For Jeremy Gumbley, watching the EMV transition pick up speed in the United States is a little like déjà vu.
“The things I’m hearing about EMV migration are all the things people were saying in the UK in 2003,” says Gumbley, chief technology officer for CreditCall Corp., a firm specializing in payment gateway services. It has offices in the United Kingdom and New York.
Gumbley helped drive product and technology development roadmaps for the switch to EMV worldwide, including the UK and Canada. When the UK set out to adopt chip-and-pin technology a decade ago, the main issue was whether British retailers would be ready in time, Gumbley says. “People were scrambling to acquire the skills. There was a big skill set shortage,” he says.
The same issue is playing out in the U.S., and on a scale unlike that in any other country, industry observers say. After all, the U.S. has a more complex financial services scene than the UK or Canada. What’s more, the U.S. is a much larger country in terms of population.
But efforts are under way to meet those challenges.
When Gregg Smith helped start the EMV Academy in Toluca Lake, Calif., he took advantage of lessons learned from the EMV transition in Canada and the UK. The academy offers cross-industry training, testing and consultation services on EMV technology.
“The early stages were a little difficult there because of the lack of knowledge,” Smith says of the switch in other countries.
One advantage for the change to EMV in Canada and the U.K. was that government helped teach merchants and the consumers about EMVl and then supported the plan’s rollout through project-management offices.
Smith points to the UK, where the government declared Feb. 14, 2006, national “chip and PIN day” to alert British consumers of the deadline to start using the new form of payment. “You couldn’t pull that off here,” he notes.
A lack of resources ultimately forced Canada to extend its deadlines for complying with EMV, Smith says. Visa and MasterCard Worldwide postponed the fraud liability from Oct. 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011 because members of the payment industry were not ready to comply.
Changing merchant and cardholder habits posed another challenge, Gumbley says. Initially UK retailers resisted chip-and-PIN. They were concerned about who would pay for the upgrades, and they worried that chip-card transactions can take longer and affect checkout lines.
Despite that initial furor, many of those issues resolved themselves after the first three months of using EMV, Gumbley says. It’s possible EMV acceptance could follow a similar path in the U.S.,he suggests.