It’s been a decidedly connected week in payments, with PayPal debuting its hotly anticipated super app, Alexa taking to the open road via the OnStar Guardian skill starting with General Motors (GM) vehicles, and buy now, pay later (BNPL) brand Affirm launching its Adaptive Checkout technology for greater alt-credit flexibility, among other newsworthy moments.
Joining PYMNTS CEO Karen Webster for This Week in Payments to give his take on these happenings and more was Ran Grushkowsky, chief operating officer at digital banking, remittance and payment solutions firm USEND.
We begin with PayPal’s announcement that its super app is ready to roll, with facets that go far beyond the familiar PayPal feature set into personalized dashboards, a new wallet tab, direct deposit, high-yield savings and crypto accounts, and new features facilitating in-app money transfers, international remittances and much more.
“It’s really nice that more companies are attempting to be super apps,” Grushkowsky said, adding, however, that he doesn’t think that “strapping a bunch of services together [makes] a super app. I think that if you’re vertically integrated in some regard and every solution enables another, that’s what makes a super app. I don’t think PayPal is quite there, but it’s definitely a move in the right direction.”
He does see PayPal’s entry as elevating the whole concept, noting that “I think there are opportunities for other companies to do [super apps]. That’s actually one of the things we are doing now with Banco Inter. They’ve done it in Brazil, and now they’re going to introduce it in the U.S., so we are definitely moving in the same direction.”
Up next was talk of Amazon’s Alexa as not just another connected device, but rather as what Webster dubbed “voice as the third-generation operating system for the connected economy, embedding its voice-activated operating system into the growing number of devices that are or could be connected to the internet.”
Just two days later after that was written, General Motors (GM) and Amazon introduced the OnStar Guardian skill for Amazon smart devices, “giving users a voice-enabled connection to emergency-certified OnStar Advisors through Alexa-enabled technology at home.”
Observing that Alexa adoption for payments hasn’t quite yet matched the hype, Grushkowsky said “I think that millennials, who are now becoming more of a buying [force], feel more native with those sort of interfaces. I do believe there’s going to be an increase in the adoption of various solutions among those consumers who can spend money using it. I think for older generations, it didn’t click for them.”
His view on the big Alexa moment is that “in three, four or five years, we’re going to see more adoption, because again, the generation that feels native to it is just now becoming a buying power.”
“We have Alexa skills as well, but it really is a novelty,” he said, adding that “as consumers feel more comfortable with it, adopting [voice] beyond entertainment and home utilization, I think we’re going to start seeing the big guys getting into this game and creating more feature-rich solutions using voice interfaces.”
It’s hard to find a week when buy now, pay later doesn’t make headlines, and Affirm’s Sept. 22 introduction of its Adaptive Checkout product — which enables merchants to dynamically present payment plans that are more customized to individual users — was this week’s BNPL splash.
Calling himself “a huge fan of buy now, pay later” Grushkowsky sees the move, in part, as Affirm “feeling the pressure from other companies [that] have entered the space, and they had to innovate. Leveraging the data they already have from …historical transactions is a great way to start. It’s definitely a nice attempt to innovate.”
However, he added, “I think [Affirm has] a lot of disadvantages being just a buy now, pay later solution, and not a vertically integrated banking solution like we are.”
Giving Affirm the nod as “one of the … category creators in the U.S. for buy now pay later, especially with millennials who rely less on the credit system as we know it,” Grushkowsky sees “even further adoption with some new innovative solutions from ourselves, and I’m sure other companies. I think we’re going to hear a lot more about buy now, pay later solutions.”
More details: BNPL Company Affirm Rolls out Adaptive Checkout
Also on deck this week was the decision by Coinbase to drop plans for Coinbase Lend after a public quarrel with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over the crypto concept.
“I think they’re just trying to stay ahead of regulation,” Grushkowsky told Webster. “They see the pressure that regulators are putting elsewhere, and they don’t want to deal with it. Now that they’re a public company, they have to be more responsible to shareholders. I think they did the responsible thing to stay ahead of potential litigation.”
Asked his outlook on crypto’s evolution, he said “regulation is going to drive a lot of the wild west out of that space. I think it’s long overdue,” adding that “it’s going to drive great innovation and there’s going to be a lot more security … when it comes to money laundering and compliance. Whoever is going to survive that legalization … of crypto is going to do great. The traditional banks … are going to have to figure out a way to play into it. But I think we are getting toward the tipping point where there’s going to be better visibility into what is accepted and what is not, and what will enable the traditional banking side to adopt it.”
More news: Coinbase Kills Lending Product Amid SEC Ire