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Extinction of plastic cards on the horizon

Deutsche Bank has released the second part of its Future of Payments report - you can read the highlights of Part I here. The second instalment, written by Marion Laboure and Jim Reid, looks at the move to digital wallets and the extinction of plastic cards.

When people discuss the future of payments they tend to predict the end of cash. The DB view is different. Not only do they think cash will be around for a long time, but that the transition to digital payments has the potential to do no less than rebalance global economic power.

The report notes that over the coming decade, digital payments will grow at light speed. That will lead to the death of the plastic card. Over the next five years, the report expects mobile payments to comprise two-fifths of in-store purchases in the US, quadruple the current level. Similar growth is expected in other developed countries, however, different countries will see different levels of shrinkage in cash and plastic cards. In emerging markets, the effect could arrive even sooner. Many customers in these countries are transitioning directly from cash to mobile payments without ever owning a plastic card.

Digitalisation will give businesses extra incentive to smooth the payments transition. For starters, when customers are comfortable with a payment technology, they tend to think less about how much they spend. Furthermore, as the data gleaned from payments becomes increasingly valuable, payment fees will approach zero. Business-to-business (B2B) transactions will also benefit. Currently, corporates wait almost 70 days for payment from business customers. The number one reason for this is inefficient internal processes which lead to payment delays, something digitalisation can fix.

The report points to developments in China, where the country is developing world-leading digital payments infrastructure, as a pointer to the future of payments. In China, the value of online payments is equivalent to three-quarters of GDP, almost double the proportion in 2012. Today, just under half of in-store purchases in China are made via a digital wallet, way above the levels in developed markets.

As China (and India) develop electronic, crypto, and peer-to-peer strategies, the epicentre of global economic power could shift. China is working on a digital currency backed by its central bank that could be used as a soft- or hard-power tool. In fact, if companies doing business in China are forced to adopt a digital yuan, it will certainly erode the dollar’s primacy in the global financial market.

Many are sceptical about digital currencies citing the large energy needs and point out that currencies such as bitcoin and Facebook’s libra have encountered significant regulatory hurdles.

Yet, if the growth in blockchain wallet users continues to mirror that of internet users, then by the end of the decade, they will number 200 million, quadruple the current level. This will be encouraged by governments, banks, corporates, and payment providers who all stand to benefit from the digitalisation of payments. And when countries and companies eventually look back at the way they transitioned to digital payments, it may become very apparent how they achieved their standing in the world economy.


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This item appears in the following sections:
Cash & Liquidity Management
Card Payments at POS
Accounts Receivable Management
Accounts Payable Management
Treasury insights

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