Meetings No 22
Constructive Journalism
Atti Soenarso: Journalism that offers a fuller picture of our world.
Cover Story
Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Gapminder
“We’re right, you’re wrong. It’s as simple as that.”
You have to have Stories to tell
The simple poetry of My Life as a Dog.
Long Tail Insights
The Power and Legacy of Conferences
Stories of serendipity, innovation and driving social change.
Smart Decision
Sustainable Meetings Vital Part of the New Strategy of Gothenburg
Gothenburg has a clear plan.
African Convention Bureaux Will Lead the Way
Agenda 2063 is a call to action.
IBTM World Announces Tech Watch Award shortlist
A shortlist of nine finalists has been announced.
Economic Impact
Incheon – Forward-thinking Metropolis
A South Korean city with a demand for business events.
You Are Not Safe
Predicting the birth of the Internet with 20/20 hindsight.
Global Index
Gaining Edge Launches Global Competitive Index
Bigger isn’t always more competitive.
IACC confirms 63 new member venues in Denmark
The new venues are part of Danske Konference Centre.
Isn’t It Time? The 13 Questions for Visionaries
Robin Sharma hopes to help you win.
Thought Leadership
A Futurist on the Future of Payments
Anders Sorman-Nilsson: It has to be frictionless.
Tips for Measuring ROI
Two ROI experts share their insights.
CWT Meetings and Events Forecast 2019
Data-driven insight and expert analysis to maximise your results.
Our Knowledge Bank Is Growing
Roger Kellerman: New knowledge flows to us.
How to pivot
Incon Launches Covid-19 Resource Page
with offices in 170 destinations.
one step at the time
Asia’s MICE sector
expected to rebound ahead of other regions.
First to open
Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center
in Reykjavík is ready for the post-Covid-19 era.
amazing opportunities
Amsterdam Drone Week
expands activities with hybrid summits.
opening up
Etihad Airways
adds more return flights, including Paris, Geneva, and Milan.
New faces
at The Hague Convention Bureau
to focus on key sectors.
one step at the time
Emirates to resume passenger flights from May 21
to nine destinations.
one step at the time
RAI Amsterdam:
‘We’re ready to reopen following social distancing guidelines’.
one step at the time
Iceland To Open
to Tourists Again On June 15th (With Conditions.)
13,254 rotating association meetings
2019 ICCA statistics captured 13,254 rotating association meetings,
US still country number one.
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A Futurist on the Future of Payments

Anders Sorman-Nilsson is the founder of Thinque, a strategy think tank that helps executives and leaders convert disruptive questions into proactive future strategies.

He is a global futurist and innovation strategist who helps leaders decode trends, decipher what’s next and turn provocative questions into proactive strategies. With an average of 240 international travel days a year, Anders’ view is that the future and the now are converging in a city or start-up near you, giving the curious, the creative and the courageous a competitive and sustainable edge. At the same time, that same future contains fearsome forecasts for futurephobes.

This Swedish-Australian futurist has shared the stage with Hillary Clinton, Nobel Laureates, and European and Australian heads of state. He is an active member of TED Global, has keynoted at TEDx in the United States and Australia, is nominated to the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders in 2019, and was the keynote speaker at the G20’s Y20 Summit in Australia.

Anders Sorman-Nilsson thought leadership has been featured in international media like Monocle, Business Insider, Sky News Business, Financial Review, CIO Magazine and Boss. He is the author of the books Seamless: a heros journey of digital disruption, adaptation and human transformation (Wiley, 2017), Digilogue: how to win the digital minds and analogue hearts of tomorrows customers (Wiley, 2013) and Thinque Funky: Upgrade Your Thinking (Thinque, 2009).

He recently spoke at a PULSE-sponsored event, where he shared insights with financial institutions and processors. The third-largest debit/ATM network in the U.S., PULSE is a subsidiary of Discover Financial Services. We caught up with him afterward to ask some questions.

You are a futurist, what do you foresee in terms of payments?

“When it comes to the future of payments, it tends to be an evolution. Suddenly, sometimes things will roll over a bit faster, but even in the current era of Bitcoin and blockchain technologies, old-school forms of bartering still exist. So, when it comes to the future of payments, the advances tend to be additive. Certainly, where we’re seeing growth, it is about digital forms of payment – particularly those that are frictionless, or what I would call seamless. They remove the kind of friction that we often experience at the point of sale. Even in a business-to-business environment, we all know that procurement processes can be very lengthy and not always seamless.”

What do you believe is essential for PULSE participants to think about?

“First, examine what the customer or client journey looks like and then determine the types of traditional and technological modes of payment that you need to make available to connect with what I like to refer to as digital minds and analog hearts. Winning both digital minds and analog hearts is really the key thing for organisations moving forward, in terms of cultivating brand loyalty.”

You gather insights globally. What can U.S. financial institutions learn from other parts of the world?

“Asia today is a future lab. It took Alipay 12 months to reach $100 billion in payments. In contrast, it took the Development Bank of Singapore 280 bank branches and 50 years to reach that level. Alipay, with no bank branches, now has a lower cost of credit than any bank in the world, and they’re the largest payment company in the world. Payments is such a critical part of any customer journey that innovating on payments and making them frictionless is so important for brands – particularly when the expectation of the consumer today is that instant gratification is nearly too slow.”

Can you walk us through what a typical customer journey looks like?

“It used to be quite linear in the good old days. It used to move people through five stages – moving from awareness to engagement, to an evaluation of your brand compared to other financial institutions, to hopefully a decision in your favor, and then finally to usage and loyalty. That’s evolved to skipping between analog and digital touch points at each of those five stages, all the time comparing rates, mortgages or whatever it happens to be. Brands have to be aware that, when it comes to the moment of moving from evaluation to decision, and really making a purchase or investment decision, that final piece of the puzzle has to be seamless. It has to be frictionless because the payment part of the customer journey is so critical. And we all know what comes after a decision: usage, loyalty, word of mouth recommendations – maybe even brand advocacy if we get it right.”

Do you think fintech startups have been able to leap ahead of traditional financial institutions? If so, why?

“Generally, companies in the financial industry have legacy technologies. Without that old legacy tech and the focus on regulation, the fintechs can focus on innovation. And, where innovation is ripe, it’s usually where there’s a point of friction. A really good analysis if you want to innovate and be more creative and launch new services, would be to ask the question: Where does a customer suffer from frustration or friction along their customer journey from awareness to engagement, evaluation, decision, and usage? What are those moments of friction, and how do we make them seamless?”

Do you consider fintechs a threat to financial institutions or an opportunity?

“I think there’s a lot of cross-fertilisation that can happen between both legacy and innovative players. As a result of open banking initiatives around the world, the APIs of some banks are opening up. In Australia, the government is driving this new regulatory sandbox, where a lot of the data that the banks hold on customers has to be made accessible to fintechs. It’s moving from a competitive space to one of collaboration between fintechs and banks.”

When you work with financial institutions in the U.S., what questions are you asking, or encouraging their leadership to ask?

“If everyone can be a challenger bank or a fintech that taps into the ecosystem, what does it mean to actually be a bank? Are fintechs just technology companies with a banking license? Does this fundamentally mean that a bank is going to be sort of a ’dumb pipe’ through which money flows in the background? Does it mean that somebody else owns the customer relationship at the front end with the customer? Is my loyalty really to the bank or is it more to the app? For instance, does it mean that my loyalty is to Acorns (a micro investment app) as opposed to an aggregation that Acorns is responsible for? These are important questions for any financial institution to ask themselves.”

When you spoke with financial institutions, you encouraged them to imagine their future selves. Why?

“Yes. Imagine that it’s 2021 and, on your watch, your bank or credit union went belly up. What were the trends that you missed? What were the signals that you deliberately chose to ignore, and what were the investment decisions that you chose to delay that led to that demise? And, most importantly, what change will you make today to prevent that from happening? Those are big questions that are sometimes uncomfortable questions to ask. However, engaging in this analytical method of prospective hindsight, or a ’pre-mortem’, can drive important exponential investment decisions, today.”

Where do you think is the greatest opportunity for financial institutions?

“Digital knows no bounds, and that’s the opportunity here, even for community banks or credit unions that have historically had a very local base of operations. All of a sudden, you can be a digital bank on a national level – pending regulatory hurdles and all the rest. That’s also the risk. People in your community, courtesy of digital, are being exposed to new players such as Zelle or Venmo (peer-to-peer payment apps). The idea of having a physical bank account or a bank vault might not be such a meritocratic idea in an age of cloud.”

Any final thoughts?

“I think these are exciting times, and I think these are also times when we need to look externally, not just within the banking industry or the payments industry, but globally, to determine what the customer expectation is and what it will be. We know that today’s luxury is tomorrow’s expectation. Therefore, if we’ve experienced real-time payments today and it’s seen as a bit of a luxury, tomorrow it’s going to be the expectation.”

Published with permission from PULSE ­Payments & You.

Photo: Relmi Damiano