Clarion Events pulled it off again. The Payment Leader’s Summit (PLS-UK) was a success. Held on 11th and 12th October and hosted at Syon Park in west London, this was an off-the-beaten-track and tricky location to get to, but once you were there, the invitation-only event was fascinating and attended by a great selection of payment providers and merchants. Edgar, Dunn & Company (EDC) are “knowledge partners” to the PLS and played an advisory role by creating the agenda for the two days and supporting the roundtable discussions. Mark Beresford and Martin Koderisch from EDC attended and supported the event over the two days.
The attendees from the merchant community included, Marks & Spencer, John Lewis Partnership, Bet365, Ikea, Amazon, TripAdvisor, Pandora, Uber, National Express, Livescore, Holland & Barrett, Hilton Hotels, Paddy Power, River Island, Duffel, etc. Even the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) presented their perspective on the UK’s payment regulatory landscape and relationship with the European regulations.
The payment providers included, Adyen, Stripe, Barclays, Google Pay, Trustly, Truelayer, Nium, JP Morgan, Mango Pay, Bridge, Cybersource, etc.
EDC was keen to include on the agenda an aspect of the acceptance of cash relative to accepting digital payments. There was a lively debate on that topic and the challenges of going cashless. The Financial Services and Markets Act 2023 gives the FCA powers to ensure that customers have “reasonable access” to free cash deposit and withdrawal facilities. This is because the UK government has taken the view that it is important to maintain customer choice in terms of how they pay for goods and services. The government has also said that it does not want to interfere with the commercial decisions of businesses. However, the UK government has also said that it is concerned about the decline of cash acceptance in merchants. The government has said that it will work with the FCA and other stakeholders to monitor the situation and to ensure that customers continue to have access to cash.
There are several reasons why merchants may choose not to accept cash. Some merchants may feel that cash is less secure than other payment methods, such as cards or digital wallets. Other merchants may feel that cash is more expensive to process than other payment methods. We believe this debate will continue across different types of merchants – from hotel operators to grocery supermarkets. EDC published an article in April 2023 describing the trend in cashless merchants – this can be found here.
Open Banking and the acceptance of digital wallets and the rise of QR codes were also fiercely deliberated during the on-stage panels and the merchant roundtables. The publication of the Joint Regulatory Oversight Committee (JROC) report just before the summer fuelled the discussion on whether merchants would accept open banking as an alternative to credit and debit cards. The JROC is co-chaired by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR), and its recommendations for the next phase of Open Banking in the UK are designed to maintain the momentum of this innovative and alternative payment technology. Whether consumers and merchants are ready for this Open Banking was discussed at considerable length. There is no doubt in the room that Open Banking has the potential to transform the landscape in the banking and payments industry, but it also faces significant challenges. Holland & Barrett and Mercedes both presented a compelling case for open banking, albeit for very different reasons – one being a health food shop and the other a luxury car manufacturer.
QR codes was one of the topics for the merchant roundtables. Hosted by Mark Beresford, this roundtable had a diverse set of merchants – from general retail, grocery, online dating, fashion retailing, betting, travel operators, and hotels. QR codes are becoming increasingly popular in the UK, as they offer a convenient and fast way to pay for goods and services. Customers can scan a QR code on a website or in an app to pay for their purchase using their smartphone. QR code payments are very convenient for both customers and merchants. Customers can pay for goods and services quickly and easily, and merchants can accept payments without having to purchase any additional hardware. The relationship with the merchant app, ticketing, in the case of National Express bus operator, the use of wallets such as Amazon Pay, Click to Pay, ShopPay, PayPal, etc. were all discussed and proved to be a challenging and fragmented landscape for both consumers and merchants.
The question “Which digital wallet is best for the consumer and the merchant?” was debated amongst the roundtable participates and it was also a question raised by EDC in May 2023 – this article can be found here.
The value of these intimate Payment Leaders’ Summits is massive for both merchants and the payment providers. With 80 or so invitation-only guests, what Clarion Events have created in the last couple of years is expected to be a preferred format for payment industry events. As payment innovation, such as Open Banking, digital wallets, there is always a risk of customer confusion and complexity. Events such as the Payment Leaders’ Summit help explain and demystify and hopefully remove this complexity.