IP2013 Roundup: Western Union, CSI, Al Gore And More

By Ben Carsley, Editor/Writer (@BC_PYMNTS)

Welcome to PYMNTS.com’s IP2013 Roundup: an in-depth look at The Innovation Project and all the news, rumors and reaction that spring form payments’ most influential conference. See a story that piques your interest, or have another topic you want us to cover? Let us know in the comments below!

Western Union Announces New Partnerships, Platform

Western Union made some of the biggest news of the day, announcing the launch of their new Global Share platform, its first six partners and the rollout of its Reload+ network as well.

Western Union’s first six partners – Access Prepaid Worldwide, Advent Financial, AirPak, Credencial, Jade Payments and mFunds – represent a diverse set of markets from across the globe, and four of those companies joined Western Union at IP2013.

PYMNTS.com caught up with Mike Hafer, senior vice president global stored value of Western Union, after his presentation to get his take on his company’s announcement.

Asked first how Western Union plans to benefit from its news partnerships, Hafer emphasized his company’s unique potential to build brand loyalty through localized products.

“There’s going to be an account relationship that is formed with that consumer,” Hafer explained. “Western Union benefits form that because now we’ve created a new relationship with the consumer, where they actually view Western Union to have value in their life on a daily basis.”

Hafer also emphasized the complementary aspects of Western Union’s deals, and detailed why he thought his company’s client partners would benefit from their newfound association with Western Union as well.

“I think at the end of the day, all of these organizations we’re working with, they could absolutely go and do this on their own without us. There’s no questions they can build the products that they’re building, they can go launch it in the marketplace and have whatever level of success they find,” he said. “But at the end of the day, just from a simplicity standpoint, the client partners believed that by working together, their overall chance for success and velocity of success is improved than if they do it on their own.”

We’ll have more exclusive quotes from Hafer soon, but for now check out their official announcement here.

Al Gore On The Global Mind

One of the most interesting and engaging panels of the day also happened to be the first. That’s when former Vice President Al Gore joined a star-studded group comprised of moderator Gary Flood, president of MasterCard’s Global Product and Solutions, were: Roger Hochschild, president of Discover Financial Services, Karl Mehta, former CEO of Visa PlaySpan and White House Technology Fellow, Jeff Jordan, partner at Andressen Horowitz, Lisa Stanton, CEO of Monitise, and Russell Simmons, CEO of UniRush.

We’re not exaggerating when we say there was no shortage of interesting subjects covered – from mobile payments, to virtual currency, to the role of regulation to global warming – and plenty of great quotes followed.

“I just want to make this point: this is a good development for the poor of the world. Those who do not have access to banking services, who do not have access to financial services of various kinds, are now gaining access through mobile payments,” Gore said during his opening address. “ We are obviously in a period of disruptive innovation, and it is early in this revolutionary period, so we are kind of in the “let a thousand floors bloom period.”

To read more on Gore and his Q&A with his panel, click here.

CSI Takes Simmons Challenge Honors

The end of day one was no time for innovators to relax; RushCard founder Russell Simmons and CEO Rob Rosenblatt put 10 hand-picked entrepreneurs on the spot to showcase their latest contributions to the payments world for the Innovation Project’s Ultimate Entrepreneur’s Challenge – Keeping It Real in Payments Innovation. Simmons’ experience with his RushCard enterprise has placed the businessman in a unique position as mentor to the world’s innovators in payments.

“You don’t wake up one day with an idea,” he said. “It evolves. RushCard was a phoenix from a bad idea. Business take forever.”

His words of wisdom were welcomed by each of the contestants, but innovators eagerly offered their two-minute pitches for a chance to win a one-on-one counseling session with Simmons himself.

From new programs that allow consumers to include valid, scanable identification and credentials on their mobile devices by Cortex MPC; to utilizing advanced data, social media and networking to more accurately analyze the best way to approve loan applicants by LendUp; to an entire overhaul of the $500 billion-a-year industry of money transfers with new, simplistic, affordable way for people to send and receive money by Pangea; the most innovative in the payments industry clearly left an impression on both Simmons and Rosenblatt, and energized the crowd.

“We didn’t hear one bad idea,” said Simmons towards the end of the presentations. “There are so many things that we should have on our radar. I was really inspired.”

But CSI’s globalVcard left the deepest impression on both the crowd and on Simmons and Rosenblatt. With a self-explanatory user face and customization options, CSI has created an instantly generated MasterCard payment card available to anyone with a mobile device, allowing users to charge payments on a temporary card number with just a few simple decisions: who can use the card, how much the card is worth, and how many times the card can be used. It’s a concept already making waves, earning 5/5 scores from both Simmons and Rosenblatt.

Kingsborough, Levitt Talk Shop(ing) During Panel

“This revolution is not about technology trying to find consumers, its about us trying to keep up with the consumer … Engagement doesn’t always begin in the store, it begins whenever and wherever the consumer chooses.”

That’s just one of many money quotes that came from the day’s second panel, “Shoponomics: The Hidden Side Of Why Consumers Buy And How They Pay.” This segment was moderated by Economist Steve Levitt and VP of Retail Sales for PayPal, Don Kingsborough, to who the above quote is attributed.

Levitt and Kinsborough were joined by an impressive collection of others from the retail and wider payments world and covered a wide range of topics from mobile wallets to cash to a philosophical debate on the nature of payments.

The conversation was varied and fast-paced, so we’ll bring you some of our favorite quotes below.

“We don’t know if the consumer will want to have multiple retailer wallets on their device, or one ubiquitous wallet. I think that will be dictated by the value propositions as they relate to each of those devices … Home Depot will take a balanced approach to that, because we know there will be people who want maybe not a Home Depot wallet, but a Home Depot app that will give people a seamless way to pay.” – Dwaine Kimmet, treasurer and VP financial services, Home Depot

“No one actually wants to do a payments. People are trying to do something else, and they’ll use and flock to the things that make that something else better. They’ll choose the retailers who are giving them those experiences they’re looking for … don’t want fragmentation.” – Ed McLaughlin, chief emerging payments officer, MasterCard

“One thing we sometimes loose sight of is we don’t necessarily need to wait around for some of these decision to be made. We’ve got some tools available to us that we can use as well, and that can be promoting your own products and your own form of tender in store as well. Don’t forget that the big three brands that you frequently talk with or come to mind, don’t forget that they’re not the only ones out there. You’ve got options.” – Troy Carrothers, head of financial services at Kohl’s.

“Its about payments going in the background, being invisible, and developing a consumer experience everywhere you have the ability to have contact with that consumer. It has to be consistent.” – Kingsborough

**Additional reporting by Carolyn Vallejo

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