Having led innovation at Amex, MasterCard and Citi, I know where the bodies are buried. I also know that payment wars aren’t just about fees anymore. That’s so 1990′s. Years ago, when Walmart threatened to enter payments and banking, incumbents nearly soiled their Hanes. After a little sword-fighting, providers slashed their margins so thin, big merchants had no incentive to do their own thing. This time it’s different. Payments companies are not the real threat.
Today’s war is about data and its power to shift loyalties. In the arms race to probe customers’ deepest, darkest desires, card companies and merchants find themselves bringing spitballs to a gunfight. So, I’m not surprised to see Walmart, Target and others are starting their own 99% movement. Big retailers are launching their own mobile payments system. This is the first of many moves you can expect by merchants to liberate themselves of increasingly omnipotent middlemen. Below are three reasons retailers’ strategy makes sense