MasterCard to Focus on ‘Digital Convergence’ as It Revamps Mobile-Payments Effort

MasterCard Worldwide is reorganizing its mobile-payments effort and team, planning to focus on what it calls “digital convergence,” with the aim of “enabling every connected device to be a commerce device,” NFC Times has learned.

The payments network is promoting its group head for emerging payments in Europe, Jorn Lambert, to a newly created post of group executive for digital convergence, sources told NFC Times. MasterCard has released the changes and titles internally.

The new digital convergence effort would take in MasterCard’s PayPass Wallet Services initiative, a program that appears to have made little headway in the market. Digital convergence would combine PayPass Wallet Services with NFC mobile payment, mobile apps and security, sources said.

James Anderson, who is now group head and senior vice president of mobile product development, would become group head for convergence architecture and devices and would report to Lambert, sources said.

The reorganization appears to cut the authority of Mung Ki Woo, who was named group executive, mobile, two years ago to head MasterCard’s mobile team. He will continue to hold that title, but appears to be charged mainly with overseeing industry alliances and mobile money. It appears he will no longer be responsible for mobile PayPass, said sources.

Lambert and Woo are expected to report to Ed McLaughlin, who continues as chief emerging payments officer.

MasterCard declined to comment on the planned changes and officials were unavailable for interviews. The payment scheme is expected to introduce or discuss the changes next week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. But until then, details remain sketchy as to just how MasterCard plans to accomplish its goal of multichannel convergence of its payment products in the physical and virtual worlds.

MasterCard like rival Visa have been struggling to find a coherent strategy to encourage consumers to pay with their brands on smartphones and other mobile devices.

Among MasterCard’s initiatives in the past year has been PayPass Wallet Services, which the payment scheme unveiled last May.

MasterCard billed it as a global offering for banks, merchants and other partners “that will make it faster and easier for their customers to make purchases in stores or online by allowing them to securely pay with a simple click of the mouse, touch of the tablet screen or tap of the smartphone.”

But the message and its implementation remain muddled. It’s not clear whether MasterCard will stick with the mainly cloud-based PayPass Wallet Services product, which was to combine online payments and contactless proximity payments in one acceptance network. Wallet services also include a white-label wallet for banks, merchants and other organizations, as well as a PayPass API that organizations could use to connect their digital wallets to the PayPass acceptance network.

Lambert, a 10-year veteran of MasterCard, has been based in Waterloo, Belgium, the payment scheme’s European headquarters.

He is believed to be primarily responsible for deals in Europe that have resulted in the commercial launch of NFC payments using MasterCard PayPass by mobile operators T-Mobile and Orange in Poland last fall and plans by Deutsche Telekom in Germany for a major PayPass NFC launch this spring. In the case of Deutsche Telekom, the telco is planning to issue its own co-branded payment application.

Elsewhere in Europe, other operators are expected to launch co-branded payment with PayPass, including Vodafone Italia and Everything Everywhere in the UK. And in Turkey, telco Turkcell continues to roll out its mobile wallet and adding banks, which mainly issue PayPass.

Meanwhile, the situation for mobile PayPass in the U.S. appears stagnant. Besides the less than inspiring debut for PayPass Wallet Services, among MasterCard’s initiatives has been a partnership with Google.

Under the current iteration of the Google Wallet, Google puts a prepaid PayPass application on an embedded chip in Google Wallet phones. The transactions are funded by cloud-based credit and debit cards from potentially other brands.

But Google Wallet has not taken off with consumers, and it remains unclear whether MasterCard fully supports the concept as Google has rolled it out.

Woo was hired to head mobile strategy globally for MasterCard. He formerly headed electronic payments and transactions at France Telecom-Orange group, where he led the development of the Orange Money, a mobile-money program the telco introduced in Africa. He also headed up the group’s NFC efforts in France and other major European markets.

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