Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lessons from (Dutch) payment history

Around the year 2000 I was working on both my historical research about the development of payments in the Netherlands and in the payment policy department of the central bank. As a result I started to gain some more insight into the 'unchangeable' dynamics of the payment industry. I summarized these in a presentation that I gave on the First European Financial Cryptography Conference in Edinburgh. You can download the presentation here.

The location in Edinburg was very historic by the way. We were in the library, if I recall correctly, the library of the former parliament of the city. And we were in the hometown of John Law, a famous payment innovator, who was born in Edinburgh and at one point in time wrote: Money and Trade considered (with a Proposal for supplying the Nation with Money). Being asked to provide a key note speech, it seemed appropriate to me to refer to John Law, both in the title of my presentation as in the caveat at the end.

Overlooking many centuries of payment history, my main conclusions were:
1 - Payment techniques travel along with trade,
2 - as did John Law:
3 - The most efficient model is the centralised (giro) model . .
4 - but religion/legal rules determine local specifics of instrument use
5 - Kings and governments always want a piece of the action
6 - Country specific instruments only work with a fair deal of trust
7 - Security must be learnt - the Dutch banknotes
8 - Convertability into ‘real value’ is essential but not essential
9 - Accepted because confidence in the ability to respend it
10 - Any payment is in itself quite uninteresting to the user
11 - The payment product is a hygiene factor
12 - User risk depends on more than technical security
13 - Operating a payment system can be very profitable
14 - Respect existing deeply rooted traumas and successes
15 - Interoperability has never been a major problem for end-user
16 - Reduce the number of messages in payment protocols
17 - Don’t overvalue anonimity
18 - Multifunctionality won’t work with more than 1 organisation
19 - Critical role for government and the large retailers
20 - How to make new payment mechanisms work ?

And while all this took place at the second floor of the library in Edinburgh, his original book, as sent to parliament, was downstairs. What really made my day is that afterwards, when I went down, the librarian was so kind as to allow me to have a look at the original book, Money and Trade, that John Law sent to parliament (despite the fact that the library was officially closed and it was officially her free Saturday)

Monday, May 30, 2011

ING eliminates legacy savings accounts

ING is these days kicking out all old savings accounts. Among those, the infamous: Rente, Plus and Sterrekening. These were the first savings accounts of the Former RijksPostSpaarbank that merged with the Postal Giro services (PCGD). The accounts were linked to the giro-account and worked as the savings account with the same number. And the names of those accounts was symbolic of course:
- Rente
- Plus
- Ster
creating a acrostichon for RPS, so that the name RPS would live a long time after the merger.

Until this year that is, because the technology of the 20th century is not just that flexible in the 21th.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Moving to EMV-based ATM and POS-transactions.... it's the small things

It's the small things in which you can see that in the Netherlands we're moving slowly to EMV-based transactions. At the ATM's we now need to press OK after entering the PIN-code. That used to be a quicker interface with merely the pincode and some other buttons. And at the POS the difference is more clear. With some shops, there's a band of plastic on the side of it so that you can't swipe any more. And in the internet-banking domain, we now don't see an amount which is directly debited. No, we can see that the amount paid is reserved, because the basis is now a Maestro payment, developed for the international payments (and thus: first the amount is reserved and later after clearing/settlement it is considered to be finally debited).

All in all I think that January 2012 is the date on which we should have moved over completely to EMV. I'm curious to see how the large retailers deal with that. Because they are the ones that really will see a slowdown in payment, given that the consumer cannot swipe, enter PIN and put his debit-card back in the purse (to finally only press OK somewhere). The consumer now has to press his OK at the end of all counter-calculations, while the card is still in the POS-terminal and that is going to be a different routine.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Serious trouble for Rabo with DDOS attack

Yesterday was the day that Rabobank was attacked by a DDOS. It took them more than a day to solve it, and they still warn the public that there may be hickups. As far as I recall, this is the most serious DDOS that we've encountered in the Netherlands. Earlier this year, the banks informed us that in 2010 the direct financial damage of attacks on e-banking in the Netherlands (trojan horses etc0 amounted to 10 million euro (five times more than the 2 million in 2009). So banks and police will remain alert and govcert will be glad that it could be of use to the banks.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Ocassional error with pre-paid card: prisoner withdraws half a million euro

Funny story on nu.nl today. A prisoner who received a pre-paid debit card (ensuring that he would never witdhraw more oney than on his account) was accidentally provided with a card without a spending limit. So over time he kept on withdrawing up until a total of almost half a million euro..