One of the main tasks in 21st century physics is the search for the so-called “unified theory,” a single equation that explains the workings of the universe. Payments is a different game than theoretical physics, but the industry has its own push for unification — in this case, a single card that serves as a one-stop shop for transactions or financial services.
The latest example of this comes from Curve. According to a report from TechCrunch, the company, a “London-based ‘over-the-top’ banking platform that lets you consolidate all of your bank cards into a single card, has added support for Google Pay. The new integration … means that Android users can pay with Curve via their Android-powered phone or smartwatch anywhere Google Pay is accepted. This includes via devices from Google itself, along with those made by the likes of Acer, Huawei, HTC, Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and others.”
Though it is still unclear how much consumer demand there really is for such one-stop cards and card programs, work on this area of payments and commerce continues to gain steam. But in a previous PYMNTS interview with Curve CEO Shachar Bialick, he said previous iterations missed the mark.
However, he contended that Curve — a British startup that, one may recall, came to market this year with its own offering that lets users consolidate a range of cards into a single Curve card — is a breed apart. Having multiple cards is a side effect (a “runny nose” in his words) of living in a world where consumers segment their buying habits, juggle rewards and take on cards as life progresses. As we get older, of course, we take on any number of ways to pay, from debit PayPal to credit, to … more credit. “Before you know it, you have 10 to 15 different financial products and services,” he said, adding that “the world of money is very fragmented.”
The push toward unification goes beyond just cards, of course, and involves apps — specifically, work toward what are usually described as “super apps.” Indeed, according to some views, banks are missing out on an emerging opportunity to get into the “super app” game, which is shaping up to be one of the biggest focuses of payments and retail innovation in the 2020s.
That was one of the main messages from a new PYMNTS discussion between Karen Webster and Anabel Perez, co-founder and CEO of NovoPayment. “From a financial services perspective, we haven’t seen a super app originate from a pure financial services provider and move to eCommerce,” Perez told Webster.
Simply put, a super app is a mobile app designed to improve and ease payment and retail flows for consumers. Super apps create differentiated financial ecosystems in the back end (and front end), incorporating capabilities like an aggregation of multiple service providers, digital account origination, embedded Know Your Customer (KYC) abilities and real-time payments (to name a few).
“Super apps are a great lens through which FinServs can see the broader state of collaboration and ecosystem building.”
Looking at the super app through that lens, Perez sees two types of opportunities for banks and FinServ providers: the retail or merchant aggregation side. Perez, who’s had first-hand experience with the super app economy with what has been described as Latin America’s super app frontrunner, Rappi, believes that this is an opportunity for financial institution — a rich vein of opportunity yet to be tapped.
Banks that step up to the plate, Perez said, have a chance through ecosystem collaboration and partnerships to generate a healthy deposit and transactional revenue growth.
As Karen Webster recently noted in a column about PYMNTS research into the subject, it can take consumers four different apps and four different interactions across their existing apps — and many minutes — to close the loop on that single flow.
Perhaps the best — and only — examples of super apps (also called “everyday apps”) come from China’s payment and eCommerce apps ecosystems such as WeChat and Alipay. One might argue that PayPal has made a go of it in this space, but PayPal is not a traditional financial services provider or bank, Perez noted. Amazon sure has a lot of tools and activities under its app umbrella, but an actual super app would include more than just the ability to order retail products from a seemingly endless array of sellers. A real super app would include other activities such as ride-hailing and financial account checkups, she noted.
The quest for unification in payments and financial services will stand as one of the main areas of work in the 2020s.