by Jordi Guaus, Chair at Mobey Forum
This year, Mobey Forum celebrates 15 years since its inception in 2000. From humble beginnings, the association has survived and flourished where other similar organisations have faded. In this blog, we talk to Mobey’s first Chairman, Bo Harald, and current Chairman, Jordi Guaus, to see how the organisation has evolved, the successes it has achieved and what the future holds.
What was Mobey like when it was first established and what has it achieved?
Bo Harald (BH): “Mobey Forum started out as a joint initiative between a handful of Scandinavian companies and banks. We wanted an open model for mobile payments and believed that customers should be free to change their network operator, device and/or bank without any barriers. Our first priority was to develop a clear understanding of this neutral approach. Following on from this, we supported a number of pilots using infrared, then Bluetooth and finally NFC technology, all the while continuing to analyse the industry.”
Jordi Guaus (JG): “Mobey has grown from a small, Nordic-based association into a globally recognised brand. Our recent member meeting in Canada, for example, had four of the five big banks in attendance. We have built on the foundation established by Bo and his peers, continuing the vision of an open organization.”
How has the Forum changed since the beginning?
BH: “The biggest change, for me, was when the telecom operators finally came to the table, broadening the discussion and forging greater cross-industry collaboration. This fostered a more holistic approach with payments recognised as just one link in the mobile services chain. It quickly became clear that our phones should be seen as approval devices, an endpoint in a chain of automation. Overall, Mobey Forum has changed a lot since 2000, evolving with its stakeholders.”
JG: “Fundamentally, Mobey has grown but we have not let this impact the quality of our work. The success of the association has given us greater resource to produce more content and a broader experience base to draw on. We can therefore offer more value than ever before.
“We’ve also evolved with the industry. Mobile financial services (MFS) were relatively immature in 2000; the first WAP and SMS banking services were launching. Now, there are more connected devices on earth than there are human beings, with more services launching every day. It is satisfying to look back and see Mobey Forum as pioneers, with a clear understanding of the importance of the mobile channel.”
Why do you think Mobey has been a success?
BH: “Essentially, Mobey’s mission of achieving an open and neutral ecosystem is good for everyone. Analysis of the infrastructure is so often forgotten, especially with teams experiencing more intense time pressures than ever. Focus is too often placed on earning more money, interoperability and neutrality need to come to the fore. I’m also proud to say that Mobey Forum has a long tradition of strong female leadership, which has helped to make the association what it is today!”
JG: “Simple, our focus on networking and the exchange of information, rather than being a commercial platform. It’s a place where experts meet to discuss the issues of the day and the challenges of the future in an open and friendly environment. We address these challenges from a business perspective but technology sits at the heart of everything we do. In my opinion Mobey is unique; it has a special atmosphere that I have not found in other associations.”
What was/is your role within the organization? As Chairman of Mobey Forum, what were/are your biggest challenges and how did/have you overcome them?
BH: “Firstly, we had to get the organisation off the ground without the initial support of the operators. It took them time to see that the open model would also benefit them. Then we had to help the banks and network operators to work together. As we know, that never quite happened with the SIM-based NFC model. The fact remains that plastic payment cards will one day disappear as services move to mobile. The debate around which model will win the day is still ongoing ten years later, although much ground has been made with Apple and Samsung’s embedded secure element model and the rise of host card emulation.”
JG: “I started attending meetings in 2005. Since then I’ve participated and chaired in working group activities and been a Board Directors before being elected as Chairman in 2013. I hope this experience will enable me to help drive further success for Mobey Forum. One challenge, that is more apparent as we continue to grow, is the global distribution of the member meetings. It is important that we achieve a good balance to ensure that all voices are heard and we continue to expose the value of Mobey to potential new members.”
What were/are Mobey Forum’s biggest achievements during your time as Chairman?
BH: “Looking back, our biggest achievement was the promotion of the open framework for mobile services. Without this model, the mobile and application world might look very different today. I’m proud of the analysis that we published and the way that we brought an introspective ecosystem out of its shell. We established the foundation for the future; Mobey could not have achieved what it has without this solid base of work.”
JG: “I would echo Bo’s sentiment. We inherited a thriving association, enabling us to continue driving innovation. In the same way that the organisation evolved when the operators came to the table, we have seen significant recent changes. In 2014, we updated the Articles of Association to make Mobey even more open to incorporate more companies that play a role in MFS. This has driven significant growth in the association. We cannot rest on our laurels, however. We must continue to attract the key players to further increase the quality of our content.
“I’m proud that the Mobey Forum brand is more recognisable than ever and is synonymous with the expertise that we offer to the market.”
Over the past 15 years, can you track the progress of the mobile financial services industry with 5 key milestones?
BH: “Let me answer this by looking at five key technological advancements:
- Remote payments showed us that mobile devices were perfect for financial services
- The deployment of contactless cards has paved the way for mobile proximity payments.
- Proximity payments are now coming to the fore with services like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.
- The app-based banking revolution has delivered ease of use for consumers and helped them to become comfortable with MFS.
- Finally, e-invoicing is showing that phones are not just for transferring and managing money, they can also offer a payment approval facility.”
JG: “I think it is most interesting to focus on the evolution of the handsets:
- Handsets have evolved into amazing smartphones with GPS, compasses, cameras and other features. This expands the ability of service providers to offer value.
- Since the launch of iPhone, a new user experience has evolved enabling more interactive and comprehensive services to be delivered.
- New handsets brought different modes of connectivity. WiFi, Bluetooth and NFC, the list goes on. Different services can be delivered in different, engaging ways and at varying speeds.
- The new world of the app brings accessibility, user experience and branding which helps service providers capitalise on the mobile channel.
- All of this has seen mobile shift from a complimentary channel to one of the most significant.”
How do you see mobile services evolving over the next 5 years? Is the future bright or gloomy for banks?
BH: “Firstly, banks need to ensure they are part of the value chain by identifying how they can offer value before, during and after the payment. Personally, I’m excited by the developments in automated accounting, enabled by e-invoicing. Banks will always be needed to store money in a secure and convenient way. The opportunities lie in the wider offering and the supplementary services, like invoicing, that can make customers’ lives easier. More remains to be done and there are threats from many areas but what is important is that the banking industry keeps moving forward.”
JG: “Over the next five years, mobile will be the channel with the highest growth globally and we will see mobile banking surpassing internet banking in some markets. I’m also delighted to see that mobile payments are now taking centre stage. Customers are ready and we will see significant growth in both proximity and remote payments in a number of key markets around the world. On top of this, biometrics will play a key role in identifying customers, improving user experience and security. This will drive further trust in mobile services, increasing adoption.
“Banks must take note of the new digital era as only those that react will have a bright future. We must confront the fact that new players are entering the market head on. The digital natives and adopters will drive new innovations in banking with start-ups and internet companies seeking to play a part in the value chain. Traditional banks need to avoid losing their direct relationship with end users, or else face losing recognition, loyalty and revenues. Digitalisation is not something for the future, the time to act is now.”