Post image for PoF 12 – Risk Management, Remittances, and Innovation – A Conversation with CBW Bank’s Suresh Ramamurthi

Glenbrook’s Elizabeth McQuerry and George Peabody talk with CBW Bank’s Suresh Ramamurthi on payment innovation, risk management, and international remittances. Suresh is also founder of Yantra Financial Technologies. He and his wife Suchitra Padmanabhan were featured in this NY Times Dealbook article last month. Also quoted in the Dealbook post, Elizabeth found both Yantra’s technology and their use of the CBW Bank business as an innovation platform exciting.


I am writing this post sitting on the front steps of our house in San Francisco. I have locked myself out three times recently, more than I have in the past three decades. Is it dementia? No, I blame mobile payments.

Last summer I bought a case for my iPhone that had handy little pockets for a credit card. Initially I only used it for my Clipper Card (the mass transit payment smart card we use here in the Bay Area). It was great to simply tap my phone as I boarded the tram or bus rather than fumbling in my briefcase or purse for my wallet. And it had the added benefit of making me look cool – hey, she paid with her phone, how’d she do that? (I know, I know, Pathetic Payments Geek.)

My first-gen mobile payment setup:


Eventually I started putting my credit card in the other pocket. If I was in town, I’d slide in my primary personal card and when I was traveling for work I’d substitute my work card. I even started sticking my drivers license in it, so that I could scan my boarding pass QR code, hand over my license, all without pulling out my wallet. Because I travel so much, I’d squeeze in my hotel key card, too (or rather, substitute it for the Bay Area-specific Clipper Card). I hate carrying a purse, and would simply slip my phone in my pocket and head out. Absolutely bliss. Yes, I am that person who really needs a mobile wallet.

Over the last month or so, I haven’t been traveling as much. Which means that I have to actually use my keys rather than a hotel room key card. And that’s when I started locking myself out of the house. Repeatedly.

I recognize that, eventually, my phone will unlock the car and the front door of our house. But in the meantime, I am going to have to go back to carrying a purse. Getting locked out repeatedly is absurd.

(Afterword: I picked up an iPhone 6 yesterday and immediately started using ApplePay. I stuck my Clipper card between the case and the phone to address the inconvenience of digging through my purse at the tram stop. But am resigned to carrying a purse for the time being to hold my house keys…no more getting locked out.)


Dennis MoserOn a bright sunny New Year’s Day 2015, we lost our long-time friend and colleague Dennis Moser.

Dennis had been battling a recurrence of cancer – undergoing treatment to battle the disease following the appearance of new symptoms at Thanksgiving.

I remember seeing him in the office just before Christmas – as he was about to complete his last round of radiation therapy. While tired from the treatments, he was as optimistic as ever that this was just going to be a brief battle.

When we heard the news of his passing just a few days later, we were stunned.

Dennis and I have worked together for over 40 years – having first met as IBMers in San Francisco early in our working careers. We both ended up later at Visa – and, ultimately, working together more closely as partners at Glenbrook. Our wives have had a similarly lengthy friendship over these many years.

A good friend, upon learning of Dennis’ passing, commented: “Dennis was one of the truly nice people I’ve known.” Indeed, everyone who has known Dennis must share that feeling – he was an optimist, a very hard worker, one who wanted and did add real value to whatever he was doing.

I remember Dennis also for his passion for reading – he was always quick to ask: “Read any good books lately?” to which I’d typically stumble trying to come up with something I actually had read and could recommend. Mostly, I just said – not really, how about you? – to which he’d always have a couple of great recommendations! I remember him most recently recommending “The Martian” as a recent favorite of his. It’s now on my Kindle and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it based on his recommendation – his recommendations were always the best!

They say with age comes some modicum of wisdom – but it’s still so hard when death of a colleague comes so out of the blue. I know Dennis would want us to remember the good times – and we’ll do that for sure. Meanwhile, we keep Dennis, his wife and daughter in our hearts and minds.

If you knew Dennis, we’d welcome you sharing some of your memories of him in the comments below. He was a very special friend and colleague – and we’ll miss him dearly.


Post image for Regulation, the Blockchain and Programmable Money

One of the truly interesting presentations at this year’s Money2020 was the speech by Ben Lawsky, superintendent of New York’s Department of Financial Services. Lawsky’s remarks focused on his department’s BitLicense proposal and demonstrated the struggle Lawsky and his team face as they create regulation for Bitcoin and math-based currencies (MBCs) in general.

Released in July, the NYDFS proposed “BitLicense” regulatory framework requires comprehensive reporting, background checks and identity proofing of business leaders, as well as mandatory bonding for all BitLicense holders at rates specified by the NYDFS. The first version was roundly criticized by Bitcoin advocates as overbearing and costly, causing some to declare they’ll do business anywhere but the state of New York. Other stakeholders view the BitLicense as a set of necessary controls appropriate to entities handling citizen monies. But it’s not an easy binary choice. [click to continue…]


Post image for PoF 11 – Bitcoin, Banking, and Crypto 2.0 Approaches

Glenbrook’s George Peabody discusses Bitcoin and blockchain evolution with Sean Safahi, co-founder and CEO of Bold Financial Technologies, a provider of math-based currency services to the banking industry. Applications that make use of the bitcoin blockchain and consensus-based approaches are proliferating. We discuss these including the newly launched Stellar, a non-profit infrastructure provider for currency exchange and asset transfer.


Post image for Glenbrook’s Retailing Framework

I’ve been thinking a lot about how payments and payment-related technologies fit into the emerging world of multi-channel commerce or omni-commerce as some people call it. When a lot of companies describe their omni-commerce strategy, they are usually talking about recognizing customers across channels and being able support a sales cycle that starts in one channel and finishes in another.

Instead of parallel channels (store, online, call center) I think a better metaphor is to imagine a funnel where customers move through a wide area, near area, and localized experience right up to the point where it gets personal. At any point along the journey they can consummate the purchase and move on. But often times, one step leads to the next.

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Post image for Adventures in Attribution – The Apple vs. MCX Dialog

Like many payments industry insiders, we have been following the recent impassioned industry dialog about the relative merits of Apple Pay and MCX’s CurrentC wallet with a combination of amusement and despair. The barbs and accusations being exchanged by the rival camps in this technological holy war between NFC and QR codes suddenly reminded me that many years ago I invested a big part of my academic career to the field in social psychology. I had a particular interest in the sub-discipline of Attribution Theory, which “deals with how the social perceiver uses information to arrive at causal explanations for events.”

In layman’s terms, attribution theory is concerned with how and why ordinary people explain events as they do. Two major areas of contention between Apple Pay and MCX reveal interesting lessons about the way information is released affects the perceptions of observers. Let me explain.

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Post image for Let’s Just Skip Sig and Go to Chip and PIN

Last week I was in Victoria, British Columbia doing one of our Glenbrook Payments Assessments. In anticipation of my trip to the North American Land of Chip andPIN, I had both a Visa and an Amex card reissued in the chip format. Neither of my issuers supported PINs on my credit cards, so I was informed by both of the issuers that I’d be in chip and signature mode.

When in Canada, I used my cards many times and my main impression was that this chip and signature stuff was stupid, and it would have been so much easier to have been assigned and using a PIN!
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Post image for PoF 10 – On Faster Payments in the US

In this interview with Glenbrook’s founding partner Carol Coye Benson, we discuss the prospects for a faster payments system in the US. Responding to the October 22 announcement by The Clearing House, Carol expresses her caution and hope for ways to accelerate replacement of today’s system for credit push payments.


Post image for Considering Bitcoin as a Payment Network

Wikipedia says, “Bitcoin is a software-based online payment system.” But what sort of payment system is it? We get this question all the time when we talk about Bitcoin in our workshops.

At Glenbrook we like to start each Payments Boot Camp talking about payments systems fundamentals and the common attributes that can be used to understand and position any payments system. In every workshop someone will raise their hand in the first ten minutes and ask about Bitcoin. They are always thinking that Bitcoin is so revolutionary it must somehow invalidate how to think about payments systems. We love this because Bitcoin doesn’t refute how payments systems work — it illustrates and reinforces how all payments systems work. Let’s look at some of the specifics: [click to continue…]


Post image for PoF 9 – Realtime Authorization and Messaging

Realtime, consumer-facing authorization of card payment transactions has been available for some time but few of us have it offered to us by our issuers. Today, there’s a number of technology providers selling truly realtime notifications and two-way approval requests based on the live authorization stream. Glenbrook’s Russ Jones takes us through what’s on offer while George gets grumpy over what he’s got today. As more consumers become thorougly alarmed over data and privacy breaches, this could be the time for issuers and independents to offer the “worried” consumer more control and a strong role in fraud management.

Companies mentioned in this episode include:

TSYS Spend Controls for consumers and corporate card administrators

MasterCard InControl

Vantiv MobiMoney

Red Giant Mobile


Post image for A Central Bank Takes on Mobile Payments

Ecuador’s Central Bank has embarked on an ambitious course to launch an affordable and widely available mobile payment scheme.  In fact, it will be the national wallet. With some uncertainty, it appears that Ecuador’s initiative may be the second central bank effort to enter this space. Jordan’s central bank has launched “JoMoPay”, but for those of us who don’t read Arabic, details on the initiative are less than sparse.

But as I return from Quito and the M2Money Andean conference, there are details to share on Ecuador’s effort. The central bank will be both the owner and the operator of the scheme. They chose a proven mobile payment platform that will lend both capability and experience to the new initiative. The vision includes building out an ecosystem that includes P2P, top-up, B2B, cash in and cash out, in-store purchases, and electronic receipts. The plan is to link the mobile payment platform with the banking platform so that mobile accounts can receive funds from and send funds to bank accounts.


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Post image for PoF 8 – Virtual Banking, PayPal, Apple Pay – A conversation with Dan Schatt

Join George Peabody in a conversation with Stockpile’s Dan Schatt on virtual banking, innovation, and the future of PayPal.  Dan is former GM of Financial Innovations at PayPal and the author of Virtual Banking: A Guide to Innovation and Partnering, a new book that includes a chapter on Bitcoin and math-based currencies by Glenbrook’s George Peabody.  We also discuss Stockpile’s innovative approach to equities ownership, a business model that will be fascinating to watch develop.


Post image for ApplePay, NFC, QR (Oh My!) and the New POS

First There is a Mountain, Then There is No Mountain, Then There is…

I’ve been thinking about what the future of the point of sale environment will look like from a consumer perspective. Of course, 10 years ago, we all knew what it was going to look like: consumers tapping their mobile phones to Near Field Communication (NFC) equipped POS terminals, transferring card data that looked a lot like magnetic stripe data. The card issuers loved the vision, the card networks loved it too, and the phone providers (who owned the space on the phone) were dreamy-eyed just thinking about all the new revenue.

Google, and its Android phone operating system (53% U.S. phone share) even signed up — first with an approach that aligned with the original Secure Element based design and later with the Host Card Emulation approach, which wrested NFC from the sole control of the carriers. But Apple (42% U.S. phone share) remained silent.

And our belief in an NFC future waned.

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Post image for PoF 7 – Biometrics, Apple Pay, and Privacy: a Talk with Steve Wilson

Apple Pay’s announcement has brought attention to biometrics and their role in payments security and to the broader, if amorphous, concept of online identity. Steve Wilson of Constellation Research and Glenbrook’s George Peabody discuss local and cloud-based biometrics, identity attributes, and the vexing challenges of privacy.


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