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ATM Debit Forum Reporter’s Notebook: Durbin, EMV and Bitcoin

Theodore Iacobuzio |

Lots of good information and talk at Source Media’s annual ATM, Debit and Prepaid + Forum in Las Vegas Oct. 23-24. A MasterCard colleague there warned your agent, “It’s a tough crowd,” and that was true, but not without reason: the attendees are the folks who are fighting the debit profitability fight every day, one basis point at a time.

Some highlights:

    • • “Durbin” still weighs heavy on the minds of network and debit card program directors. The chaos government intervention causes isn’t in doubt; but what I picked up was that the chaos is ongoing: nobody knows what the revenue structure is going to look like when the dust clears, and the point is it hasn’t. After all this time folks are still orientating themselves to this major market distortion.
    • • Competing national networks tried to stoke the fires of disgruntlement (“fires of disgruntlement”? that must be jet lag) over EMV implementation in the U.S., but the effective retort came from MasterCard’s own Leland S. Engelbardt, who runs Global Network Products for us. He pointed out during the network panel that MasterCard is a global network and that cross-border fraud, at least in the U.S., is hardly a small problem. The capper came later at lunch, when a fellow presenter, an attorney, told me, “Somebody has to do something. I was on a cruise ship to Hawaii when my card was compromised for the third time. The issuer said, ‘You’ll have a new card in the morning.’ And I said, ‘No you won’t, I’m in the middle of the Pacific.’”
    • Bitcoin is not going away. At least that was the message from a panel, “The Merchant Perspective on Digital Money.” Count me as a believer. One panelist, Maria Sparagis, the president of merchant processor DirectPayNet , says her firm processes “merchants that ordinary processors won’t touch,” with chargeback rates of up to two percent. And guess what the preferred form of payments at such merchants has become? The Silk Road bust? Not even a blip. There’s plenty of legal stuff folks want to buy, ah, anonymously.
  • Insights’ own presentation was a quick tour of this year’s iteration of Insights’ credit/debit study. That insight plays into all the concerns above: how a coordinated strategy that includes credit could be the way out of the revenue trap outlined above. A lady was nice enough to come up to me when it was all over and say that Insights’ material “was the best thing I’ve heard at the whole show, and I’ve been here since Sunday.” We blush (what happens in Vegas…), but it’s true: it’s hot stuff .

Topics: Credit, Debit/Prepaid, Payments Strategy

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