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Agenda Themes & Topic Descriptions

Session 1 - Digital innovation in the payments industry

Session 2 - From cash, to plastic, to mobile payments: Discussing the evolution of monetary forms

Workshop - Technologies of exchange in a digital economy: When theory and research meet practice

Session 3 - Financial inclusion and the role of mobile money

Session 4 - Transactional data, analytics and algorithms

Session 5 - 'Interrogating the Blockchain': Exploring the applications, issues and impact of distributed ledgers in payments


Session 1 - Digital innovation in payments

With the banking sector gradually approaching its ‘Uber moment’, digital innovation is anticipated to play an immensely important role in disrupting the industry and altering the way we think about financial services. Being one of the largest sub-sectors in finance, the payments market is at the centre of the fintech revolution which has altered the ‘rules of the game’ and has introduced new players expected to challenge the bank’s long standing tradition as payment processors. The recent developments in payment technologies have not allowed just greater capabilities for existing processes but an opportunity to rethink traditional value exchange and create new products and services. With the innovations ranging from consumer to corporate payments, providers – who are often non-banks – seek to improve the payments experience of their customers in order to support their business. The demand for better service that pushes for faster, and more efficient payments, along with the recent payment innovations and market trends are the key drivers that will transform the payments landscape in the near future. This session will explore the role of digital innovation in payments. Different theories and business models are going to be investigated that capitalize on the recent technological developments and show promise for the payments industry. More specifically, the speakers are going to address the following questions:

- What are the key technological developments that are expected to be the drivers of change in retail and wholesale payments?
- What are the different levels and types of disruptions innovative payment solutions and payment technologies have introduced and what is the potential impact on the payments landscape?
- How are traditional media of economic exchange being transformed by digital innovations such as mobile devices, digital platforms, big data, and other advances in software and hardware?
- What business model and service innovations – sharing economies, collaborative innovation, collaborative consumption, network effects, open platforms, etc. – are essential supplements that will help financial technology disrupt the sector?
- What are the main benefits that electronic transactions bring and what are the key challenges banks and their clients face?
- What will be the key implications for financial institutions and what is the future of the sector as a whole?


Session 2 - From cash, to plastic, to mobile payments: Discussing the evolution of monetary forms

While paper and coin money remains an important part of all economies, these media of exchange are increasingly supplemented by card and other electronic technologies such as online and mobile payments. As a result, traditional money characteristics like durability, portability, divisibility, and acceptability have acquired a different meaning and are manifested into material-technological representations like a mobile application, a phone screen, or a wearable device that can facilitate a transaction and replicate the transfer of value that traditional means facilitated with a hand-to-hand gesture. In addition, many of the practices that rely on money (purchasing, selling, gambling, funding, transferring, lending, etc.) are increasingly conducted through the same digital and networked technologies. As a result, both money and its constituent practices become subject to the latest technological developments as well as the transactional challenges that come with their adoption. This session will investigate the evolution of money and discuss the different monetary forms in a comparative way by considering their advantages and disadvantages. More specifically, the speakers are going to address the following questions:

- Revisiting the idea of a cashless society: Are we closer than ever?
- Why is ‘hard money’ so unattractive again and under what circumstances does it persist even when cashless payments are growing rapidly?
- Do different money forms serve different agendas? Do ‘political’ decisions about the prevailing monetary systems influence the way people innovate around payments?
- How do different forms of money serve different functions and how do these comparative media define or shape their users?
- What are the security threats for consumers from the adoption of new technologies and digital innovations such as wearable devices?
- How will changing customer needs and behaviours influence the payments arena in an increasingly cashless world?


Session 3 - Financial inclusion and the role of mobile money

Over the past few years alternative payment methods using mobile devices have grown at exponential rates across many parts of the so-called developing worlds. Mobile devices are enabling value exchange in situations where infrastructure investments have previously proven challenging (mainly due to the excessive up-front investment needed) and provide an opportunity to overcome the barriers experienced by traditional financial institutions such as banks and other lending organizations. As a result, mobile and digital ‘payment rails’ are facilitating the extension of financial services to the poor which can be a real benefit to local economies. In this context, major players from the telcoms industry and other mobile technology vendors have since played a significant role in setting the scene for important innovations such as M-PESA in Kenya or MTN in Uganda. Considering that the population of the unbanked is estimated to be around 2 billion people worldwide, financial inclusion constitutes a burning topic for many developing economies that see access to basic financial services as a stepping stone for social inclusion and economic growth. This session will investigate the recent developments in the field and address the challenges but also the opportunities that technology creates. Some of the questions that are going to be discussed are:

- What are the primary causes of financial exclusion?
- How can mobile or other technologies address these and what are the key challenges in doing so?
- What are the most interesting case studies of technology adoption for financial inclusion and what can we learn from them?
- What are the key underlying human and social factors that influence peoples’ decision to adopt cash vs. mobile money?
- How important is it to safeguard identity when providing payment services to the unbanked? How can technology facilitate this? What can we learn about the challenges of establishing [a digital] identity from case studies in different countries? What is the role of the regulators in these countries?
- How feasible is financial inclusion? What is the commercial case for further developing infrastructure for the unbanked? What is the bigger picture for financial institutions, telcom companies, and investors? How can governments and regulators work with corporates in the private sector as well as NGOs to enable investment going forward?
- What are the areas where more work is needed both in terms of industry applications and research?


Session 4 - Transactional data, analytics and algorithms

As electronic payments become the dominant channel for economic exchange, the richness of transactional data that accumulate from all the payment transactions, are allowing financial institutions, services providers and merchants to gain greater understanding of their customers and business. The exploitation of such large and often complex datasets through big data and analytics technologies may not just create operational efficiencies but unlock new capabilities, thus, giving the opportunity to create valuable services. As a result, data has become a strategic asset and firms are constantly racing to harness its power and maximize its potential. In this context, competitive advantage largely depends on the ability to create the best analytical models that will predict behavior but also on the application of algorithms that can increase computerization and offer automated services. The complexity of the computational-algorithmic and technological aspects provides an opportunity but also a challenge and poses a lot of questions on the feasibility of such systems to help with decision making and advance financial practice. This session is going to examine what challenges and opportunities banks and other financial (& non-financial) institutions face when utilizing transactional data, analytics and financial algorithms:

- What are the main use cases of business analytics for payments?
- What are the various kinds and types of transactional data and what are the challenges in utilizing them?
- How important are these for new product design and service innovation versus operational efficiencies and cost reductions?
- What are the key privacy issues regarding using payment data to track behavior or more broadly extract value?
- How the regulatory framework on data protection and data ownership influence the utilization and value extraction from transactional data?
- Big data can be quite complex; is that the reason there has been relatively slow progress in using payment data analytics in the banking sector?
- What drives data analytics, the business question or the existence of the data?
- How important but also challenging is data integration from diverse databases in order to extract value for customers and financial institutions?
- Is knowledge around data and financial algorithms mature enough to increase automation in finance and offer viable services? What are some recent examples from the field?


Session 5 - 'Interrogating the Blockchain': Exploring the applications, issues and impact of distributed ledgers in payments

In recent years, blockchain technology – which forms the foundation for Bitcoin exchange – has attracted enormous attention, arguably taking the financial services industry by storm. It has been described by some as the “Internet of the financial services” mainly because of its potential to disintermediate and challenge traditional centralized infrastructures and markets as well as its ability to create organizational efficiencies. Although it has strengths, the relatively complex nature of the distributed ledger technology – particularly its sophisticated cryptographic properties and consensus architecture – pose a challenge for many applications. For these reasons, many financial institutions are hesitant to adopt blockchain and are only exploring its potential through relatively small projects. This session will examine these issues and explore the following questions:

- What are the key fundamental features of blockchain that make it an attractive case for the different financial services business?
- How can blockchain impact the ways in which payment services are structured, provisioned and consumed, especially through its ability to capture and validate transactional data and keep the integrity and confidentiality of identity data?
- What would be the implications of these changes on customers, financial institutions, and the overall payments industry?
- How will the introduction of decentralized payment schemes change the role of traditional financial institutions?
- What are the related business models that emerge from the foundational characteristics of blockchain technology?
- What are the uses of blockchain technology when it comes to identity and KYC challenges? Can blockchain be used as the key?