Mobile Commerce

Reality Sets In ... Payments Is Hard

At least that’s the view of Paul Purcell, Partner with Continental Advisors who recently sat down with MPD CEO, Karen Webster to talk about all things payments and innovation for the PYMNTS Mobile Commerce Insiders Series. His view from talking to innovators and even those who attended IP 2014 this year is that the reality of just how hard payments really is to pull off is sinking in for innovators and established players alike and will force new thinking, new priorities and market consolidation. Oh, Webster and Purcell even talked a little trash on the stuff dominating the headlines, including bitcoin and Square.

Payments innovators have set off to change the world. As the making of mobile payments grows globally, key players are racing to be the next big problem-solver in the mobile commerce environment. The battle of incumbents versus innovators, in fact, was one of the many focuses discussed at Innovation Project 2014. Following the event, Paul Purcell, partner with venture investing firm Continental Advisors, joined President, Karen Webster in an exclusive Mobile Commerce Insider Series digital discussion to elaborate on his own IP 2014 experience and how he believes we are rethinking, resetting, and reinventing the payments ecosystem.

In a series of engaging, off-the-record discussions, IP 2014 covered a range of topics, including securities, alternative finances (or, as Webster put it, “bitcoin, bitcoin, bitcoin”), changing consumer habits, and more. At the start of the digital discussion, Webster asked if Purcell noticed any common threads that tied the event together.

“An overarching differential, if I think about IP 2014 versus 2013 is the humbling, quieting nature of the audience,” said Purcell. “There’s been a bit of a ‘missions’ change. I happened to like it, because it grounds people in the reality of what’s going on, and how hard it is.”

Purcell went on to explain that this “missions” change is what better shaped panel content and discussions in comparison to last year’s event, and that “people are talking much less about what they’re doing” due to failures that have occurred in industry structures and protocols.

While some “big-biting innovators might plot to take over the whole ecosystem,” Purcell said, those that are successful often take more of a “small bite.” One success story, Starbucks, took a simplistic route, managing to positively shift consumer behavior. And getting consumers into new habits, noted Webster, is a very difficult task.

Another challenge that merchants face is the fact that card acceptance is no longer a differentiator, according to Webster. Agreeing, Purcell pointed out that credit cards are “all commodities” that are no longer the major moneymakers for issuers. New business models, then, become the propellers of innovation.

Furthering the digital discussion, Webster and Purcell dug deeper into some of the panels held at Innovation Project 2014. During this hour-long session, the following were topics on which Purcell offered his insight:


1)   The prescription for innovators and incumbents. Are innovators succeeding at “changing the world”?

2)   Bitcoin as a currency and a protocol. Is Purcell making investments in the area?  What problems is it solving?

3)   Getting consumers in the habit of using new digital forms of payment. What was it that Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, said that may have helped Purcell years ago?

4)   The challenges of doing business with each other. What is Purcell’s view on B2B payments and asset types for making investments in the space?

5)   The alternative finance world. Is it too late for banks to get back into it, or are they able to do exactly what alternatives are doing?

6)   Trash talk. What’s Purcell’s take on the scuttlebutt about Square, Apple, and Amazon (holy grocery store, Batman!)?

7)   Innovation Project 2015. What will be next year’s topics? What will have changed?



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The September 2020 Leveraging The Digital Banking Shift Study, PYMNTS examines consumers’ growing use of online and mobile tools to open and manage accounts as well as the factors that are paramount in building and maintaining trust in the current economic environment. The report is based on a survey of nearly 2,200 account-holding U.S. consumers.

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