Takeaways from Money 20/20, the Leading Global Payments Conference

By Bruce Marro, Principal

Money 20/20 (held November 2-5, 2014 at the Aria Resort in Las Vegas) is the largest worldwide gathering of innovators in the evolution of commerce and the concurrent ongoing digitization of money. With 7,500+ attendees, including more than 780 CEOs from more than 2,500 companies and 60 countries, you would be hard pressed to find a stronger platform for networking with both established players, and up and coming "disruptors," in the connected commerce ecosystem. The conference is at the intersection of mobile, retail, marketing services, data, and technology and how all these areas impact the methods consumers and businesses manage, spend and borrow money.

Highlights included keynotes by accomplished Fortune 500 executives Ryan McInerney, President of Visa; Jane Fraser, CEO of Citi’s U.S. Consumer & Commercial Banking; and David Nelms, CEO of Discover. Facebook's Head of Payments & Commerce, Deb Liu, presented about the company vision for platform monetization.

During Money 20/20's Launchpad 360 segment, payment startups conducted live six-minute demonstrations of new technology. Poynt’s presentation was particularly interesting because CEO and former Google Wallet Head, Osama Bedier, unveiled the company's previously stealth flagship product, "Smart Terminal," and conducted a daring (and successful) live transaction that was well-received by the thousands in attendance.

Four especially engaging panel discussion sessions, included:

  • Finance & Treasury: Strategies about how to bring payments into the 21st century were discussed, in addition to predictions for payments in retail. Massive big box retailers demonstrated an openness to continue exploring new payment products and were unanimous that the space is evolving at hyper-speed. Overall these retail leaders continue to be on the hunt for innovative products that will benefit their customers and minimize risk. Panelists included Mike Cook, SVP & Assistant Treasurer, Walmart; Troy Carrothers, SVP, Retail Payment Solutions, Kohl’s; Dee O’Malley, Senior Director, Payment Acceptance, Best Buy; and Dwaine Kimmet, Treasurer & VP Financial Services, The Home Depot.
  • "Insider Perspectives":  This panel analyzed the increasing amount of venture capital being poured into disruptive startups. In 2013, according to CB Insights (https://www.cbinsights.com/blog/payments-tech-2013-venture-capital-investment/), payments startups raised $1.2 billion in funding across 193 deals. That was a five percent increase in funding when compared to 2012. We heard from Ravi Viswanathan, NEA; Tom Stafford, DST Investment Management; Dana Stalder, Matrix Partners; and Ann Lamont, Oak HC/FT Partners. Overall, there was consensus that the most robust deal growth in payments will continue to focus at the Seed/Angel level. Hence why so many pre-Series A startups were in attendance at Money 20/20.
  • Host Card Emulation (HCE) and Near-Field Communication (NFC): This lively discussion about security and mobile payments found overall consensus that NFC has now truly been validated as a payment method, and consumer and merchant adoption is poised to grow exponentially in the coming months and years thanks to the introduction of Apple Pay. It was led by moderator Jason Kupferberg, Jefferies, and joined by Troy Bernard, Director, Global Head of Advanced Payments, Discover; Ben Poiesz, Product Manager, Android Platform Team, Google; James Anderson, Group Head & SVP for Mobile & Emerging Payments, MasterCard; Jeremy Bornstein, Head, Emerging Payments, RBC; and Doug Yeager, CEO, SimplyTapp).
  • Marketplaces: New Models of Commerce & Payments produced an insightful discussion about the increasing networks of independent buyers and sellers leveraging mobile platforms. It was exciting to hear from marketplace leaders from Airbnb (Jonathan Golden, Lead Payments Product Manager), Gumroad (Jake Heimark, Lead Product Manager), Kickstarter (Andrew Boyajian, Director of International & Payments), and Lyft (Femi Olutade, Lead Payments Engineering Manager), who discussed how they are building globally and evaluating new payment options.

As predicted in Apple Pay to Fuel Chatter, New Products at Money 20/20, by Olga Kharif and Elizabeth Dexheimer at Bloomberg, the conference was "…ground zero for competing mobile-payment firms, many of them rolling out new products and features."

It was valuable to interact with so many senior executives—Product Managers, CTOs, CEOs, etc.—immersed in this massive payments ecosystem for decades and continuing to evolve with the lightning-speed of change in payments. It was also inspiring to watch payments veterans interact with the millennial "disruptor" founders who are fighting for credibility (and funding) for nascent companies. While one might expect an air of dismissiveness from the established executive toward the upstart, or, conversely, a lack of respect from upstart toward the establishment, quite the opposite was the case.

Money 20/20 was, by and large, about collegiality. (Yes, it was also very much about Apple Pay too – which dominated nearly every panel and keynote, despite the fact that they didn’t attend!) Every serious participant at this conference understood how intertwined their businesses are with one another. While the word “disruptive” was thrown around a lot, there was certainly a sense of mutual respect, legitimate curiosity, and an awareness and understanding that there is a massive amount still to be done (together) to achieve—as Kickstarter’s Andrew Boyajian said during the conference—"the right balance between the drive for accessibility and desire for security" in payments for both the buyer and seller.

With such a massive conference (in terms of attendance and an action-packed agenda) it would have been easy to get overloaded at Money 20/20. Thankfully I heeded the wise words of a prominent senior equity analyst in payments who advised, "It's all about risk management" when it comes to payments. This couldn't be more accurate and became my mantra throughout the week while networking with talent and learning more about companies. It was invigorating to be around so many entrepreneurs, thought leaders, technologists and accomplished operators, all of whom are so passionate about the space, which plays such a crucial part in so much of our online and offline lives.

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Bruce MarroBruce Marro is a Principal for Allegis Partners. Bruce leads client management for retained executive searches ensuring their completion at the highest levels. Bruce has worked on executive retained searches (across functions and at the "C" level) with leading financial and technology institutions, consumer FinTech companies (public & private), and venture-backed technology start-ups.