What Payments Industry could learn from House of Cards series?

In the beginning of the second season Frank Underwood (protagonist) looks at the camera and says...

And you thought that I Forgot about you?

Every now and then, in-between the power packed scenes and intense dialogues he looks at the camera and talks to us - the audience. Such a powerful concept that takes narration to the next level. The makers of House of Cards (HOC) understood the importance of communicating with the consumer. To understand that this is something she will want. Payment companies need to understand consumers better. You need to listen to her voice. Incessantly coming up with fancy products based on what the rocket scientist in you says is meaningless if the problem itself does not exist. Or at least it doesn’t exist in the proportions imagined by you. There is a developed science of taking feedback from the potential consumers before the product launch. And there is lot of data you can collect and analyze when people are actually using it. You have to become more relevant to the consumers and the markets you are operating in.

  • Recently a major survey of 4000 people revealed that the people who have not used mobile payments have not done so because they think their banks meet most of the needs. A lot of payment companies keep talking about how banks are not meeting consumer needs. While that is true to some extent but that kind of advertising would not yield with the customer segment we just discussed.
  • In the same survey it was also found that security is the main concern for not using mobile payments. Now tell me how many new mobile wallets or mobile payment systems in the last 2 years have improved security as compared to previous systems from Banks, Paypal, and others. How many really talk about it on their websites and ads? There is a reason why Identity access management, security and authentication are top priorities. With Target and Neiman Marcus data breach its high time that every payment solution in the market needs to address that issue.

You need partnerships. Build and Cultivate those partnerships. Lets not work against each other. Frank in HOC kills some important initiatives and bills that could have been good for the people. Jon Matonis, executive director of the Bitcoin Foundation characterized mobile payments as lacklustre, particularly in developed economies, blaming government, banks and operators each trying to secure the coveted payments pie. Together, he said, the trio had strangled m-payment adoption. Google wallet being curbed by operators was not a good sign for payments innovation.

It was amazing to see Frank and his accomplices remember names, people and their strong and weak points. In negotiating a deal in HOC, Frank and his team always found out beforehand what the other person wants. Sometimes they would bend backwards to make the other party work with them. In the long run they gain from the collaboration. We could learn a lot from that.

Platform is more important than a single product or feature any given day. Frank underwood was a platform. He was more powerful than the President because he could get votes in the congress and he was resourceful. Look at Visa and Mastercard. They have a strong central position in the payments industry. They wield so much power. But that is not going to remain the same forever. It might be some new form of platforms, that we could see in the future. Ones that will come up from tech disruption, empowered by enabling technologies & open platforms in cloud, big data, authentication and identity. The interdependency between adjacent industries is a central theme of the innovations that are shaping the new money-related experiences. Build those future platforms.

Frank goes to eat the Ribs at Freddys, almost all the time. He doesn’t change a winning combination. Don’t try to complicate things just to be different. Some tested concepts are good. For e.g., people are not going to stop using Cash. They are habitual to certain things and in some places cash is still the only option. Merchants are not going to change so soon to adopt contactless infrastructure. So why not bring solutions that people are used to work with, and where merchants don’t have to do anything new. Coin and Omne card as well as Loop wallet are examples of dynamic magstripe innovations. Do we need to fight two battles at the same time? Cashless and Contactless. The love people showed to Coin doesn’t seem to say that. I think a lot about it.

The ruthless tyrant Frank Underwood breaks the trust of so many people in order to get ahead in the race of Power and Supremacy. But before he realizes how much goodwill he has destroyed, people start mis-trusting him a lot. Even some of his old aides. Payment companies shouldn’t be doing that. You should not promise the sun and the moon to the consumers and than fall flat on promises. People appreciate good marketing about things that really work. They won’t trust you the next time and the next if your product keeps failing them.