John Mogg is an esteemed leader in the fintech domain with a 19-year career marked by innovation and strategic insight. He holds a BSc Honours in Artificial Intelligence, which informs his cutting-edge approach to financial technology. As the founder of iSolution Payments, John and his firm provide expert consultancy on payment system enhancements and optimisations, melding his fintech prowess with AI to refine operational processes and customer interactions. Previously, as the Global Head of IT & Innovation at Travelex, John was pivotal in building the world’s largest Foreign Currency ATM network and initiating the world’s first ATM Click & Collect Service for foreign currency. His diversification away from the cash industry has led to the building of industry-leading tools, such as Foreign Exchange Rate Engines, Financial Mobile Applications, and Prepaid Card Platforms. John began his technology journey at EA Games as a Software Tester, progressing through transformative roles at Wincor-Nixdorf (the ATM & Retail Hardware and software giant), where he led developments and innovations in ATM remote management and automated cash solutions. His career trajectory is characterised by a dedication to merging innovative customer experiences with practical financial technologies.
The technological landscape has been rapidly evolving, profoundly altering the way we interact with money. This shift raises a compelling question: are smartphones poised to deal the final blow to cash usage, or has the widespread adoption of debit and credit cards already set cash on an irreversible decline?
For centuries, the dominance of cash was unchallenged, and revered for its tangible, straightforward nature, and universal acceptance. However, the introduction of debit cards sparked a significant change, providing a convenient and secure alternative to physical money. This pivotal shift began the digitalisation of financial transactions, laying the groundwork for a future filled with innovation.
I embarked on my journey in the payment industry in 2004 with Wincor-Nixdorf a Germany-based titan in the ATM and retail point-of-sale arena (now Diebold Nixdorf). Leading a technology team tasked with keeping a substantial segment of the UK’s ATMs and Cash Deposit Machines in service, was a formidable challenge, especially when cash payments constituted around 60% of all UK transactions at that time. It was a period of change and opportunity, and as a representative of the prevalent cash-using generation, I relished the chance to dive into this endeavour.
The year 2007 saw the introduction of contactless cards in the UK market, pioneered by Barclaycard. The potential impact on the cash economy was a hot topic amongst business leaders, many of whom initially dismissed the innovation’s disruptive potential. Their assumptions held true, albeit temporarily, as payment providers quickly adapted, and the limit for contactless transactions was increased to £20 in 2012, marking a significant boost for the technology.
The decline in cash usage as the primary payment method became more pronounced between 2012 and 2019. In 2009, cash was the medium for 58% of UK transactions, but by 2014, this had fallen to 48%, largely due to the rise of contactless payment methods.
Smartphones revolutionised the financial transaction sector even further. By 2014, these devices were not only means of communication but also evolving into wallets, banks, and financial advisors. The introduction of mobile payment systems and digital wallets, such as Apple Pay in 2015, and the deployment of NFC technology with Android Pay in 2016, saw cash usage in the UK plummet to a ‘then’ all-time low of 23% by 2019.
Concluding my stint at the ATM manufacturing giant in 2011, I pursued new ventures where I could utilise my deep-seated technology expertise. Raised in an environment where technological innovation was celebrated, I was naturally drawn to the field of technology, which eventually led me to earn a degree in Artificial Intelligence—a subject that, at the time, was so novel that it required extensive explanation in job interviews.
The subsequent phase of my career was at Travelex, the world’s leading foreign exchange provider at the time. There, I held several roles over my 12-year term, culminating in becoming the Global Head of IT and Innovation. The first of my challenges at Travelex was overseeing the design and implementation of Travelex’s global ATM network. When I joined, the company had a modest presence in the ATM market but harboured ambitions of global expansion using a centralised platform. I successfully executed the mandate to build this service, and our new ATM network spanned 14 countries, dispensing more than 25 currencies, and offering Dynamic Currency Conversion on over 149 currencies, enabling customers to withdraw money abroad and be billed in their home currency.
Despite the trend of declining cash transactions, Travelex’s ATM network experienced a consistent increase in like-for-like transactions from 2011 to 2019. This growth was primarily driven by travelers’ hesitance to depend entirely on digital payment methods when abroad.
Between 2018 and 2019, the growth in international ATM transactions plateaued, and my team shifted focus from ATMs to developing products that facilitated easier access to foreign currency. Innovations such as the world’s first Click & Collect Foreign Currency ATM Service and our Prepaid card product emerged from this strategic shift. However, the COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on the travel and cash industries, with cash transactions in the UK falling to approximately 14% by 2022.
The onset of the 2020s saw businesses that traditionally relied on cash struggle unless they adapted to new models and payment methods. While the pandemic, along with the advent of smartphones and digital wallets, accelerated the decline of cash, the seeds of this shift were sown much earlier with the convenience of contactless payments leading the way.
In the current financial landscape, smartphones have assumed a pivotal role as a platform to enable payments. The integration of services like Apple Pay and Google Pay, enhanced by Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, has simplified the transaction process, eliminating the friction traditionally associated with other payment methods. These devices have also emerged as sophisticated tools for managing personal finances. Despite the proliferation of digital payment options, cash persists as a trusted medium in various sectors of society, particularly in regions with limited technological infrastructure and among certain age groups and socioeconomic statuses. This endurance of cash underscores the necessity for a multifaceted financial ecosystem that is inclusive of diverse consumer needs and preferences.
Earlier in the year, I made the decision to step down from my position as the leader of IT and Innovation at Travelex. My ambition was to contribute to firms that are navigating both cash and digital payment landscapes, aiding them in the creation of payment solutions that resonate with and fulfill the expectations of consumers. To this end, I established iSolution Payments, a business devoted to guiding payment enterprises toward consumer-centric approaches and the adoption of state-of-the-art technologies. This initiative is particularly relevant as the shift from traditional payment methods to digital alternatives has intensified, presenting businesses with the challenge of developing inclusive products and services. iSolution Payments aims to bridge this gap, ensuring that organisations can innovate without accruing excessive technical debt, thereby aligning with the evolving payment preferences of their clients.
The transition from cash to digital payments being more evolutionary than revolutionary, with debit cards serving as a bridge between the old and the new, gives iSolution Payments a stage to exhibit the opportunities for payment businesses to innovate further in this space. As the technology landscape continues to evolve, the trends suggest a continual-gradual shift away from physical forms of money. Although cash is unlikely to become obsolete in the near future, the increasing role of smartphones in financial transactions is indisputable, and eventually, they will eclipse the use of physical debit and credit cards.
While smartphones are reshaping the payment landscape, this transition has been in motion for years, notably since the rise of contactless payments. The coexistence of cash, cards, and digital payments will likely continue as the financial ecosystem adapts to the diverse needs of consumers worldwide. During this exciting time of payment innovation and change, it is more crucial now than ever, for governments and regulators to ensure that as technology progresses, it does not marginalise those who rely on traditional payment methods.