Silicon Valley Heads to Vegas as Tech Dominates Bank Conference

Silicon Valley Heads to Vegas as Tech Dominates Bank Conference

(Bloomberg) -- Maybe this is what Barclays Plc’s Jes Staley was trying to warn his competitors about, when he said this week that banks will need to defend advantages in the payments business from encroachment by technology companies.

More than 11,000 people from 4,500 companies will descend on Las Vegas next week to unveil the latest payments technologies and partnerships. It’s part of an annual pilgrimage for the industry to the Money 20/20 conference.

But there’s something different about this year’s conference: Some of the biggest speakers aren’t bankers. They’re from companies such as Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Inc.

Jennifer Bailey, the head of Apple Pay, is on the agenda. Also set to appear are Facebook’s Stan Chudnovsky, head of product at the company’s Messenger service; and Patrick Gauthier, vice president of Amazon Pay. The conference comes after payments-services companies PayPal Holdings Inc., Square Inc., Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. rose to records this month.

Here’s a look at some of the big themes for this year’s show:

FinTech Acquisitions

JPMorgan Chase & Co. said this week it plans to purchase the startup WePay, its first acquisition of a so-called fintech company. Until now, lenders have largely turned to partnerships or building their own technology to expand in payments. Now, the question for the thousands of hungry entrepreneurs at Money 20/20 is whether JPMorgan’s acquisition will open the floodgates for other banks to do their own deals.

Equifax Hack

When Equifax Inc. announced last month that hackers were able to access information on 145 million U.S. consumers, it revived the debate about how firms should verify the identity of users. High-profile breaches pressure banks to abandon static passwords in favor of biometrics and other forms of authentication. And there’s a universe of companies waiting to help lenders solve that problem.

Crypto Craziness

Blockchain enthusiasts will probably continue pitching banks and other firms on the wonders of the distributed-ledger technology. But this year, cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings might be the bigger headline as the price of bitcoin, the most ubiquitous of the currencies, has jumped. Conference goers will probably want to know more about banks’ progress in deploying blockchain and their appetite for working with cryptocurrencies.

One Year Later

Next week will also be a good time to assess major announcements from years past.

A year ago, banks introduced the person-to-person payments network dubbed Zelle in a challenge to PayPal’s Venmo and Square. In June, lenders began rolling out the service to their 86 million mobile-banking customers. Now, the question for all person-to-person payment services has become: Can they generate revenue?

Bank of America Corp. also made waves last year when it announced Erica, a virtual assistant for mobile-banking customers that uses artificial intelligence to answer questions and offer financial advice. Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan said earlier this month that the service will be rolled out in the "next couple of quarters." Conference goers might want to know if other banks will follow BofA’s lead.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jenny Surane in New York at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael J. Moore at, Dan Reichl, Andrew Pollack