Two days into NRF 2020, Visa's $5.3 billion dollar Plaid acquisition, disclosed Jan. 13, 2013, momentarily stole retail's Big Show. Payments analysts reacted to the news with a mixture of awe and disbelief. Among them was Fintech Today's Ian Kar, who stated, "I didn't really expect this." He suggested Visa may have seen Plaid as a threat due to the ways in which its financial network manages funds and data at scale.
Al Kelly, CEO and chairman of Visa, described Plaid as a fintech leader with best-in-class capabilities and talent. "The acquisition, combined with our many fintech efforts already underway, will position Visa to deliver even more value for developers, financial institutions and consumers," he said.
Zach Perret, CEO and co-founder of Plaid, added, "Plaid's mission is to make money easier for everyone, and we are excited for this opportunity to continue delivering on that promise at a global scale. … [T]ogether Visa and Plaid can support the rapid growth of digital financial services."
A recent study by Blackhawk Network makes a case for implementing mobile wallets in retail and hospitality establishments. Talbott Roche, Blackhawk Network CEO and president, pointed out that the cost of losing market share far outweighs any investments in infrastructure upgrades.
Citing research highlights presented at NRF 2020 on Jan. 13, 2020, Roche indicated that three out of five smartphone owners use some form of mobile wallet, but few digital payments options are available at U.S. brick-and-mortar stores. She noted that U.S. mobile wallet spend may reach $190 billion by 2021 and urged retailers to offer more digital payments options at checkout.
"We have seen incredible success stories in other markets like Asia, and the global share of mobile wallet market size is projected to reach almost $3 trillion by 2022," Roche said. "U.S. retailers have a huge chance for engagement and for driving greater footfall in their stores by leveraging omnichannel payments experiences and better acknowledging the digital shopper."
Theresa McEndree, vice president of marketing at Blackhawk Network, was also surprised by the disconnect between digital payments and in-store POS. "We're still seeing slower adoption of digital trends in the U.S. than in other markets, like Asia, but research continues to show consumer demand for seamless omnichannel payment experiences is growing," she said.
Travelex disclosed Jan. 17, 2020, that its automated order placement service is back online in the United Kingdom, the global foreign exchange company's largest market. Travelex CEO Tony D'Souza thanked partners, customers and staff for their patience as the company works to restore services following a Dec. 31, 2019, ransomware attack that impacted worldwide operations and put partnering organizations around the world in harm's way.
In a Jan. 16, 2020, post titled "Major Companies Shared Vulnerability Used in Travelex Cyberattack," Wall Street Journal reporters Caitlin Ostroff and Anna Isaac claimed forensic investigators identified a vulnerability in a VPN that hackers exploited in the Travelex attack. Ostroff and Isaac named several U.S. companies that may be at risk.
"Purdue Pharma LP, Revlon Inc. REV - 2.54% and Texas Instruments Inc TXN – 0.01% were among companies using Pulse Secure VPN to create secure remote logins for their staff, according to Troy Mursch, chief research officer at Bad Packets," they wrote. "A loophole in that tool can and has been exploited by cybercriminals, Mr. Mursch said."
The trade agreement signed this month between the United States and China contained good news for U.S. payments giants Mastercard, Visa and American Express: a shot at access to China's $27 trillion payments market. To date, the Chinese market for electronic payments has been dominated by two Chinese firms, Alipay, a subsidiary of Alibaba, and WeChat Pay, the payments ecosystem that supports the country's WeChat messaging and social media platform. Phase One of the U.S.-China trade agreement, signed with much fanfare on Jan. 14, 2020, specifically mentions the three leading U.S. card brands in stating the Chinese government will expedite applications for banks and payment networks to operate on mainland China.
"No later than one month after a U.S. service supplier notifies China that it has completed its preparatory work, China shall accept the license application of such U.S. supplier, including any license application of Mastercard, Visa, or American Express, and shall make a determination with respect to the application, including an explanation of any adverse determination," the agreement reads in part.
Separate research studies published Jan. 22, 2020, by Ascential plc and Bluecore found consumer brands more adept than merchants at converting customer data into actionable, personalized campaigns. Ascential's Future Retail Disruption report found real-time data derived from digital channels and advanced analytics is fueling an agile retail marketplace. Retailers need to be faster and more flexible to meet consumer expectations, according to the study.
"As retailers fight for customer loyalty, speed and flexibility in fulfillment are emerging as major competitive battlefields, requiring support from brands," Ascential researchers wrote. "New fulfillment methods, the expansion of delivery intermediaries, rising customer expectations of speed and the trend towards warehouse automation all mean that suppliers must prioritize the creation of flexible supply chains to enable on- demand service to on-demand retailers that serve on-demand customers."
Retailers can no longer count on consumer brands to help them move products off their shelves, Ascential researchers noted. Direct to consumer models (D2C) are disrupting the traditional retail value chain by bypassing merchants entirely. These disruptive models enrich relationships between consumers and brands, they stated. As these D2C models take hold, researchers predict that 75 percent of D2C suppliers will operate a D2C platform by 2030.
In an ironic twist, recent studies found fake security alerts generate more attacks than all other phishing categories. KnowBe4's Q4: 2019 top-clicked phishing report, published Jan. 15, 2020, found security-related subject lines are just as beguiling to consumers as giveaway offers. Additional insights by Retruster Inc. indicated that 90 percent of all data breaches stem from email phishing attacks.
Researchers found 39 percent of survey respondents clicked on messages to check a password immediately. Top-clicked social media attacks were found in messaging apps on LinkedIn (55 percent) and Facebook (28 percent). Social media messaging apps are frequently exploited due to their familiar, legitimate appearance, the study found.
Stu Sjouwerman is CEO at KnowBe4, a security awareness company that simulates phishing attacks on its technology platform to improve threat intelligence. Noting that criminals are exploiting public sector awareness and fear of cybercrime, Sjouwerman warned consumers to be suspicious of emails that appear to be too good to be true.
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