Post image for Out of Africa:  Watching the Evolution of Mobile Money

It turns out you don’t have to be unbanked to like M-Pesa

I had the opportunity earlier this month to visit the mecca of mobile payments, which –with all due respect to the recent accomplishments in Cupertino — remains Nairobi, Kenya.

The “Kenyan miracle” in payments has been well documented, particularly in terms of how Safaricom’s M-Pesa ™ product has brought basic electronic payment capability to millions of formerly unserved consumers in the lower income and geographically remote segments of Kenyan society (the word pesa means “money” in Swahili, so this is literally mobile money, a nice example of the kind of descriptive and explanatory branding we love at Glenbrook).  This is accomplished by adding a prepaid mobile wallet with a cash balance alongside the prepaid value already stored on wireless phones to fund voice and data usage.  The value in the mobile wallet can then be transferred to other wallet holders using a simple set of text-based menu options. m-pesa logo [click to continue…]


Post image for Episode 6 – Russ Jones on Visa Checkout and Checkout Flow

Using a powerful examination of the challenge of online and mobile checkout, Glenbrook’s Russ Jones takes us for a deep dive into Visa Checkout, comparing it to PayPal and other methods of making the ecommerce experience slippery.

At Checkout’s announcement in mid-July, Visa promised to support the initiative with significant advertising. One ad has been viewed by 9 million times on YouTube and anyone with a passing interest in Sunday football has seen spots educating viewers on Checkout’s speed and availability.



Post image for FinovateFall 2014 Day 2

Come back for Bryan Derman’s wrap-up of FinovateFall 2014. From banking technology vendors to SMB lending and some very interesting security and biometric demonstrations from new and established outfits.  Take a listen to his report here or, via iTunes, just search for Payments on Fire.


Post image for FinovateFall Day 1

Finovate has become the leading opportunity for new companies and long term players in financial technology to strut their stuff.  But not all of us can attend the conference and not all of us have the long term view that Glenbrook’s Bryan Derman brings to the show.  Take a listen to his take on Day 1 of the event.  And come back tomorrow for his take on Day 2.

Here’s Bryan’s favorite tee shirt from the first day of FinovateFall 2014.



Post image for Payments in Europe – Payments on Fire podcast with Elizabeth McQuerry and Manfred Schuck

Want to know more about SEPA and the new SEPA for cards initiative?  Thinking about opportunities in the EU?  Need to understand how payments work in Europe and how they vary country to country?

Well, to get started, take a listen to this podcast conversation between Elizabeth McQuerry, Glenbrook’s international payments maven, and Manfred Schuck of Schuck Consulting from Frankfurt.

Then, if you need more understanding, join them October 9 in Mountain View, CA for their Payments in Europe Insight workshop.

iTunes link here.


Post image for Glenbrook Payments on Fire podcast – On Checkout Flow and Apple Pay

In this Payments on Fire podcast, Russ Jones and I discuss last week’s Apple Pay announcement and how it fits with and compares to other checkout approaches.

We begin looking at Apple Pay and Visa Checkout from the perspective of the checkout process because that’s what they are, ways to optimize checkout. We talk about how both will evolve over time.

We then dive into what we know about Apple Pay and discuss and what’s most exciting about Apple Pay (it’s not NFC).

In our next Payments on Fire podcast, Russ takes a deeper dive into Visa Checkout.  So, come back for that next week.

This week’s Glenbrook links of note:


Post image for Apple Pay: It’s Your Life?

These are some personal observations on Apple Pay, after an exciting week of reading announcements from Apple and reactions from bloggers. (If you want a Glenbrook business view on the announcement, read Wednesday’s post by my partner George Peabody.)

For several years we’ve been talking, at Glenbrook, about how mobile payments take a back seat, in terms of importance, to mobile commerce – how it is the “tail that wags the dog.” We’ve been particularly focused on what enables merchants to “sell more”, whether by offering coupons, or loyalty programs, or special-treatment programs (my favorite!). And it is clear, when you look at players like Google, with Google Wallet, or Softcard (previously Isis) or CurrentC (the mobile wallet of MCX) that mobile commerce is the primary driver.

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Post image for Do You Want a Million Dollars?

I was delighted and fascinated to see that the Gates Foundation has issued a “Grand Challenge” on enabling universal acceptance of mobile money payments.  The Foundation’s previous best-known challenges have been in healthcare, notably for toilets and condoms, so this is quite a change!

The Foundation is soliciting two-page proposals on innovative devices, software or business models that can dramatically increase the acceptance of mobile payment solutions by small businesses and service providers “and other members of the ecosystem serving the poor”.  Winning applicants will receive a $100,000 grant, and may potentially receive a follow-up grant worth $1 million.

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Post image for Apple Pay Stirs, But Doesn’t Shake, the Mobile Landscape

The Apple Pay announcement finally came yesterday and the company’s orchestration of much of the complex and fractious card payments ecosystem demonstrates Apple’s insight into how the current payments ecosystem works and how it must be aligned in order to meet its own needs. Combining NFC, Apple’s Passbook wallet, Touch ID biometric reader, cards stored in the iTunes account, and a stronger security model, Apple Pay could give the NFC “tap and pay” gesture a reinvigorated future.

Looked at it from the payment context alone, Apple Pay does not do a great deal more than what Softcard/Isis and Google Wallet have already achieved. But the combination of Apple’s design focus and its assumption of a reasonably non-threatening role within the payments ecosystem should make a difference. [click to continue…]

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Post image for SEPA for Cards – The New Ballgame

We are delighted to feature another post by Manfred Schuck, a terrific payments consultant from Frankfurt, who will co-lead with Elizabeth McQuerry our upcoming Payments in Europe Insight workshop to be held in Mountain View, CA on October 9.

Now, it’s about cards.  Here’s how the European Payments Council (EPC), the self-regulation body of the European Banking Industry, views its SEPA for cards initiative:

“The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) for cards sets the conditions to offer European cardholders general purpose cards to make euro payments and withdraw euro cash throughout SEPA, with the same ease and convenience as in their home country. It also enables European merchants to choose which SEPA compliant card acceptance brand and product they wish to accept and with which acquirer(s) they wish to contract, without this choice being artificially constrained by legal, technical, or procedural issues”. [click to continue…]


Post image for Payments on Fire – Episode 1

Welcome to Glenbrook’s Payments on Fire podcast!

This conversation between Glenbrook’s founding partner Scott Loftesness, Terence Spies, CTO of Voltage Security, and Glenbrook’s George Peabody is about virtual currencies.  It’s a discussion about Bitcoin, other math-based currencies and approaches like Ethereum, Nxt, and more.

We’re calling Glenbrook’s podcast series Payments on Fire because, well, payments are hot and the payments industry finds itself in some hot water. Between investor, entrepreneur and hacker interests, payments is the place to be.

My Glenbrook partner Elizabeth McQuerry will join me as co-host on this series soon. Looking ahead, Payments on Fire will cover all things payments. You’ll hear interviews with payments participants about their offerings, conversations with members of the Glenbrook team and guests on recent events and news as well as discussions on the larger themes of faster payments in the US, payments security, and more. So, please plan on coming back to hear more.  It’s not just about Bitcoin.

But before we leave that topic, we are running our second annual bitcoin and payments survey right now.  So, please, check it out and let us know what you think. You’ll find the link at our blog site, and here.


Post image for IBAN the Terrible and Other EU Payment Issues

As the summer holiday period close, I find myself in a back to school mode even though I haven’t been enrolled for nearly twenty years. Europe is especially on my mind as we prepare for the Glenbrook Payments in Europe workshop next month. What are the big payments issues in Europe today, what’s the context behind them and how are things different here in the US.

One overarching point is that even as the Euro serves as a common currency in 18 countries, you really can’t think in terms of “European payment preferences”. Rather, there are German payment preferences, French payment preferences, and so on. Germans are not keen on credit cards while the French still use the paper check more than their continental counterparts. Perhaps one high level, regional trend that we can describe is that cards, especially credit cards, are not as popular among consumers and generally less widely used by corporates than they are here in the US. From a US perspective, I ask myself, how does anyone buy something off the Internet? [click to continue…]


Post image for Who’s a Better Fraud Investigator — You or Your Bank?

Last month, I invited everyone to participate in a survey about card fraud detection. It asked a simple question: “Who’s better at card fraud detection? You or your bank?”

The results are in and, well, it looks like it’s more or less a tie: cardholders initially detected card fraud slightly more often than their issuers. But when a second instance of fraud was experienced by those same cardholders, it was the issuer that was the first to notice the bogus transaction.


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Post image for Hostility in Payments

The recent entry of into the small merchant mobile POS card acceptance market may signal the last phase of increasing hostility in the US merchant acquiring segment of the card payments business.

Prior to the launch of Square in 2010, the merchant acquiring business in the US might have been described as having some of the characteristics of an oligopoly. The existing players had reached a rough equilibrium that was based on complex pricing schedules and a lack of pricing transparency. The market could be described as relatively inefficient and having high friction.

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Post image for Full SEPA is Here, At Last

This week, we are delighted to feature a post by Manfred Schuck, a payments consultant from Frankfurt.  Manfred will co-lead with Elizabeth McQuerry our upcoming Payments in Europe Insight workshop to be held in Mountain View, CA on October 9. 

On January 1st, 2001 fifteen European countries introduced notes and coins of a new common currency.  At this singular moment, fifteen national currencies ceased to exist and a new star, the EURO, was born. That was also the first step in the creation of SEPA, the “Single Euro Payments Area”!

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