Thursday, October 27, 2011

E-money: an innovation revisited...

I think it is fair to say that technology and payment innovation occurs in several 'rounds'. It's sort of a boxing game where enterprises seek their niche in terms of consumer/company services but also in terms of regulatory niches. This holds true in particular for the domain of e-money.

Some fifteen years ago (I feel quite old when writing this) the buzz was all about Mondex and e-cash: two new e-money schemes. The development of these schemes coincided with the increased use of the Internet as well as the use of mobile phones. And there was a lot of debate on which rules to apply. Should e-money issues become banks or not. I remember setting up a specific branche-organisation (11a2: here's the old website) and conference on that specific issue.

While in this first round it appeared to be the case that anyone using digital coins for consumer payments needed to be regulated similarly, it turned out in a later round of regulation that some industries, notably telco's and transport companies, succeeded in convincing the regulator that their consumer money was not the same as the consumer money in banks. And this lead to a reshuffle of all kinds of regulations to allow for this.

The regulatory developments of 2011 essentially mark the conclusion of this second reshuffling round of regulation on e-money. And the industry has adapted in the meantime and is now looking forward to the new challenges, as we see the further development of mobile phone's, tablets and many other exciting new opportunities for e-money.

Should anyone be interested in the current state of affairs of the European e-money market or regulation I would warmly advise to sign up for the e-money conference of the Electronic Money Association (EMA). All players are there and all topics are on the table.