This week I had the honor of not only attending but speaking at All Payments Expo Europe 2015 (known as APEX). The conference held at the H10 Resort in Marbella, Spain, May 18–20 promised attendees not only fun in the sun over the course of two and a half days but informative and interactive sessions focused primarily on prepaid and retail. (I unfortunately was unable to attend the retail track.)
The conference attracted a wide range of players across the prepaid value chain and a wide geography, with attendees hailing from throughout Europe and the Middle East to the United States and Latin America. I was among the first presenters in the conference and spoke on global prepaid market readiness, the topic of a forthcoming Mercator Advisory Group research report. Since the session was structured to encourage dialogue, attendees from all over the world talked about the state of their respective prepaid markets as well as some of the main opportunities and challenges. Particularly active in the conversation were representatives from Yandex Money in Russia and Wirecard in Germany, who provided insight into consumer habits, industry initiatives, and regulatory attitudes.
Sessions over the course of APEX provide much informative content, with Wirecard leading the audience through a discussion of the merits of different mobile payment technologies like Near Field Communication (NFC) and host card emulation (HCE). Other sessions provided insight on the European business-to-business (B2B) and the corporate prepaid space, which some industry participants believe might have more potential than the business-to-consumer (B2C) prepaid market, especially in light of new regulations soon to be in effect.
Coming into effect at the end of 2015 across the European Union will be the EU Parliament’s regulations capping interchange for debit and credit card transactions at 0.2% for debit transactions and 0.3% for credit transactions. Prepaid cards fall under the debit cap under the new regulations, which unfortunately means that prepaid programs will struggle to provide value-added services on an already thin operating margin. In a session entirely dedicated to European regulations, Monica Monaco of TrustEUAffairs provided the audience with insight into the new interchange caps and a number of other regulatory initiatives being considered by European authorities.
With prepaid and payments in general facing continued disruption from nontraditional payment service providers, from within the industry, and from regulators, an event bringing hundreds of people together for a few days to network and discuss significant industry developments is important. For both professionals new to the industry and experienced insiders, APEX Europe is an invaluable opportunity to exchange information and ideas.