The annual Prepaid Expo USA, mounted by the Institute for International Research Holdings Ltd., is poised to pitch its generous tent once again. From Feb. 22 to 24, 2010, Las Vegas will play host to the largest prepaid card industry tradeshow in the United States - a show that is growing in stature.
As a testament to the event's (and the industry's) increasing relevance, the expo landed President Bill Clinton, founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation and 42nd President of the United States, to deliver a keynote address.
Since leaving office in 2000, Clinton launched the foundation to focus on meeting the challenges of global interdependence.
Clinton also serves as the United Nation's Envoy to Haiti, a Caribbean country that recently suffered a cataclysmic earthquake that destroyed much of its capital city, Port-au-Prince.
With the emergence of prepaid cards over the past few years as a primary mechanism for delivering monetary aid to disaster victims, it is a safe bet that Clinton will touch on how our industry can play an eventual part in Haiti's economic and social recovery.
Feb. 23 promises to be case study and panel discussion intensive. "State of the Market" presentations focus on the closed- and open-loop card markets, as well as mobile, virtual and next generation products.
Other sessions will focus on marketing to unbanked and financially underserved consumers; discovering your niche in loyalty, incentive and rewards programs; and understanding the international mobile payment landscape.
The focus on the final day of the expo shifts to the ever more critical regulatory environment. Last May, the U.S. Congress passed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, which made a variety of prepaid card products subject to more extensive consumer protection laws.
Also in May 2009, SellingPrepaid reported on the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network's request for input from the prepaid card industry concerning the definition of stored-value.
FinCEN, a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, wants to revise the definition of money services business (MSB) so that issuers - as well as sellers or redeemers - of stored-value products fall into the same broad MSB category for purposes of regulating anti-money laundering practices.
But by lumping many prepaid card products together - without recognizing the differences between closed-loop gift cards and open-loop, network-branded, reloadable payroll cards, for example - the regulations threaten to curtail or even destroy many prepaid card businesses and market segments.
Other issues at stake include how the government and law enforcement define money transfer, as well as the possible creation of a consumer financial protection agency which, if it comes to pass, will likely have far-reaching consequences for the industry.
Jennifer Sobrino, Executive Director of Prepaid Expo USA, believes the expo is an ideal venue to "maximize your possibilities by joining over 1,000 of your peers to help shape the future of the prepaid and payments industry."
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