Barb Pacheco has mobile-payment fatigue.
The senior vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, who has been researching the payments industry for more than a decade, says she's never before had so much to keep up with.
When Dwolla emerged as an alternative to PayPal, she was there.
When Chirpify came out four months ago, promising to move funds over the social networking messaging service Twitter, you betcha, she was studying it.
And when PayPal moved to the point of sale, she tried it.
"I'll tell my husband: Let's go to Home Depot and pay for something with PayPal," she says, then she'll explain the complexities of the process, including the need to type in her cell phone number at the payment terminal. "And he'll say: 'Why do you want to do that?'"
But it's Pacheco's job to keep up. Her mission is to accurately figure out what's going on in payments and explain that to bankers.
Pacheco spoke at an event held July 9 by KCnext, the Technology Council of Greater Kansas City, on the future of mobile payments.
Pacheco is the head of the Financial Services Division of the Kansas City Fed. Her group, which began in 1999 as a way to better understand the ATM and debit card networks, provides payments information to others across the country.
"It's the exceptions that we need to think through," she says. "Ask the basic question that you ask about any payment system: If a payment is directed to a place or a person that I didn't direct it to, what are my options, how do I get that back?"
Since 2005, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City has hosted four international payments conferences, one about every other year.
"We have looked at interchange fees, nonbanks in the payment system and what the new payments systems are," she says. "What is the role for public authorities like the Fed, the Justice Department and payment system regulators as alternatives evolve?"
Indeed, Pacheco is unclear on which rules apply to which types of financial services companies.
"I think it's less clear what rules and regulations apply outside of the banking system," says Pacheco. "I think that's something that policymakers need to give some attention to and address."
Pacheco is also responsible for meeting with bankers throughout the region, which is undergoing a tech boom as Google further embeds itself into the Midwest with investments in Google Fiber, its high-speed Internet connection, and its work with Sprint in nearby Overland Park, Kan.
In May, after Alterra Bank of Overland Park, Kan., was highlighted in a local business journal for its $500,000 investment in technology, executives at the bank met with Pacheco.
"When the Fed calls you in, you go," says Pamela R. Berneking, Alterra's president and chief executive officer. We were very pleased to be asked to come."
The less than two-year-old bank has only two branches and recently launched a mobile and online banking platform that better serves its commercial customers.
Jeff Chambers, Alterra's chief strategy officer, says that in the Fed conversation, it came up that the Fed executives read the blog of Ben Milne, CEO of Dwolla. "They are interested in what he is doing and they have been following the market, letting it become what it is and then trying to understand what their role in it is."
Milne is also quick to heap praise on the Kansas City Fed.
"No one understands better the way the current systems work," he says. "And no one more clearly understands the politics of why it hasn't changed than the people at the Federal Reserve banks." Milne says that talking to these experts has allowed him to breathe easier.
"Some of the assumptions that we are making are not far off, and I think we think quite a lot alike on a lot of things," he says.
Chirpify founder Chris Teso is equally excited to work with Pacheco. His Portland, Ore., payments technology company moves money over Twitter when users respond to tweets with specific instructions to buy or donate cash.
"I was talking with Barb last night. It was an awesome conversation, because I'm sure the Fed is interested in the movement of money," he says.
When asked about her work, Pacheco says, "It's an exciting time to be a central banker."