Mobile Payments: A Dispatch from Sibos 2010

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Mobile Payments: A Dispatch from Sibos 2010

At the Sibos conference, the banks and software vendors show the latest and greatest technologies and techniques, while SWIFT’s two-year-old innovation initiative, Innotribe, brainstorms the future of finance. Sibos is the annual finance and banking conference sponsored by SWIFT, the Brussels-based organization that provides an international financial communications platform and messaging standards.

This year, the hottest new products and innovation initiatives focused on mobile banking and payments. Speaking at one of the sessions focusing on mobile payments, Diane Reyes, head of global payments for Citi, called mobile banking “one of the common denominators to link the global economy.”

Corporate treasures are interested in the speed of mobile banking, according to an Aite Group study sponsored by Fundtech, the international bank software developer. The study also shows that 65% of companies surveyed are interested in using basic corporate mobile banking services and more than half are interested in using advanced services. (See the full study at www.fundtech.com/mobile.)

Much of the formal discussions centered on how the banking, telecommunications, and funds transfer companies will carve up the market or partner to gain market share. The partnership view seemed to have won out. “My view on mobile payments is it’s an equal partnership with mobile operators, VCs, and technology providers,” Reyes said.

Consumers want fast, global payments that work anywhere and on any system, mobile enthusiasts agreed. “Mobile should be faster than cash,” said Gerhard Romen, director of strategic alliances for Nokia. It will be, but not yet. The frailties of technological development and its as-yet undeveloped international standards led to such ironies as credit and debit cards that would not work in Amsterdam transit ticket dispending machines, while cash Euros obtained from a nearby ATM did.

The SWIFT innovation stream, Innotribe, produced striking white board renderings from its open brainstorming sessions throughout the Sibos conference.

Practical corporate applications of mobile banking are in their initial stages. Daniel Marovitz, head of product management, Global Transaction Banking, Deutsche Bank, noted that his institution sees mobile banking efforts on supply chains where mobile payments are more efficient than physical cash or checks, such as restaurant delivery. “It’s absolutely ripe for mobile payment and integration with a supply chain product [because it’s a] more constrained ecosystem where buyer and seller know one another.”

Another banker mentioned that it has been asked to develop mobile payroll payments, while Fundtech demonstrated a mobile application that would allow corporate treasurers who work in the field to approve time-critical payments on their mobile devices in a secure manner. Although not specifically a mobile application, the winner of the SWIFT Innotribe innovation award went to MoneyScope, which received EUR 50,000 to fund development of a cloud-based application that would deliver real-time data to the corporate treasury.