Sibos 2011 - And mobile marches on...

After four days of intense “critical dialogue” both in the sessions and on the conference floor, the final curtain has almost come down over Sibos. And, as expected, the event’s debate has ducked and dived in and around the key agenda topics. Regulation re-visited, technology, global and local perspectives and changing landscape – new expectations …

September 22, 2011 | bobsguide

After four days of intense “critical dialogue” both in the sessions and on the conference floor, the final curtain has almost come down over Sibos. And, as expected, the event’s debate has ducked and dived in and around the key agenda topics.

Regulation re-visited, technology, global and local perspectives and changing landscape – new expectations all proved to be a fertile breeding ground for debate. Twitter has also been an invaluable tool for interacting with the latest discussion in Toronto.

So what have participants gleaned from this week? Other than hot wings seem to be available almost everywhere in Canada? And comfortable shoes are a must for all future Sibos conferences? Well the influx of mobile technology in the financial services sector has certainly been a reccurring topic – and how consumer behaviours have influenced the banking sector’s adoption of this platform.

David Luther, general manager for North America at Distra, a payments provider working in the retail banking sphere, said that businesses need to be able to respond to a generation who “expect instant gratification” when it comes to their lives as consumers. Corporates are also seeing their budgets reduced, so increasingly they are looking for more value from their technology solutions. Mobile is a solution perceived to be capable of saving costs, he explained.

Mr Luther said he has seen an increasing numbers of payment strategists from banks in attendance at Sibos over the six years the firm has been exhibiting – which is an indication of the increasing importance of mobile in the eyes of financial institutions.

Other technological steps forward were discussed on Monday – Luup launched their ‘Universal mobile payments platform’, a solution designed to offer clients the ability to make mobile payments from anywhere at any time. Martin Wilson, chief executive officer at the firm, stated that the questions surrounding the take up of mobile in the market place have shifted – the industry has stopped asking ‘is it going to happen?’ to ‘when is it going to happen?’

“With five billion mobile devices in use across the globe, there are many more phones in circulation than bank accounts – this is part of a continuing major groundswell surrounding mobile,” Mr Wilson said.

He explained that the key driver in this area is the customer and their expectations – so for consumers the smartphone is a life tool. For corporates, the benefits are similar – Convenience, increased security and cost efficiency are all key drivers behind the take up of the device, which has been also accelerated by the launch of tablet devices. “The ability for executives to raise invoices and make payments while on the move is part of the appeal,” the Luup CEO explained.

Suzanne Hurt, vice-president of global banking and financial services at Bottomline Technologies, a provider of global transaction solutions, said that the software demands of banks are changing in line with the needs of end users in both the corporate and consumer spheres.

Now the IT provider is creating solutions which are increasingly intuitive and away from a more traditional siloed approach. “Vendors are working with the motto ‘design for mobile device’ in mind when developing new platforms, which reflects the increasing adoption of these consumer technologies,” she explained.

Technology vendor Misys unveiled its GeoGuard solution at this year’s event, a product which shows off the potential combination of mobile technology and social media. The new service utilises a social media application to allow consumers to confirm their location – the concept is expected to reduce fraud and allow easier access to money while on the move.

Marc DeCastro, research director at IDC Financial Insights, said: “Consumers may engage on social networks more often with financial firms for the promise of increased security over marketing, something consumers are very concerned with.”

In the Mobile Payments – Is it too late for the banks? Session on the Thursday morning, Samee Zafar, director at Edgar, Dunn & Company, told a packed conference room that banks are struggling to keep up with developments in the mobile sphere. Another issue surrounds how to make this payment process attractive to the consumer.

He said that the likes of Google and PayPal are attracting consumers to mobile via services and offers. “The payment process is not the key reason behind a customer choosing to use mobile. Customers are not going to purchase a mobile capable of making a payment purely for that reason,” he explained.

Outside of the sessions, where talk of technology and regulation dominated, what was the mood like at this year’s conference? Almost all of the exhibitors I spoke to said the event had been well worth attending. However, they emphasised the importance of booking meetings in advance due to low levels of footfall. But all agreed that Sibos stands out from other trade shows because of the seniority of attendees within their organisations – that and the cavernous size – more than 170 exhibitors and almost 7,500 registered attendees were in Toronto over the week.

Avi Ghosh, global head of markets and communications at SIX Securities Services, said that the upbeat mood of the conference had been surprising. However, “despite the uncertainty, the commitment shown by attendees to attend this year’s Sibos is an indicator of some optimism. There is a buzz and an energy which I didn’t expect,” he said.

So another year and another Sibos has been and gone. But even though this so-called “sprawling beast of a conference” (according to one Twitter user) is coming to a close, the dialogue will continue long after the doors of the Toronto Metro Convention Centre have closed. See you in Osaka.

By Jim Ottewill

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