TORONTO As Rogers Communications' David Robinson paced a stage in the company's corporate offices, he balanced two seemingly contradictory business decisions: its new role as an issuer of plastic credit cards and its long-term bet on mobile wallets.
The case for its suretap mobile wallet is clear: "If you put a bunch of cards into a dead cow, they really don't know each other," said Robinson, vice president of emerging business at Rogers, Canada's largest provider of wireless communications services. "But if you put those cards on a phone, that gives you access to a camera, a user ID, a way to know where consumers are, and what they want."
But mobile technology has as many limitations as it has perks, and "plastic will be around for a long time," he said during a weeklong mobile payments conference in Toronto operated by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment.
Rogers just received approval from Canada's Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions to offer credit cards, which will be made available primarily to Rogers' nine million customers over the next year.
Even with the introduction of mobile wallets, Canada's population of about 34 million would still be largely served by bank-issued credit cards, he says. Robinson also cited the card networks' ceiling of about $48 for mobile transactionsthough that's expected to increase to near $100 in a few months as a reason to issue a credit card as an option for larger payments.
"The end game for mobile payments is to transform how consumers and businesses interact," Robinson said. "Mobile payments is a ten-year process and we're in year seven."
Rogers' credit card would be a way for the company's customers to earn rewards points faster, and to give customers another payment option. "I'm sure we'll find a way to make it easy to load the Rogers credit card into our mobile wallet," Robinson said. "Also people tend to have more than one card in their wallet."
Rogers is not issuing debit cards, which would require added permission from the Canadian government for bank deposit services, Robinson said. Rogers is the first telecom to offer a credit card in Canada, though retailers such as Sears and Walmart offer credit cards in the country, he said.
The credit card will also give Rogers more control over how it cross-markets to its own customers, Robinson said. It didn't want to work with a bank because "in that case you would have another entity marketing a Rogers-branded product to our customers, and that didn't sit right with us," Robinson said.
Rogers' credit card does not dampen the company's enthusiasm for its suretap mobile wallet, which allows consumers to store credit card details on a SIM card in an NFC-enabled mobile phone. Suretap counts CIBC as an issuer partner, with at least two more Canadian banks in the pipeline, Robinson said, predicting the number of banks and merchants should increase over the next year.
Suretap's retailer partners include Tim Horton's, McDonalds, Subway and other merchants that use Visa PayWave and MasterCard PayPass terminals.
Suretap will provide consumers with a way to corral their financial relationships in one spot, and give card-issuing banks and merchants a way to deliver targeted marketing by using the mobile device's embedded technology, Robinson said.