Editor’s Note: Keeping What Makes You Great
On my way to the All Payments Expo in Las Vegas last week, I stopped to buy a magazine for the plane. I bypassed the glamour magazines I usually pick up—my guilty pleasure for travel—and one of the cover lines on a business publication jumped out at me. “How to Grow and Keep What Made You Great.” In the end, I purchased Fast Company’s issue on the 50 most innovative companies and was excited to see a number of payments players on the list. But that cover line stuck with me. It seems to fit the point we’ve reached in prepaid. We all need to ask ourselves: How do we keep growing and keep what made us great?
As I caught up with industry colleagues at the show, I posed that question to them. Teri Llach from Blackhawk Network said the answer isn’t hard but the execution can be. “Sometimes a company can put technology, the deal or the ad campaign first and lose sight of what the consumer knows or wants,” she said. “If you keep your focus on consumer needs—no matter what industry you’re in—then you’ll stay great,” she said.
Discover’s Amit Parikh talked about the importance of testing ideas and speed to market, particularly amid the mobile payments startup frenzy. “Startups have an amazing ability to test their ideas quickly,” he said. Success in prepaid, emerging and mobile payments going forward is going to come for those who can move quickly. Regulation is always going to be there, he added. “The question is: How do you make an opportunity out of the coming changes?”
One of the conference themes was about partnerships between payments startups and large financial institutions and other payments giants. Sometimes those partnerships, which at their core tap the strengths of each company, lead to investment or acquisition. For Thomas Cornelius, who joined InComm after it acquired his startup Adility, one key to unlocking the innovative potential within a larger organization or a more established industry, like prepaid, is the API. “We’ve democratized access to the point of sale,” he says of InComm’s Cashtie API. “We’re using the prepaid rails to enable developers to build applications that are opening the POS to any number of possible uses, such as disrupting the walk-in bill pay sector by enabling consumers to pay bills at any cash register by scanning a barcode, or purchasing digital content in retail stores leveraging consumers mobile phones. We’re excited for the next wave of innovation—to see new use cases that seemed unimaginable prior to the API.” (For more on APIs from APEX, click here.)
With so many new solutions coming to market—or trying to—the prepaid industry and the broader payments industry will continue to change rapidly (assuming regulation doesn’t impede progress). We may not be the shiny new thing like mobile, but prepaid has a role to play in the new era of payments because it’s accessible to every consumer. For prepaid businesses to stay relevant and take their place in this evolving market, they must hold onto the innovative spirit and keen focus on solving problems that sparked the industry more than 15 years ago.