AC: Visa used to talk about being a “global authorisation intermediary”, now you talk about “credentials”, is that something different?
CB: I actually think we’re closer to our charter than we've ever been right now. If the charter was around digitising currency, we are closer to doing that than ever. So we've always tried to be neutral on the form factor, neutral on selling a credit card or selling a debit card. It's about making currency move online. So maybe in the early days we talked about account numbers, 16 digit numbers on the back of cards. Today we have to think and talk differently. Credentials become the way to express that secure identity.
But ultimately we don't want people thinking “gosh I mean to use my phone today” or my 16 digit card number. We want them to see something they recognise as their bank, see that imagery. It needs to be “that’s my bank, a logo I can trust, and I can push the payment to a music subscription for example.
AC: Does that mean the old plastic card will disappear?
CB: Well not immediately. It's going to be here awhile. People have habituated around that process, they do it without even thinking; taking a card out, touching it to a contact point, they know how and it works great. The card might be one of the greatest product inventions ever but I think over time card use will reduce. There'll be a parallel period of innovation, mobile technology, wearable technology - as long as it's a better experience or perhaps it brings more.
For the consumer, what are the issues at the point of sale? What can Visa bring to that? You can bring innovation, more value added services into the transaction flow than existed before. Your plastic card doesn't carry with it a digital receiver but your device does, a plastic card doesn't have a loyalty system stapled through it but a device can. A device can also track where the transaction occurred. A device can also recognise you.
AC: We’re obviously seeing more and more diverse ways to pay and even some – like the QR codes which are behind the Chinese mobile payments revolution – which are really old technologies being revived. How do we manage all those ways to pay? For example you’ve got a wall of cubes in the centre here that seem to number in the hundreds breaking down all components, whether technology, device, protocols.
CB: There is hugely more variety in the payment system but the foundations are the same: a secure way to pay. We start from there. We start with a secure way to pay. We talk about standards these ways have to meet to get the transaction done.
Our clients are asking us for ways to untether their card, to untether the physical point of sale, to make secure payments in new ways. QR is an expression of an untethered card. It's accepted by a merchant with an untethered Point of Sale device. The beauty of it is it takes hardware out of the equation. We love that.
Untethered – where the merchant doesn’t have to be online or dialing up on a phone - can open up new markets. So QR codes can be very important in that untethered world.
I just went to the Winter Olympics in Pyeong-chang and it was cold there. The Winter Olympics are cold and Visa’s a top sponsor for the Olympics. We help with the point of sale equipment and we had this mountain location where the skiing events were on. It was negative 20 degrees out there and our physical points of sale were freezing. Now there's still some mechanics in there around processing payments, thermal printing components don't respond well when it's like minus 20. So we were testing around it, looking at solutions but wearing bulky gloves is not great with thermal printers.
But when you untether the point of sale it becomes a device like a camera. You don't have to worry about those degrees below zero. The Olympus in the cold is an extreme example but all these use cases where payment needs to occur then become easier once you start to adopt this way of thinking.