While The Innovation Project brought the brightest and best of the newest developments within the payments world, the ThinkAThon brought us even deeper into the future, as teams competed to win over the crowd with their pitch to solve a modern-day payments problem without a modern-day solution. (More details on what the ThinkAThon is all about here. and to see the solutions presented by all 15 teams, click here.)

Below are the winning teams for each of the five issues:

Wally Mlynarski (Elavon) addressed the issue of consumer privacy and mobile commerce. How will electronic mobile payments grow without consumers trusting merchants with their personal information? For Mlynarski and his team, acknowledging that the consumer may never trust others with their personal information is the first step. “Consumers are uninformed,” said Mlynarski. “They may never be comfortable with sharing data with anyone. But others will do so – for a benefit.” This realization lead the team to develop a method that offers a high level of transparency to consumers, offering a ‘rating’ of transactions similar to the G, PG, PG-13, R, etc. rating to movies. The goal is to inform the consumer of exactly what information will be shared with which merchant

As the technology of the payments industry grows increasingly technological, no doubt individuals will develop growing concerns about how safe their information is – especially in the event of a catastrophic failure and systemic risk. Mark Sole of Sipree and his team were already thinking ahead as they proposed a competition of sorts of the world’s top economists and scientists to concoct their own plans before a catastrophe even hits. The award money, said Sole, will pale in comparison to the money preserved in the event of an event that would wipe out the electronics payments system.

Next, the issue of financial inclusion – making banking service readily available to the millions of underserved individuals – was best tackled by the team of Kahina Van Dyke of MasterCard. The 2.5 billion who don’t have formal access to financial services need to be addressed, she said. But everyone has a different agenda. In order to simplify how individuals send money to each other, a solution needs to address many needs and issues. “The problem is so big, it is not a static group,“ said Van Dyke. “They have variations on lifestyle and aspire to come out of poverty.” But by implementing the existing trust a consumer has with his or her institution plus implementing standards and physical cash, financial services may be accessible to all.

Concerning the New Point of Sale, Barclaycard’s Farhan Ahmad endured a night out in Harvard Square – and a subsequent headache – to develop his team’s idea of identification and verification that transports across all channels. “While the current point-of-sales system suffices for technology 60 years ago,” said Ahmad, “What works for today?” The answer, said his team, is the phone number.  In addition with a pass code, the number could essentially replace the 16-digit credit or debit card number, along with a passcode, to supplement the POS.

And lastly, in addressing the issue of how to make mobile simple for consumers, Malik Velani of PayPal earned the top spot with his and his team’s proposal that recognized the impossibility of creating a system that is globally vast and delightful to everyone. “We hope you agree that in something this globally vast,” said team member Mike Boush of Discover. “There will be many groups of consumers with many needs and not one product will delight everyone.” Their solution is to stand aside and let the consumer decide what he or she wants – to use existing networks to facilitate the payments industry for a consumer, and promote a standardization process that reinforces the process.

**The overall winners were Mark Sole of Sipree and his team for their solution to “catastrophic failure and systemic risk.”**

Here’s the scoop.

We’ve invented something that we are calling the ThinkAThon™. It’s all about creating innovation, in real time, using the collective energies and brainpower of Innovation Project attendees to solve some of the industry’s most vexing problems – problems that need everyone to come together and work through in order to truly ignite innovation across the payments and commerce sector.

Here’s how it worked.

Fifteen teams, drawn from participants and lead by team captains, will be given a shot at developing a framework for how to address one of five problems during a brainstorming session. Teams will then present their results and be judged by a panel of experts who will determine which team within each problem set receives the title of “Payments Guru” and which team receives the overall title of “Master Payments Guru” – all in front of 500 of the top movers and shakers of the payments industry.

Click here for details on exactly how this module worked and for a look at the issues tackled!

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