Mobile payments must be the most heralded innovation of all time. We have been talking about it for 10 years or more, and still don’t have a reliable definition, let alone a clear, widely-accepted process flow. Mobile payments' can be: - A text/SMS direction to a stored value service; - A transfer or top-up of airtime (air minutes) between mobile accounts; - A charge on your phone bill; - A contactless (near field communication or NFC) card transaction initiated from a mobile device, either by a chip that resides inside the phone or a sticker attached to the outside; - An internet payment executed from the mobile using any number of web-based services; or - An app-driven service for 3- and 4-G phones using a range of wireless connections. All of these are in operation, somewhere in the world. Do we need them all here in Australia? Probably not, but in the vibrant world of retail payment innovations, that's probably the wrong question. Rather, we might ask "which one(s) can win in an open, competitive marketplace?"
I would like to borrow a theme from Jim Collins, the management researcher and writer. His two best-known works, Built to Last and Good to Great, are evidence-based studies of what makes commercial organisations outperform over the long term. APCA’s own core principles – our values, purpose, unique positioning, member benefit proposition and vision – were developed using the Collins framework. You can find them on our website. Collins has the luxury of something to measure: he looks at relative increase in total shareholder value of listed companies against competitive peers over long periods of time. Then he tries to work out how the top performers got there in the first place, and how they stay on top. These days there is plenty of debate over the validity of this method but its influence on corporate strategic thinking is undeniable. Unfortunately, neat quantitative measures of achievement are not generally available for payment systems. But the long-term, structural orientation of Collins’ work aligns well with broader payments system evolution: how does the industry build a payments system that will stand the test of time, and respond to the unknowable challenges of the future? It’s not about any one strategy or programme, but the overall structure, culture and orientation.