Discover Financial Services is banking on a mobile future. Executives at the Riverwoods, Ill.-based company said during a Dec. 16 conference call with analysts to discuss its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings that its deal with wireless carriers AT&T Inc., T-Mobile USA Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. will play heavily in its future.
The payment system, called Isis, also involves Barclays PLC’s Barclaycard US for issuing payment-enabled mobile phones to consumers (see story).
Discover talked up its contactless payment system Zip, which it says is gaining a larger audience. This technology also is built into stickers meant to be adhered to mobile phones to introduce the concept of mobile payments to consumers in anticipation of a day when the payment chips are built directly into most handsets (see story).
“I see nothing but growing acceptance for our Discover Zip technology. There are over 100,000 terminals out there. They are concentrated at some of the largest, most high volume merchants,” David W. Nelms, Discover’s chairman and chief executive, said in an interview Dec. 16. “When I go to Home Depot, when I go to Best Buy, when I go to McDonald’s–they all have these terminals.”
Critics have said that Discover is too small a network to enable a broad rollout of the technology. Nelms said that is not the case.
“I’m betting on a successful Isis,” he said. “I am hoping it will become meaningful over time, but if you look at what we are doing in student loans. You look at the share gain that we have in our corporate credit card business … These are all very important.”
Analysts expressed anxiety about whether Discover would be adversely affected by the Federal Reserve Board’s proposed rules on debit interchange, announced Thursday after Discover announced its fourth-quarter earnings (see story).
Nelms, however, downplayed the potential impact. “You know this is not that important to us,” he said. “We are not a big debit issuer, so I think that, for other people, its even more important. Maybe the banks who issue these cards. I think there is a lot of concern that if interchange is cut too much it may mean the end of free checking. So I think that … to Visa or MasterCard, it may be a bigger deal than it is to us.”
If anything, Nelms said, Discover views the new rules as a potential boon to business. “We have been doing a lot of strategizing on how to best take advantage of what opportunities may present themselves, regardless of what the outcome is,” he said.
Discover’s net income dropped 0.8%, to $349.6 million for its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended Nov. 30, from same period last year. Discover’s net revenue rose 1.3%, to $1.6 billion (see story).
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