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Open Banking and the dawn of Premium APIs? Get the lowdown on this year’s Money 20/20 Europe

27 Jun 2019 04:00

It’s one of the biggest annual ideation expos in the finance world, where many of the leaders in the banking, tech, and payments businesses come together to expand their thinking

Over the course of three days, over 5,000 fintechs, challengers and traditional banks came together at Money 20/20 Europe in Amsterdam to exchange ideas, explore collaborations, and discuss the broader finance landscape in an event that promises partnership opportunities alongside cutting-edge industry insights. Maria Parpou, Managing Director, Barclaycard Commercial Payments, shares her experiences from this year’s big event.

Setting the scene for collaboration

With far less emphasis on blockchain, which featured in last year’s show, this year saw headline speakers from more traditional banks, and focused a lot more on service design, contributing to what Maria described as a thought provoking environment.  “This year we’ve witnessed traditional banks take a much more open approach to innovation, which is something that we’ve championed for a number of years. Some banks are clearly following in the footsteps of our Rise programme by creating their own innovation hubs, while others have begun to partner with fintechs on a more regular basis.”

Another clear theme this year was integration – with more people in the industry acknowledging that there is still too much friction (and paper) in business-to-business (B2B) payments, which can only be addressed by a greater level of machine-to-machine communication.

“Think about what happened when Barclaycard first helped Transport for London to introduce contactless on the London Underground back in the 2000s – prior to that, travelling on the Tube meant paper tickets and queues at ticket machines. Now, commuters just tap and go. The world of B2B payments is going through the same shift – payment needs to become a painless, invisible part of the process, and that level of seamlessness requires more integration.

“One size doesn’t always fit all”

Card rails – the systems that transact money between payer and payee – were another winner at this year’s show. With players from across the industry recognising the impact that the rapid increase in card adoption has had on the global payments landscape, particularly on business travel – avoiding the need to carry local currency for every trip, and allowing businesses to automate their payment reconciliation and expense management processes.

“You can pay with a card almost anywhere in the world,” Maria says. “But the same isn’t always true for bank payments. What is clear, however – especially when looking at China's  hugely successful digital wallet payment systems like WeChat and Alipay – is that there’s plenty of space for alternative payments methods. It all depends on the customer and the use case.”

The future, Maria speculates, lies in payment ecosystems built on integration and interoperability. “Connected ecosystems have the potential to transform the way we think about e-commerce, and right now we have an incredible opportunity to own the financial layer underpinning these new platforms – our partnerships with businesses like Coupa and SAP Ariba are examples of what is possible.”

Regulatory changes

But the most important theme of the event, Maria says, was PSD2 and specifically Open Banking APIs. There were interesting discussions about the timeframes for the regulation, and what the landscape might look like in the years to come. For example, some are predicting that banks could launch entire new business models built around ‘premium’ APIs – content-rich services that businesses would pay to access.

The meeting of minds

“Money 20/20 is a huge marketplace of ideas, and a great forum to hear about all the exciting things that are happening in the industry,” reports Maria. She says that one of the best parts of the expo is being able to chat with a huge roster of innovators, all with their own inspirational ideas for improving and expanding the industry: “There’s always a sense that the future is bright at Money 20/20,” she says. “It’s great to be able to chat with people, exchange ideas, and ask questions about what they do and what they want to do. Personally, it’s great to go and meet with people from tech companies and explore new areas for collaboration.”

Vision for the future

With this year’s event now in the books, we asked Maria what she’d like to see at next year’s Money 20/20: “More big banks participating – and more bank suppliers, too! It’s a perfect opportunity for people to see what everyone is doing, and to take a look at their latest propositions and products.”