The Prepaid Press held its annual Expo and Financial Mobility Summit last week in Las Vegas. The theme of the show was the convergence of the mobile phone business and financial services.
To be sure, the details of that convergence are still being worked out, but what is clear is that companies on both sides are working to figure out the mobile future. The united principle for all the companies involved is that customers need to be able to access financial tools through their mobile devices. While some see financial services as a core offering, others view it as a value-added service to telecom and data services.
Financial services may serve as a competitive tool for the telecom industry as it struggles with companies like Skype and Viber to retain customers. While these companies offer communications through mobile devices, they operate outside of the traditional telecommunications networks. For financial services companies, mobile services will become a necessary part of their product offering. With services like remote deposit capture and instant balance alerts, mobile financial services can supply many of the functions once restricted to branches or ATMs.
One interesting trend from the show is that there was less talk about mobile wallets as a single service app that would handle all the payments needs a customer might have. Instead, conversations seem to revolve around how apps can enable digital delivery of financial services in specific ways, whether it was remittances, card loading, or bill payments. Presenters noted that this digital delivery needed to be accompanied by sound plans for real world distribution and marketing.
Along with the formal presentations, side conversations also offered a chance to pick up intelligence about the future of the industry. Discussions about enabling ATM withdrawals from mobile phones and the challenges of EMV adoption showed that new innovations are on the way, but there will continue to be challenges.
As the mobile financial services market develops, it will continue to diversify. Payments providers and mobile operators need to develop flexible strategies that will let them adapt to changes and continue to meet the needs of their customers.