Taking the Temperature at NACHA 2013

by Patricia Hewitt 0

Over the years, NACHA’s annual conference hasbecome an important event for the larger payments industry andpresents a wide cross section of the topics and issues the marketis facing. This year’s conference kicked off with a keynote fromBrett King, a recognized banking thought leader and a founder ofMoven, a mobile-only bank account recently launched in the UnitedStates. His message to the industry is simple and clear: consumersare changing and if banks don’t change with them, they willdie.

Talking with him afterwards, he showed me how a Moven accountworks to converge payment and spending information into a dashboarddesigned to help consumers better manage their money. In this case,by manage, he also means save.

By this definition, payments is becoming as much about moneymanagement as it is as about spend and this key difference in theway consumers and merchants are doing business together is going tohave a significant impact on the market. And that is just nowbeginning to sink in to the industry at large.
Taking the temperature of the conference, I was struck by changesthat have taken place in stakeholder attitudes across the past fiveyears. Post-recession, they were looking into the abyss and theatmosphere at conferences like this one was dismal to say theleast. What followed was the excitement of mobile technologies,which opened up a blue sky that lifted the mood into sometimesgiddy possibilities.

I sense now the industry is ready to face its demons and hasaccepted the fact that the original payments business model is nolonger sustainable. Behind the scenes, leading vendors are workinghard at re-engineering their products to enable the industry toactivate information, move processes into real-time, and build outconsumer facing applications relevant to a digital society. Productmanagers have less tolerance for future possibilities and want amore secure grounding in understanding new delivery models,rationalizing changes in consumer behavior, and gaining trendinformation to help drive decisions on go-to-market strategies andinvestments.

There is less anticipation and more irritation at the plethora ofdecisions and ultimately, changes facing the financial institutionindustry today. If King is right, and consumers want to save asmuch as they want to spend, then the foundations of the paymentsindustry is being shaken to its core. Financial institutions aregoing to have to figure out how to reconfigure their entire rangeof assets to address that challenge. It’s go time.