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Trend-spotting at Mobile World Congress 2018

With numerous industry-leading launches, demos and releases — along with high-quality business discussions — there’s a lot to talk about from Mobile World Congress 2018. Here, I sift through the hype and present a brief summary of the hot trends that promise to shape the financial industry over the coming months and years.

It’s almost hard to believe but this year was the ninth time I’ve attended Mobile World Congress (MWC). I first attended the conference back in 2005. Back then it was hosted in Cannes. And, wow, has it changed since the early days!

With more than 100,000 visitors and hundreds of exhibiting companies, MWC has grown to become easily the largest mobile trade event of the year. Now held annually in Barcelona, Spain, this year’s conference took place from February 26 to March 2 in four colossal halls at La Fira Gran Via. As in previous years, the conference was jammed with demonstrators all jostling for attention.

With our focus on convenience in every transaction, the conference was mainly an opportunity for us to discuss future opportunities with other industry leaders, and to learn how other players hope to shape the financial industry. My role at the event was to see what future trends or big ideas might influence the financial services industry.


In previous posts we’ve outlined why PSD2 will bring fundamental change to the payments value chain, as well as business models and customer expectations during 2018.

In Q3 2019 guidelines will become binding. Then we will have pan-European AISPs and PISPs up and running.

Despite nearing this deadline, there was still no firm indication from any players at the conference describing how they will utilize this opportunity. Of course, they will. I suspect some companies are biding their time and waiting for the right time to reveal their big ideas. Perhaps we’ll learn more about their plans at other events later this year. Watch this space.

To the future and beyond

The launches that I found most appealing showcased how the foundation of today’s world will create a better future. This is a topic that’s very close to our heart here at Arvato Financial Solutions. Compared to MWC 2017, there was definitely a lot more things to see related to payments.

Ingenico promoted many new payment methods at the conference, namely: in-store mobile payments, IoT-payments (where your fridge orders and pays for your milk before you even realize that it’s running out), and social commerce payment solutions (helping you purchase stuff that you “like” or spot on social media).

For the big players at the conference, not everything focused on brand new technology. Some of what Visa and MasterCard showcased suggested that they are embracing QR codes. I assume this is one way for them to escape the fact that Apple has reserved NFC to Apple Pay. With QR they can handle transactions for banks/card issuers who don’t want to work with Apple.

Another possible reason for using QR codes is that a merchant-specific QR code is cheaper than payment terminals with chip readers. (While this doesn’t apply here in Finland and other countries where there exists widespread access to chip readers, there are still vast markets in the US where you can’t pay with a chip attached to your card.) Embracing QR codes in this way is a neat and cost-effective workaround that’ll appeal to many merchants.

Big or small, most demos by players at the conference revealed they aren’t only thinking about the transaction and payment solution itself. They are reviewing and attempting to create a smooth on-boarding for merchants. At the conference I heard these players talk about state of the art KYC-processes, as well as plug and play integrations to e-comm, m-comm, and accounting platforms.

Unsurprisingly, some players want to capitalize on the buzz surround cryptocurrencies. Twispay is a payment solution provider that offers merchants a regular checkout as well as a parallel one that accepts cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin. This is a gamble that might payoff, if cryptocurrencies stabilize and their adoption continues to spread.

Other movers and shakers

As we’ve highlighted on this blog before, AI is and will continue to be a growing theme in 2018. At MWC almost everyone promised to introduce machine-learning into their offerings.

Platforms are everywhere. Almost every company at MWC wanted to direct the traffic and data to their platform, thereby gaining greater control of their business. I don’t see the sense in this because it risks further fragmenting the market. It’ll be interesting to see if this gains traction.

Thanks to its 250+ supporting members, the FIDO Alliance is growing from strength to strength. The global industry consortium can now count Visa, PayPal, Amazon, Google, MasterCard, Gemalto, and Microsoft amongst its members. Together they aim to streamline and secure online authentication. Representatives from the body were on-site to answer questions and drum-up more support. Given the big players backing the initiative, I expect this consortium to gain prevalence in future discussions.

Ingenico Group’s Axium payment solution is a good example of a mobile-POS solution that was quite well presented at MWC. Axium gives access to a complete cloud ecosystem for commerce, which builds on open Android and Ingenico’s Telium Tetra operating systems to converge business and payment. They are usually based on card payments, but I assume that alternative payments will be available by Q3 2019.


We are on a journey of transformation. Nowhere was this fact clearer to me than at MWC 2018. Technology continues to be a dominant force driving change across many industries, not least, the financial industry. Over the coming years, transformation, spurred on by digitalization and technology, promises to revolutionize how we do business, support our clients, and live our lives. Undoubtedly a lot of hype is generated at MWC and such events. From my experience attending in previous years, I know that not every big idea presented at the conference will come to fruition, but I’m still super excited by what the future holds, and the vast opportunities we can unlock together. That’s a journey, and an adventure, I hope we can make together.

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