Voice of the Industry

Money 20/20 Europe: where payments innovation empowers people

Thursday 14 June 2018 11:35 CET | Voice of the industry

“The superpower people want is not invisibility or flight. It is the ability to be in two places at once” Sebastian Siemiatkowski, CEO, Klarna

On June 4-6, Money20/20 Europe, the 2018 edition, landed in its new home – the RAI in Amsterdam – to deliver 90+ hours of content, tackling the most disruptive and trailblazing topics within the financial industry. Banks, governmental bodies, payments providers, cutting-edge startups and multinational giants came to Amsterdam to strengthen partnerships and discover the latest disruptions. All wrapped up around the circus theme, tasty waffles and Dutch parties.

Though it has passed a week since Money 20/20 ended, the topics approached at the event still remain valid, and the presentations and conversations that took place only stirred the audience’s curiosity to explore more. Apart from this, special guests such as Apple’s famed Co-founder and Silicon Valley icon Steve Wozniak joined the Money20/20 main stage for an exciting session, sharing his thoughts on the current state of technology, and predictions on the future of our connected world.

Banks and BigTechs - no more pink golf balls

The first on stage were the banks, and the general feeling was that these institutions should stop thinking about payments, as customers already know how they want to pay, and should invest more time in developing mobile apps that support people’s needs and life goals. This type of service isn’t an utopia; Yolt from ING can sync all your accounts in one view, see clearly your spending and do more with easy budgeting, international money transfers and energy comparison.

The financial industry is no longer dominated only by banks and fintechs, but by BigTechs, praised by the frictionless payment services and superior customer experience they provide. As a result, Amazon has become the most compelling and scarring example for the banking industry. According to Andy Maguire, Group Managing Director, HSBC “they do a great job, however sometimes they see you as a mix of persons, when they should deal with a user as a single person, not a mix.” And he gave the example of the fact that sometimes Amazon recommends him to buy pink gold balls, just because he has previously ordered a pink outfit for his daughter and sports gear for himself.

Therefore, BigTechs need to refine their recommendations for users, while banks have no choice but to adopt a customer-centric approach, based on the use of technology and on collaboration with startups.

AI, captain?

The second theme that energized the audience, especially since Steve Wozniak was present, was Artificial Intelligence. Technology plays an important role in our lives; when it comes to banks, “we have more engineers in a bank than bankers”, José Manuel Barroso said during Feedzai’s AI Deep Dive session.

AI augments human intelligence – however, it should provide explanations and its value should be considered in context as definitive answers do not exist, according to Pedro Bizarro, Chief Science Officer, Feedzai. “AI design principles should be transparency, controllability, and automation. Moreover, data provenance is a crucial feature, as the user needs to keep track of data, to be able to reconstruct it, and models should learn from real data, be able to re-learn, while not be influenced/based on previous models. Most important they should always provide explanations”, Feedzai’s Chief Science Officer added.

Despite praising the benefits AI brings to people’s life, the topic has also stirred some contradictory remarks among the tinkers present on stage. Some fear the bots will take over some human activities, others don’t feel comfortable about talking with a machine. Or are just not happy with the outcome: “I wish it could deliver the promise AI made a few years ago; internally it works, however, challenges such as operating/using data cross-border are still there. On the front-end, AI is reinventing things that have already been invented”, HSBC’s Group Managing Director expressed his disappointment during a panel.

As Steve Wozniak stressed at Money20/20, the current state and future of AI “is getting closer and closer to acting like humans in some ways. It’s been a gradual growth through my lifetime”, however the general feeling was that for the moment AI is a technology that will not replace humans, but augment their capabilities.

Commerce final stop - superpowers for consumers

Another topic on the event’s agenda was enhancing the user experience, while paying for goods and services. Voice has become the new medium for consistent customer experiences across all channels”, according to Kelly Wenzel, Director for Global Marketing, Amazon Pay.

The payments landscape has changed dramatically over the last few years – from paying with mobile phones to wearables and car-based commerce. However, mobile payments solutions are just the beginning, and payments and commerce can be embedded in any connected device, according to Mike Lemberger, SVP Product Solutions, Europe.

Recently, Alexa has been launched to Virgin Trains for booking and buying tickets. John Sullivan, CIO, Virgin Trains said that “from 7 minutes it currently takes to book a ticket on UK websites, with Alexa this amount of time has been reduced to 2 minutes. Early results have shown that in less than one month since the service has been implemented, ratings have raised from 4 to 5”, and despite some user anxiety in the beginning, Virgin’s CIO is confident that in time usage will grow, once the public is educated towards using this method of paying.

With increased demand expected for payments to be embedded into a growing number of devices, services and experiences, Visa has built out a global network of Token Service Providers to accelerate digital payment token services to new companies - including consumer device manufacturers, issuers, Internet-of-Things companies, wallet providers, and merchants, among others.

The number of IoT enabled devices is expected to reach 20.8 billion by 2020 (Gartner), providing a huge opportunity for secure payments to be a featured in just about any form factor. However, the experience of paying and managing finances can be elevated not only through connectivity, but also by enabling people get superpowers. In order to give customers superpowers, companies need to look at different situations and address them one by one. By using their “superpowers” consumers are in control of understanding their finances, while also have free time to be joyful, and not go through boring sign up flows, Klarna’s CEO said.

For all these reasons, the real winner in the retail space will develop a platform that acts as an assistant, similar to what Alipay is doing in China. And speaking of Alipay, did you know that it is not a payment company? When Li Wang, Head of EMEA at Alipay, stepped on the main stage and started her presentation by saying Alipay is not a payment company, the audience wasn’t really convinced by her statement. However, she soon explained her point, and she was right – Alipay is about the whole buying experience, supporting the user’s life needs. Did you know that you can use Alipay even at a hotel situated on the Everest Mountain? You just have to scan a QR code that enables you to pay, receive all the touristic info available for that area (tourist attractions, restaurants, ways to spend your time), and also receive promotions/discounts.

The convergence of a customer’s social, retail and financial life is transforming the way we pay day-to-day, and Chris Skinner might be right when he says “forget GAFA, the real threat is FATBAG” (Facebook, Amazon, Tencent, Baidu, Ant and Google), referring to the superpowers already created for users by the Chinese tech companies.

For example, WeChat reaches over a billion monthly active users that spend at least 90 minutes on average in the super-app on a daily basis. An integral part of reaching these numbers is through its payments product, WeChat Pay, which enables more than 600 million users to pay through their smartphone, both online and offline.

Cash is dead? Long live the cash!

And finally, in the quest to best demonstrate the real-world challenges of everyday transactions, Money20/20 and Fintech Finance have put regional financial systems such as crypto, cash, mobile, card, and “wildstyle” to the test. The race started in Istanbul on the 31st of May with the final destination being the Money20/20 Big Top stage, and with contenders having one goal: to be crowned the Payments Race Champion. Each racer was only allowed to use a single form of payment for the duration of the race to pay for their travel and expenses.

Results came to shock a bit the audience, ready to embrace the frictionless paying experience; cash and cards came on 1st place in terms of usability. However, the crypto racer found 17 merchants in Europe accepting cryptocurrency payments, setting crypto on the 4th place, over mobile payments.


There have been three full days of positive energy, inspiring presentations and productive meetings at RAI, in Amsterdam, and we want to thank the Money 20/20 team for having us and for organizing such a complex event. And to you, the reader, I will conclude by quoting Jack Dorsey, CEO, Square “You should come to Money20/20 not only for the presentations or the conversations but also to meet new people and find those who are thinking about what youre going after in a different way.”

About Mirela Ciobanu

Mirela Ciobanu is Senior Editor at The Paypers and has been actively involved in covering digital payments - related topics, especially in the cryptocurrency, online security and fraud prevention space. She is passionate about finding the latest news on data breaches, machine learning, digital identity, and blockchain and she is an active advocate of the need to keep our online data/presence protected. Mirela has a bachelor’s degree in English language and holds a Master’s degree in Marketing.

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Keywords: Money 2020 Europe, AI, banks, fintechs, BigTechs, data, Feedzai, Steve Wozniak, Amazon Pay, WeChat, Klarna, Alipay, Visa, crypto, cash
Countries: World