account number are an additional requirement.

The regulation provides for a number of exemptions to the SCA requirement. Key exemptions include:

  • Low-value transactions (under €30, approximately $33)
  • Transactions with businesses that the consumer identifies as trusted
  • Recurring transactions for consistent amounts after SCA is used for the first transaction. If the amount changes, SCA is required.
  • "Low-risk" transactions based on the acquirer's overall fraud rate calculated on a 90-day basis. Transaction values can be as high as €500 (about $555).
  • Mail-order and telephone-order payments, since they are not considered electronic payments covered by the regulation
  • Business-to-business (B2B) payments

Since PSD2 does not apply to payments where the acquirer or the issuer is not based in the EU, why would understanding this regulation be important to non-EU consumers and payment system stakeholders? From 2015 through 2018, the Federal Reserve established and provided leadership for the Secure Payments Task Force as it identified ways to enhance payments security, especially for remote payments. One critical need the task force identified is stronger identity authentication. So far, the United States has avoided any legislation concerning authentication, but will actions like the PSD2 create pressures to mandate such protections here? Or will the industry continue to work together through efforts like the FedPayments Improvement Community to develop improved authentication approaches? Please let us know what you think.

Photo of David Lott By David Lott, a payments risk expert in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed

August 19, 2019 in authentication, banks and banking, consumer protection, fraud, Payment Services Directive, PSD2 | Permalink

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July 29, 2019


You Can't Manage What You Can't Measure

Peter Drucker famously applied the adage you can't manage what you can't measure to widgets at General Motors. Researchers, fintech entrepreneurs, elected leaders, and others who are trying to ensure economic mobility for all would do well to remember this advice. To be able to interpret or conclude that real improvements are occurring due to financial innovation, it is important to understand the metrics used for assessing economic mobility.

One important resource for data on financial inclusion is the Group of Twenty (G20) Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI). This group has produced a number of excellent documents on financial inclusion. I want to bring special attention to the G20 Financial Inclusion Indicators  and the interactive dashboard.

These indicators grew out of the original Basic Set of Financial Inclusion Indicators, which was created in 2012. Updated this past April, the indicators are meant to measure achievements and disparities in the use of digital financial services along with the technology or environment that is needed to enable use of these services. The dashboard interprets recent data collected for certain indicators. You can download country-level raw data based on variables that you customize. Also on the G20 site is an interactive data visualizer that will let you see how the United States compares to other countries by each indicator.

There are three dimensions to the measurement: (1) access to financial services, (2) use of financial services, and (3) quality of products and service delivery. Here are some indicator categories related specifically to payments:

  • Retail cashless transactions
  • Adults using digital payments
  • Mobile phone or Internet-based payments
  • Payments using a bank card
  • Debit card ownership
  • Proximity to physical points of service (i.e. branches, ATMs, access to internet)
  • Enterprises that send or receive digital payments
  • Received wages or government transfers into an account

The GPFI encourages individual countries to supplement the G20 Indicators with country-specific metrics. Following are several additional sources contributing to measurements of financial inclusion for the United States:

  • U.S. Financial Health Pulse by the Financial Health Network: Measures financial health using the Center for Financial Services Innovation Financial Health Score measurement methodology, consumer surveys, and transactional records.
  • The Opportunity Atlas by the U.S. Census Bureau and Opportunity Insights: Maps the neighborhoods in the United States that offer children the best chance to rise out of poverty.
  • Small City Economic Dynamism Index by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta: Provides a snapshot of the economic trajectory and current conditions of 816 small and midsized cities across the United States. It includes 13 indicators of economic dynamism for metropolitan and micropolitan areas with populations above 12,000 and below 500,000.
  • Payment Volume Charts Treasury-Disbursed Agencies> by Bureau of the Fiscal Service:: Offers downloadable reports that compare monthly and cumulative electronic funds transfer payment volumes for different time periods.
  • Model Safe Accounts by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation: Offers an overview and report of a pilot program designed to evaluate the feasibility of financial institutions offering safe, low-cost transactional and savings accounts that are responsive to the needs of underserved consumers.

Keeping data at the forefront of the discussion on financial inclusion will better inform strategies, help organizations and entrepreneurs build better products and services, and help policymakers and many others monitor the effect of initiatives.

Photo of Jessica WashingtonBy Jessica Washington, AAP, a payments risk expert in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed

July 29, 2019 in banks and banking, financial services | Permalink

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April 8, 2019


Insuring Against Cyber Loss

Over the last few months, my colleagues and I have had multiple speaking engagements and discussions with banking and payments professionals on the topic of business email compromise (BEC). Generally, these discussions lead to talk about a risk management strategy or approach for this large, and growing, type of scam. One way some companies and financial institutions are mitigating their risk of financial loss to BEC and other cyber-related events is through a cyber-risk insurance policy. In a recent conversation, someone told me their cyber-insurance carrier mandates that they get an outside firm to audit and assess their cybersecurity strategy and practices, or they risk losing coverage.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, some large insurers are even going a step further and collaborating with each other to offer their own assessments of cybersecurity products and services available to businesses. Their results, which they will make publically available, will identify products and services they deem effective in reducing cybersecurity incidents and potentially qualify insured companies with improved policy terms and conditions if they use those products or services.

Cybersecurity vendors who would like their products and services to be assessed must apply by early May. They are not required to pay any fees for the evaluation. In light of the rising number of cyber-related events and increasing financial losses, along with the growing number of legal cases between companies and their insurance providers, this move by the insurance companies makes sense as a way for them to potentially reduce their exposure to cyber incidents. But it will be very interesting to see just how many cybersecurity vendors apply for participation in the program and how effective the insurers are at assessing the vendors' products and services. Moreover, for businesses, just using cybersecurity solutions helps them meet only part of the challenge. How they implement and maintain these solutions is critical to an effective cybersecurity approach.

Also of note in the Wall Street article is a graph that depicts the percentage of a particular global insurance company's clients, by industry, that have purchased a stand-alone cyber-insurance policy. Financial institutions, at 27 percent, rank last. Perhaps they are more confident in their cybersecurity strategies than are other industries, or perhaps insurers have no attractive stand-alone policies for financial institutions.

The cyber threat today is serious. In fact, Federal Reserve Board chairman Jerome Powell in a recent CBS 60 Minutes interview, when asked about a possible cyberattack on the U.S. banking system, responded that "cyber risk is a major focus—perhaps the major focus in terms of big risks."

As the Risk Forum continues to also focus on and monitor cyber risks, we look forward to the public findings from the insurers' collaborative assessment of cybersecurity products and services and will be interested to see if, over time, more financial institutions obtain cyber-risk insurance policies. I suspect the cyber-insurance industry will evolve in the products they offer and will continue to grow as companies look to mitigate their risks in the event of a cyber event.

What are your thoughts on this collaborative effort by the insurers? How do you see the cyber-insurance industry evolving? And do you think more financial institutions (or perhaps your own) will acquire cyber-insurance policies?

Photo of Douglas King By Douglas A. King, payments risk expert in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed

 

April 8, 2019 in banks and banking, cybercrime, cybersecurity | Permalink

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March 4, 2019


The Importance of the Small

In Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Helena said, "Though she be but little, she is fierce," in reference to the power of her romantic foe, Hermia. In today's pop culture, this quote can be found on T-shirts, coffee mugs, inspirational wall hangings, and social media memes touting women's power. But it has a broader meaning to me, one that says small voices are every bit as important as large ones.

In the payments industry, I think of the small voices as being the smaller financial institutions—which are crucial to the success of the Federal Reserve Payments Study, contributing a great deal to the study findings. The study, which estimates the number and value of noncash payments made by U.S. consumers and businesses as well as the data around payments fraud, is intended to inform policymakers, the industry, and the public about aggregate trends in the nation's payments system. Most recently, this work culminated in a benchmark report on U.S. payments fraud from 2012 to 2016.

One important component of the study is to collect data on checks, ACH, wire transfers, cards, cash withdrawals and deposits, third-party fraud, and related information from a nationally representative sample of commercial banks, savings institutions, and credit unions, from the largest to the smallest. So what exactly is meant by a "nationally representative sample"?

In a nutshell, for our estimates to be representative of national payment volumes, we have to account for all sources of volume. If we include only the largest institutions or leave out some segments, the estimates can be biased, either too large or too small. Even though much of payments volume is concentrated in the largest institutions, it is impossible to know how much so without having a good estimate for all segments of the banking population. Past surveys have shown that the segments can exhibit very different trends from study to study. For example, from 1995 to 2000, total checks at large commercial banks fell, while total checks at credit unions and savings institutions grew. (Read more about that in this report from the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.) Without the information from credit unions, the decline in checks would have appeared larger than it actually was.

Study participants are selected from among U.S. commercial banks, savings institutions, and credit unions. According to reports filed with the Federal Reserve in 2015, there were approximately 10,600 of these depository institutions (DI) in the United States that met the criteria (see the table). Using Call Report data filed with the Federal Reserve, a sample frame of slightly under 3,800 institutions was determined to be representative of the entire population of U.S. financial institutions. Each institution type is further grouped according to deposit size.

Institution Type Deposit Size (Maximum)* No. of U.S. Institutions No. Invited to Participate in Study
Commercial Banks  
50
50
$10,900,000,000
264
264
$ 799,500,000
247
237
$ 388,000,000
337
237
$ 232,000,000
618
308
$ 139,754,000
872
289
$ 83,909,000
1,190
444
$ 41,980,000
1,382
356
Subtotal  
4,960
2,185
Savings Institutions  
25
24
$ 1,650,000,000
48
48
$ 497,000,000
102
102
$ 195,000,000
132
104
$ 100,500,000
155
116
$ 46,300,000
292
96
Subtotal  
754
490
Credit Unions  
25
25
$ 730,000,000
47
46
$ 365,000,000
137
126
$ 185,000,000
174
143
$ 105,500,000
240
147
$ 58,000,000
399
167
$ 26,680,000
690
201
$11,190,000
3,144
242
Subtotal  
4,856
1,097
Total  
10,570
3,772

*For commercial banks and savings institutions, this is the sum of public checkable deposits (or checking account balances) and money market deposit accounts. For credit unions, this reflects public checkable deposits only.

Source: Table adapted from Geoffrey Gerdes and Xuemei Liu. "Improving Response Quality with Planned Missing Data: An Application to a Survey of Banks," in The Econometrics of Complex Survey Data: Theory and Applications (Advances in Econometrics, volume 39), ed. Kim P. Huynh, David T. Jacho-Chavez, and Gautam Tripathi. Available April 1, 2019.

As the table shows, financial institutions in each category with the lowest maximum deposit size comprise approximately 46 percent of the total number of U.S. institutions. Of this group, consisting of more than 4,800 DIs, just under 700 were invited to participate in the study, or approximately 18 percent of the total sample.

Take, for example, credit unions with a maximum deposit size of $11.2 million. In 2016, there were approximately 3,100 institutions in this category, and 242 were invited to participate in the study to represent that segment. Similarly, 96 savings institutions with a maximum deposit size of $46.3 million were selected to represent the overall segment of just under 300 institutions.

Grouping institutions in this way improves the quality of results, as the institutions within each category share many similar characteristics. The smaller institutions have a unique voice and experience that the larger DIs cannot represent. To develop a true and accurate national picture of the payments landscape, it is important that all voices be heard.

I hope your takeaway from this post is that the contributions of all financial institutions—large and small—are important to the accuracy and representativeness of the data that the Federal Reserve Payment Study reports. And although study participants may sometimes think their institutions are small fish in a big pond, their survey contributions serve as the voice of their peers, and in the collective, that whisper becomes a mighty voice.

Photo of Nancy-Donahue  By Nancy Donahue, project manager in the Retail Payments Risk Forum  at the Atlanta Fed

 

March 4, 2019 in banks and banking, payments study | Permalink

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February 19, 2019


Acute Audit Appendicitis

My son came home from school the other day and told me that his friend’s kidney had "popped." With great concern and further investigation, I found out that his friend had suffered from appendicitis but had since recovered. Luckily, fifth grade boys and most of the human race can get along fine without an appendix. And, as it turns out, there is another type of appendix people can live without: Appendix Eight—Audit Requirements—in the NACHA Operating Rules. NACHA members recently voted to cut this part out.

But wait—don’t celebrate too soon. The change doesn’t eliminate the requirement to conduct an annual ACH rules compliance audit. Rather, members voted to modify "the Rules to provide financial institutions [FI] and third-party service providers with greater flexibility in conducting annual Rules compliance audits." Specifically, the change—which was effective January 1, 2019—affected the following areas of the NACHA Operating Rules:

  • Article One, Subsection 1.2.2 (Audits of Rules Compliance): Consolidates the core audit requirements described within Appendix Eight under the general obligation of participating DFIs and third-party service providers/senders to conduct an audit.
  • Appendix Eight (Rule Compliance Audit Requirements): Eliminates the current language contained within Appendix Eight; combines relevant provisions with the general audit obligation required under Article One, Subsection 1.2.2.

FIs and ACH payment processors must still conduct, either internally or outsourced, an annual audit of their compliance with the ACH rules each year. They also must retain adequate proof of completion for no less than six years and may, during that term, need to provide proof to NACHA or a regulator. And they will have to adjust their audit methodologies to ensure that they comply with all relevant rules rather than just rely on the former Appendix Eight checklist.

The new audit process necessitates a risk-based approach, which is a strategy regulators have been encouraging in recent years. With so many emerging technologies, products, and services in the payments industry, FIs and ACH payment processors can no longer take a one-size-fits-all approach for compliance. They also no longer have a single access point to ACH—rather, they must consider many access points when auditing for Rules compliance.

These institutions may not have previously had to take into account other areas that touch payments. For example, the risk-based audit doesn’t explore just the deposit operations department; it analyzes how the whole enterprise interacts with ACH systems. Additionally, it may need to include loan operations, online account opening, person-to-person (P2P) products, investment management, and other new digital channels.

Life without Appendix Eight will be an adjustment, but its removal won’t be fatal. I think ACH participants will recover quickly and be even healthier—embracing the new risk-based compliance model will likely strengthen enterprise risk management and promote increased safety and stability in our payment systems.

Photo of Jessica Washington By Jessica Washington, AAP, payments risk expert in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed

 

February 19, 2019 in ACH, banks and banking, payments | Permalink

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December 10, 2018


A Look in the Rearview Mirror of Payments for 2018

I'm sure just about everyone else in the payments industry would agree with me that 2018 was yet another exciting year for payments. The year was filled with a host of newsworthy events, but fintech most certainly took center stage in the financial services industry, including payments. Whether the news highlighted an announcement of a new product to increase financial access or discussed the regulatory challenges and associated concerns within the fintech space, it seemed that fintech made its way into the news on a daily basis. Still, for payments, 2018 will be remembered for more than just fintech.

The Retail Payments Risk Forum's last Talk About Payments webinar of 2018 will feature Doug King, Dave Lott, and Jessica Washington sharing their perspectives and memories on the year-in-payments in a round table discussion. Among the topics they will discuss are consumer payment preferences, the changing retail environment, and the state of fraud—and fintech, of course. We encourage financial institutions, retailers, payments processors, law enforcement, academia, and other payments system stakeholders to participate in this webinar. Participants will be able to submit questions during the webinar.

The webinar will be held on Thursday, December 20, from 1 to 2 p.m. (ET). Participation in the webinar is free, but you must register in advance. To register, click on the TAP webinar link. After you complete your registration, you will receive a confirmation email with all the log-in and toll-free call-in information. A recording of the webinar will be available to all registered participants in various formats within a couple of weeks.

We look forward to you joining us on December 20 and sharing your perspectives on the major payment themes of 2018.

Photo of Douglas King By Douglas A. King, payments risk expert in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed


December 10, 2018 in banking regulations, banks and banking, crime, cybercrime, emerging payments, fintech, innovation, payments fraud | Permalink

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September 10, 2018


The Case of the Disappearing ATM

The longtime distribution goal of a major soft drink company is to have their product "within an arm's reach of desire." This goal might also be applied to ATMs—the United States has one of the highest concentration of ATMs per adult. In a recent post, I highlighted some of the findings from an ATM locational study conducted by a team of economics professors from the University of North Florida. Among their findings, for example, was that of the approximately 470,000 ATMs and cash dispensers in the United States, about 59 percent have been placed and are operated by independent entrepreneurs. Further, these independently owned ATMs "tend to be located in areas with less population, lower population density, lower median and average income (household and disposable), lower labor force participation rate, less college-educated population, higher unemployment rate, and lower home values."

This finding directly relates to the issue of financial inclusion, an issue that is a concern of the Federal Reserve's. A 2016 study by Accenture pointed "to the ATM as one of the most important channels, which can be leveraged for the provision of basic financial services to the underserved." I think most would agree that the majority of the unbanked and underbanked population is likely to reside in the demographic areas described above. One could conclude that the independent ATM operators are fulfilling a demand of people in these areas for access to cash, their primary method of payment.

Unfortunately for these communities, a number of independent operators are having to shut down and remove their ATMs because their banking relationships are being terminated. These closures started in late 2014, but a larger wave of account closures has been occurring over the last several months. In many cases, the operators are given no reason for the sudden termination. Some operators believe their settlement bank views them as a high-risk business related to money laundering, since the primary product of the ATM is cash. Financial institutions may incorrectly group these operators with money service businesses (MSB), even though state regulators do not consider them to be MSBs. Earlier this year, the U.S. House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit held a hearing over concerns that this de-risking could be blocking consumers' (and small businesses') access to financial products and services. You can watch the hearing on video (the hearing actually begins at 16:40).

While a financial institution should certainly monitor its customer accounts to ensure compliance with its risk tolerance and compliance policies, we have to ask if the independent ATM operators are being painted with a risk brush that is too broad. The reality is that it is extremely difficult for an ATM operator to funnel "dirty money" through an ATM. First, to gain access to the various ATM networks, the operator has to be sponsored by a financial institution (FI). In the sponsorship process, the FI rigorously reviews the operator's financial stability and other business operations as well as compliance with BSA/AML because the FI sponsor is ultimately responsible for any network violations. Second, the networks handling the transaction are completely independent from the ATM owners. They produce financial reports that show the amount of funds that an ATM dispenses in any given period and generate the settlement transactions. These networks maintain controls that clearly document the funds flowing through the ATM, and a review of the settlement account activity would quickly identify any suspicious activity.

The industry groups representing the independent ATM operators appear to have gained a sympathetic ear from legislators and, to some degree, regulators. But the sympathy hasn't extended to those financial institutions that are accelerating account closures in some areas. We will continue to monitor this issue and report any major developments. Please let us know your thoughts.

Photo of David Lott By David Lott, a payments risk expert in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed

September 10, 2018 in banks and banking, consumer protection, financial services, money laundering, regulations, regulators, third-party service provider | Permalink

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August 27, 2018


Who Owns Your ATM?

Counting the number of ATMs in the United States has been a challenge since 1996, when independent operators (nonfinancial institutions) started deploying ATMs/cash dispensers. That was when Visa and MasterCard dropped their prohibition against surcharges. But a recent study sponsored by the National ATM Council largely overcame that challenge while also gathering some interesting results about the locational aspects of the independently owned ATMs compared to machines owned by financial institutions (FI).

The study was conducted earlier this year by a team of economics professors from the Department of Economics and Geography in the University of North Florida's Coggin School of Business. The study's primary objective was to determine whether the locations of independently owned ATMs and FI-owned ATMs were different in terms of demographics and socioeconomic status.

Using a database from Infogroup, the team identified 470,135 ATMs operating in 2016. About 41 percent of these were FI-owned, and the rest were independently owned. The majority of the independent ATMs are in retail establishments, with heavy concentrations in convenience stores, pharmacies, and casual dining locations.

FI owned ATMs Duval Median Household Income 2016 Independently owned ATMs Duval Median Household Income 2016
(Click on the images to enlarge.)

The research team plotted the locations of all the ATMs, overlaying demographic and socioeconomic data they obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau and its American Community Survey. Among the 10 main elements the researchers used were median age, unemployment rate, education level, household income, disposable income, and average home values.

They concluded that the independent ATMs "tend to be located in areas with less population, lower population density, lower median and average income (household and disposable), lower labor force participation rate, less college-educated population, higher unemployment rate and lower home values."

So what does this mean?

Well, it means that the independently owned ATMs are providing a vital service in rural and inner-city areas. Other studies—such as the Federal Reserve's Diary of Consumer Payment Choice—have shown that lower-income households (those earning less than $50,000) use cash as their primary method of payment. Therefore, these independent ATM owners are giving these households access to financial services that would otherwise be limited.

A post from December 2014 highlighted some of the challenges the independent operators were facing. Stand by for a future post that will provide an update on this part of our country's payment ecosystem.

Photo of David Lott By David Lott, a payments risk expert in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed

August 27, 2018 in banks and banking, financial services | Permalink

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June 18, 2018


Thinking about My Grandmother and Future-Proofing Payments

I often reminisce about times I spent with my grandmother. She passed away when I was only nine years old, but fortunately left me with a host of memories that I cherish. How I loved our trips to Walden Bookstore in the Hickory Ridge Mall whenever she'd visit us in my hometown of Memphis. We'd pick out a book or two and then return home to read them together. I often wonder what she would think about my family's book shopping and reading habits today. Online bookstores, e-readers, and audiobooks downloaded or streamed onto mobile phones would be completely foreign to her as the technology behind these was not even around during her lifetime! How could she ever have known how the world of books would evolve?

And this brings me to the notion of future-proofing payments. Mobile payments just might be the hottest topic when payment professionals get together to discuss the future of payments. It makes sense to think that maybe one day our mobile phones will replace our debit and credit cards and maybe even cash. But to date, the mobile phone has not done for cards and cash what it has done for mp3 players, digital cameras, and portable navigation devices, to list just a few things. Perhaps we need more time for mobile phones to transform payments—or could it be that payments as we know them today will be made over by a technology or device that is not yet widely available or even conceived? Is it possible that the primary payment methods we use today can withstand the test of time and remain our primary methods for many more years? Thinking about my grandmother and books, maybe future-proofing payments is a losing proposition and we should be nimble, ready to adapt to whatever changes come our way.

Join me for the Atlanta Fed's Retail Payments Risk Forum's latest Talk About Payments webinar on Thursday, June 28, from 1 to 2 p.m. (ET), when I will explore the future of mobile payments at the point of sale by first considering the debit card's long rise to prominence. Participation in the webinar is complimentary, but you must register in advance. After completing registration, you will receive a confirmation email with all the log-in and toll-free call-in information.

Photo of Douglas King By Douglas A. King, payments risk expert in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed

June 18, 2018 in banks and banking, emerging payments, mobile banking, mobile payments | Permalink

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April 23, 2018


Paying with PlasticMetal

I recently had the opportunity to watch a panel of eight millennials discuss their thoughts on money and payments. (The Pew Research Center defines a millennial as anyone born between 1981 and 1996.) While realizing that a sample size of eight young adults is far from representative, I was completely caught off guard at times by what they had to say based on everything I have read or heard about this generation's banking and payment preferences. None of these people lived with their parents and all of them held full-time jobs. So what did I learn from these eight millennials?

  • Demand deposit accounts (DDA) with financial institutions are still important. I was surprised that all eight panelists maintain a DDA.
  • Credit card reward programs are strong drivers of payment usage. Six out of the eight panelists stated that credit cards were their preferred method of payment, primarily because of the rewards that their cards offered. One panelist preferred debit cards while another panelist preferred cash. Of the six credit card-preferring millennials, all stated they were purely transactors that pay off their monthly balance, opting not to revolve them.
  • Another strong driver of credit card usage is card design. All of the panelists raved about metal cards. They love how metal cards feel and they love the sound that they make when they drop them on a counter or table to pay. Several expressed that they wanted cards to be even thicker and heavier. In general, the panel thought that paying with a metal card was "cooler" than paying with a mobile phone.
  • Person-to-person (P2P) wallets and applications are used extensively, but primarily for transacting between individuals, not for storing money. All of the panelists use a P2P mobile wallet or application on their phone. However, none maintain a significant balance in their preferred wallet. They opt to transfer their balance to their DDA. A primary reason for not holding funds in a mobile wallet is concern over security. They feel their money is safer with a financial institution.
  • Mobile phones are vital to their livelihood, yet mobile proximity payments have not fully caught on with them. Half of the panel uses their phone at point-of-sale terminals that accept mobile payments; one panelist mentioned the rewards that he receives from his mobile wallet as driving his mobile payment usage. A majority expressed enthusiasm about mobile order-ahead functionality and use it whenever it's available. However, the availability of mobile payments does not drive decisions to shop at specific stores. All use mobile phones for comparison shopping, oftentimes in a physical store.

A key takeaway from synthesizing all of this information is that it's not just mobile phones that pose a major threat to paying with plastic—it's also metal cards. They certainly seem to appeal to the millennials that I heard on stage and drive loyalty from a usage perspective. And while I don't have data to back up this claim, I do think this metal phenomenon spans generations, as I have had people of all ages show off their metal cards to me. Cards as a form factor are here to stay, but could plastic (especially for credit cards) be on its way out?

Photo of Douglas King By Douglas A. King, payments risk expert in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed

April 23, 2018 in banks and banking, cards, debit cards, mobile banking | Permalink

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