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EFMA: Looking Back at Day One

The EFMA conference is a regular event in my calendar, and as I travelled there on Tuesday the omens were looking good. I bought my breakfast at the airport with contactless Visa Paywave and the sun was shining when I arrived in Paris. It promised to be a great week.

My mood was somewhat dampened yesterday when I woke up to damp and dismal weather and what looked like a fairly heavy-going programme of 'Regulation and industry overview'. However it was soon brought to life when Peter Ayliffe from Visa, following the first presentation from the ECB, pleaded to know what more they needed to do to be recognised as a European card scheme!

Peter then highlighted a number of trends in the industry including one that I completely agree with about the trust that consumers have in retailers, and the likelihood of them playing a growing role in payments in the future. I have talked many times in the past about the need for banks to focus on customer service and building loyalty, as retailers do, and share Peter's opinion that banks have got to respond to this potential threat.

The main focus of the regulation sessions of the day was SEPA. As usual, conversation was centred around the need for an end date for migration to the new SEPA products to really help build the case for investment, and 'force' their adoption across Europe. But there was also a degree of confusion in the room around the EC’s idea to ensure SEPA isn’t anti-competitive by allowing other schemes and solutions as long at their payments meet predefined criteria (the 'essential requirements'). I’m not our resident SEPA expert, but I can see that a scheme designed to bring a consistent model across Europe is unlikely to benefit from the introduction of choices, variations and exceptions at this late stage.

Despite this challenge, at the end of day one the feeling I got from speakers and delegates alike was undoubtedly one of optimism and enthusiasm, a very different picture than we saw last year. I hope that continues today and tomorrow.