MCX Cuts Staff, Changes Its Mobile Mission

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The Merchant Customer Exchange, a retailer-backed mobile wallet venture of over three years in the works, has postponed its plans for a national rollout of its mobile wallet.

After nearly a year of testing the CurrentC mobile wallet in Columbus, Ohio and generally reporting that merchant and customer feedback was positive, Brian Mooney, CEO of MCX, issued a statement May 16 that the effort behind the mobile wallet is postponed – for now. The news came the same day that Walmart, one of MCX's most prominent backers, began its rollout of a similar product called Walmart Pay.

“Utilizing unique feedback from the marketplace and our Columbus pilot, MCX has made a decision to concentrate more heavily in the immediate term on other aspects of our business including working with financial institutions, like our partnership with Chase, to enable and scale mobile payment solutions," Mooney said.

MCX had announced earlier this year that it was working with JPMorgan Chase to allow Chase Pay, which also has not officially rolled out nationally, to be part of the CurrentC wallet. But for years, MCX executives had presented CurrentC as a product that would be part of retailer mobile wallets as a consumer option, or carry financial partners that would bring their payment mechanisms within the scope of CurrentC.

"As part of this transition, MCX will postpone a nationwide rollout of its CurrentC application," Mooney added. "As MCX has said many times, the mobile payments space is just beginning to take shape – it is early in a long game. MCX’s owner-members remain committed to our future."

In previous statements at industry conferences and interviews, Mooney had used the "long game" analogy to describe MCX's venture and the process of essentially creating a new payment scheme. The CurrentC mobile wallet was to operate through ACH payments, with wallet users linking the credentials directly to their bank accounts, rather than going through a payment card.

Because of the postponement of a more ambitious national rollout, MCX will have to reduce staff, letting approximately 30 employees go, Mooney said.

"These are very tough decisions, but necessary steps," he added. "For those employees leaving us, we want to thank our colleagues for their hard work and dedication to MCX over the last several years.”

Mooney took over as CEO of the venture just more than a year ago when previous CEO Dekkers Davidson left the position amidst speculation that the CurrentC wallet project had hit some roadblocks. Such speculation persisted, with many in the industry concluding the retailer initiative simply began too late and that other wallets, such as Apple Pay, had too significant a head start. Yet some felt the concept had merit and would give retailers what they wanted the most — a cut back on interchange costs and more control over customer transaction data.

Essentially, members of MCX have now turned their attention and resources to enabling payment in their own respective mobile shopping apps, said industry analyst Richard Crone.
"The MCX members that are competitors to Walmart were pushed to make this move upon the launch of Walmart Pay, which has just started its national rollout," Crone said.

Walmart Pay is the leading indicator of more to come, Crone added. "CurrentC makes more sense as a common acceptance platform for enabling payment in individual merchant apps than as a standalone competing mobile wallet and enabling the acceptance of bank branded mobile wallets such as Chase Pay, which can launch by pre-populating 94 million credit, debit and prepaid accounts all at once."

MCX is not the only wallet project to falter in the past two years. Telco venture Softcard dismantled and sold its technology to Google early last year, accelerating the creation of Android Pay. 

In the U.K., another telco venture, Weve, dropped its mobile wallet vision in 2014 and instead established itself as a digital marketing and omni-channel commerce provider. 

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