Commerce companies in cashless countries: the final financial frontier?

  • By Carole Ann Furman

  • June 21, 2018
  • 6:04 pm BST

When it comes to cash-free or contactless payments, Europe and Asia are leading the continental race. The question is, which company will be in pole position to facilitate these transactions?

There are the global corporations like PayPal and Square that might seize the top spot. More and more traditional banks are fending off challengers like fintech companies and other financial platforms – so they have started frantically preparing for a new reality of cryptocurrencies and cashless options. Or, will there be a new player altogether that rises to the fore?

One thing is clear, the race participants are taking things seriously – as they should. Europe is setting the pace with an average of 70% of all transactions being contactless, with the US lagging far behind. Asia and other countries are bringing up the rear but are making rapid progress in the process.

Just ask the delegates at MoneyConf 2018 held in Dublin recently. The conference centered on the future of financial payment transactions as well as cryptocurrency options. With over 5,000 attendees, the nature of this conference meant it attracted payment solutions and crypto startups eager to attract investors in droves. They were not the only ones fishing though – bigger crypto players were not only scouting for smaller crypto plankton to eat, but desperately trying to flag down heavyweights like Square, which aggregates the services of other merchants and mobile payment solution technologies into a streamlined, single set of online apps, trading tips and tools.

Leader of the cashless transaction world

In terms of leading the pack to facilitate cashless transactions, whether in the form of cryptocurrency or anything else, Square has made no secret about its plans to be market leader. And, shying away from Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is certainly not in Square’s game plan – in fact, the opposite is true.

Square CFO Sarah Friar has made quite clear her belief that the future of currency will not have any of the drawbacks of today’s traditional currencies, such as commissions and penalties on cross-border transactions and remittances. In putting its technology where its mouth is and in a massive show of support for the future of Bitcoin, Square has also recently incorporated a function allowing you to add, use, sell and buy Bitcoin by downloading its Cash App.

And if the push towards cashless is going to come from any quarter, it would have to be from the likes of Square in any event. As Friar has rightly pointed out, the traditional banks are not going to lead this push. Doing so would mean emptying their large pools of cash reserves that have been built up precisely on remittance, currency conversion and transactional profits.

The likelihood of $25bn company Square surging to the front of this race is entirely possible. As far as financial apps go, it is already the most downloaded, and it is bubbling just outside the top 10 list of free downloadable apps. That’s no small accomplishment for a finance app and serves as an indication of just where Square is headed.

All this seems to be boding well for Square. Its share price has gone up 300% in the past 12 months and it is basking in its $365m purchase of Weebly, a website creation company, as it expands its reach and channel delivery capacities.

One place Square, PayPal and Intuit’s GoPay will struggle to make inroads though is China. Here Alibaba and WeChat reign supreme, and challenging the heirs apparent to the cashless crowns in this region will be tough indeed.

So, who will win the cashless transaction and facilitation race? We know who should be in it – everyone who’s a commercial entity, including the best CFD brokers. The contenders are strong and are furiously carving out their individual niches, and who knows what other challengers may step up to the plate.