CEO Series

“EMV ‘A Swear Word’”


In her commentary column in the March 24 PYMNTS newsletter, Market Platform Dynamics’ CEO Karen Webster asked whether now is the time to hit the pause button on EMV.  She’s not alone in sharing that view, as more payments-industry insiders are wondering whether the push for EMV is solving the wrong problem 10 years too late.

Among the others questioning the efficacy of rushing toward EMV as a card-security panacea is Cortex MCP’s founder and CEO Shaunt Sarkissian. caught up with Shaunt for a podcast interview just after he very directly shared his opinion on EMV during the Innovation Project 2014’s Security Panel discussion.

(Jump to: 0:29) “I think I called EMV a swear word. I think the problem with EMV is that it is solving one granular piece of fraud. But the underlying payment mechanism is still that 16-digit number,” Sarkissian said. “So it’s a bit of bubble-gum and duct tape around the underlying method that is really not all that secure to begin with.”

EMV may be a solution politicians and the card brands like to tout, but it will do very little to deter fraudsters, who will just move on to a new weak point to attack, Sarkassian said. Adopting EMC will, however, require merchants to invest heavily in the system, he added.

Instead of implementing an essentially old technology to fix a new problem, businesses instead need to focus on building new solutions that don’t massively disrupt the commerce experience, Sarkassian said.

(Jump to: 2:09) “We could give a DNA sample at the point of sale, right, but the gears of commerce are going to come grinding to a halt,” he noted.  “On the flip-side, we could have a very loosey-goosey payment system where I walk in and say, ‘Oh, it looks like a picture that looks like you,’ and that might work in a vacuum in downtown San Francisco, but try doing it in Macy’s at Christmastime; it’s not going to happen.”

To build the innovative new solutions, smaller players, such as Cortex, are going to have to sign on with larger, more established partners, Sarkissian stressed.

(Jump to: 2:53) “For young companies like us, I could go out and get every merchantand every consumer on board” he said. “I would have to raise $5 billion just to go in and get that done.  I think smaller companies need to partner with larger companies to get these technologies to market.”

To hear the entire conversation with Sarkassian at IP 2014, click here.


*If you have trouble with the audio player above, click here.


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