What's in your wallet? Today and Tomorrow....

You may recall the 'Capital One' TV adverts that asked what's in your wallet? And now we can see that the new Apple and Android smartphones will have eWallet capabilities built in. Just as technologies such as Google Search and eCommerce have transformed the media and retail sectors in the last 10 years, many folks are wondering will the ewallet transform financial services?

eWallet: an African story
The ewallet is banking through a phone. So who would have thought that the Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation would be at the cutting edge of such technology.
In its incarnation as Safari.com (a Vodafone affiliate) the company serves millions of customers. They use a pin and password to access their banking, which lets them receive money, make transfers and get physical cash from agent outlets and ATMs within the network.
Transactions are all passed through the phone (not a cash card). The ewallet can make money transfers with a few text messages. To withdraw cash from an agent (usually a shop) the customer inputs an agent number, amount to withdraw, and PIN. A screen confirms the transaction then both the customer and the agent get an SMS recording it. The agent hands over the cash.

No plastic, no ATM
Essentially the phone is a cash card and cash machine in one. Banking this way grew up in Kenya because there was no money (and a high risk factor) for banks to set up branches.
Now the service in this third world country is cutting edge and has been expanded to Tanzinia, Afghanistan and South Africa.
Which begs the question of what a reasonable ewallet system would do to the developed world’s banks. As we know, half of them are already trendy wine bars.

A wave and you’re away
Western banks have good internet and telephone banking for customers to manage their existing bank accounts, but the e wallet isn’t yet prevalent. What people are getting excited about is Near Field Communication (NFC) through mobile phones, which will let us simply wave our wallet in a shop to pay for goods.

Apple will introduce ewallet soon
NFC payments are linked to credit cards. Google Wallet, for example, is working with Visa, American Express, Mastercard and Discover.
Will the big banks will keep up with the technology and ally themselves with the next wave of payment systems? Possibly. Just as media and retail businesses dismissed the game changing potential of eCommerce 10 years ago and have now gone bust or are on their last legs (eg Circuit City in retail, or newspapers and magazines around the world), the same could happen to banks in the next 10 years.

Still, It’s all good news for potential wine bar owners though.

Best wishes John.
John Corr
New Bond House
124 New Bond Street, London, W1S 1DX, UNITED KINGDOM

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Process Excellence and The Genius of Steve Jobs

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Is Amazon Kindle Fire the death of the bookstore?

Hello Kindle Fire, bye bye Waterstone’s?

Amazon launched Kindle Fire last week, a tablet competitor to the iPad.
Poor old Waterstone’s: is this the last nail in its coffin?
Kindle Fire
Kindle FireKindle’s technology means that books can be bought instantly,
many of them for 99p and £1.99 instead of the £20 you might pay
for a hardback in Waterstone’s. And the fact that the new $199 Kindle
is in colour means that users can browse magazines and picture books,
giving booksellers yet another reason to worry.

Waterstone’s, the UK’s largest chain of book shops, has experienced
similar woes to the US’ Barnes and Noble, losing out to online sellers
and supermarkets. New Waterstone’s boss James Daunt acknowledges
that Amazon is tough competition but asks:
Why wouldn’t you want to spend half an hour in a really nice bookshop?
His plan is to turn the 300-strong fleet of stores into a collection of friendly, local venues in
which readers can comfortably browse and buy.
The idea has merit. Of course people don’t want to go to another identikit Waterstone’s in 
Leeds or Birmingham or Manchester. Foyles had the idea of the ‘destination event’ bookshop 
long ago and its overhaul saw it win bookseller of the year for 2010, among other gongs.
But can chummy staff and a frapuccino work for such a large chain? The job to pull Waterstones’
stores up to standard is a big one in itself, but to do it in so many locations with such tough
competition is mammoth. And even those who love browsing through bookshops have to admit
that it is much simpler to ping a request through cyberspace to get the latest read sent to them
for a fraction of the cost.

Recent reports from UK publishers suggest digital book sales now account for around 9-10% of
their overall book sales compared to 4-5% last year. That still leaves 90% of the book market
sold as actual books.

There are takers out there for the ‘book buying’
experience.  Daunt has to find a way of get them 
through his doors, and fast.

What do you think? Can the book shop survive? 
Let me know what you think by email or post 

Best wishes John Corr

Close Quarter Limited,
New Bond House, 124 New Bond Street, London,