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Money 20/20 USA: technology is changing everything

Pablo Lecea


November 9th, 2018

A few weeks ago I attended Money 20/20 in Las Vegas. This event, held every year, gathers C-Suite executives that are leading the future of payments. I had the chance to share Belatrix’s experience with more than 4,500 companies from all over the world, as well as attend several discussions with valuable insights regarding the future of finance and money. I felt honored to represent Belatrix and to be part of this revolution in which technology, our sector, is the main driver of change. Without further ado, let’s jump into some of the highlights from this year’s event.

The financial revolution led by technology

Money 20/20 was all about technology: new payment platforms, blockchain, AI, internet of things, mobile wallets, fintech… and so on. Nowadays the revolution of money is tightly connected to technology innovation. In the long run, this benefits users: for example, mobile solutions and secure API’s are giving us new possibilities with payments, budgeting, saving and wealth management. We are at a point of convergence where retailers can offer their target audiences omnichannel possibilities, involving next generation point-of-sale systems and social commerce – resulting in a whole new spectrum of innovative developments.

All in all, we can no longer talk about money without talking about technology.

Cryptocurrencies win the Money 20/20 Payments Race for the 2nd year in a row

The Money 20/20 Payments Race has become a tradition over the years. It consists of a competition where five teams, each with a different payment method (credit card, cash, devices, checks and crypto), race from the Money 20/20 HQ in New York to the main event at Las Vegas. The first to arrive, wins. It is a 2,500 mile race where competitors are only able to use their assigned payment method for their accommodation, transportation and food expenses.

After 6 days of travelling from coast to coast, Crypto Team was the winner for 2nd year in a row, however the development of the race sprouted an interesting insight: the result did not depend on the adoption of any given payment method but on the cohesion of the community around it. As Evan Faggart, senior editor at Bitsonline, states “The importance of community seems to be what makes any economy work — regardless of the money or payment methods used. And since crypto apparently has the strongest community of all, maybe this wild experiment can actually work, and improve the global economy while bringing everyone closer together.”

Click here for more information on the Money 20/20 Payments Race.

Blockchain the key to the future

Blockchain technology was one of the main topics at the event this year. Loved, feared and even underestimated by many, — regardless of your personal preference — the impact it had on 2018 was a game changer in the payments sector.

Interested in blockchain? Check out our whitepaper “Blockchain is the basis of your future digital transformation”.

As part of this wave of new cryptocurrencies using blockchain’s public ledger, Ripple XRP stands out as major player: a centralized crypto that teams-up with banks and boosts their cross border remittances within seconds. The hype around xRapid, the technology behind it, is such that it is currently been used by important institutions such as Banco Santander, PNC Financial Services and Western Union.

This rivalry between blockchain based transactions and traditional banks fueled the debate between David Schwartz, CTO of Ripple, and Esther Pigg, senior vice president of product strategy at FIS. According to Schwartz, there are 3 key reasons why blockchain is the right technology for building new payment systems:

  • Security. Blockchains are safe because every participant in it can enforce all system rules. This means that every user can personally verify their transactions and balance. On the other hand, banks work differently since they are the ones in charge of this, therefore users are obliged to trust them. If by any chance there is an error there is pretty much nothing that the user can do about it.
  • Reliability. The fundamentals that underlie blockchain are very simple. The last bitcoin system outage was in 2013 and it was due to a bug. After it was fixed, it has not had any further problems. All the available ledgers such as XRP, TRON and Ethereum have never had outages. Having a decentralized system is extremely reliable since there is no single responsible entity for it to go down.
  • Governance. Blockchains are governed by every single participant of the system. They don’t require centralized operators nor any kind of consortium, except to set the rules at the beginning or to change them.

As for Pigg, her main concern focused on establishing the real added value that blockchain offers. Her argument started with the question: what problem does blockchain solve that cannot be solved with existing payment platforms equally as well?

According to Pigg, blockchain’s ability to reduce costs are overstated, in reference to the statements from Western Union’s CEO that its blockchain pilot with Ripple did not produce financial benefits for the company. Also, she emphasized the significant administrative and infrastructural costs that are needed in maintaining a blockchain.

This was a fascinating debate, highlighting very different perspectives about blockchain. Indeed, overall, the debate ended in a draw between them, according to votes from the audience.

Technology is changing everything

This was an excellent event, which brought together many of the industry’s leading players. In leaving Las Vegas, I thought about how technology is changing everything – software is here, there, and everywhere. Its impact is fundamentally changing an industry before our eyes. Here at Belatrix, we’re proud to be embracing this change, and are excited for the future.

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