When Helsinki was the epicentre of mobile – the old people will remember Nokia

A Guest Blog by Michael Boevink

My first encounter with mobile payments was actually SMS and this was with Coca Cola in 1997. Coca Cola is credited with launching the world’s first digital payment system back in 1997 with several vending machines in Helsinki. The soft drink giant created a digital payment processing system where customers could pay for their soft drink via a text message on their cellphone.

It was ‘freaking’ awesome to see and don’t forget Helsinki was the epic center of MOBILE those days, the old people will remember NOKIA. 

Internet payments was even further from reality in the 90’s, VISA was the 1st in August 1994 using a secure Visa credit card transaction to buy a CD and it arrived at his friend’s house days later! The card was secured using PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) data encryption which was good enough in those early days.

Take a small step further in time the Electronic Money Association was formed in 2001 and for people long enough in the industry might still know the first e-money institution to receive authorisation was set up by German entrepreneurs, a firm now known as Skrill, previously Moneybookers. I actually had a Moneybookers Mastercard and thought it was awesome.

Paysafe card was launched in 2000 and absorbed Two former competitors, Dutch Wallie (which I helped to launch) and British UKASH. In 2013, paysafecard was acquired by British provider Skrill and in 2015 as part of the Skrill Group by the Optimal Payments Group, a global online payment processing provider regulated in the. Optimal Payments subsequently rebranded as Paysafe group.

As a side step when we were explaining to the banks that this is going to happen and eventually they created IDEAL in The Netherlands there was still a lot of unbelief that this would take off. Something everyone will deny these days and IDEAL is the nr 1 payment solution in The Netherlands:-) 

The whole world of FINTECH actually didn’t exist, it was finding out how things might work and educating the regulatory on the fly as well. Also a lot of cross sell with premium mobile payments (SMS driven) and finding out what is the easiest way to pay. It was definitely not a Credit Card only world those days, premium lines, prepaid cards, SMS all counted. Interesting enough digital assets were already there in 2003, I still recall the massive success of Habbo Hotel where you bought digital furniture for your hotel room. What now is NFT, that was the limited edition virtual ice cream machine from those days. We also tried to find out the ‘WHY’ behind that:-)

The whole FINTECH journey currently is taking a whole new leap, faster payments, wireless payments, mobile only, digital payments and digital currency, blockchain. In the basics we still see the same happening 20 years ago, there is a fast growing development of new business models and services and a lot will not make it. It doesn’t really matter, because to get to the next level we need a lot of initiatives to make the magic happen. If you feel you missed the Bitcoin boat, don’t feel pity it is just at the beginning of the curve. The SUPER APP, digital currency, embedded finance, green finance and financial inclusion are all still very young initiatives with plenty of room to grow.

The consumer will start embracing new payment methods and solutions and the coming 10 years there will be a ‘boom’ in the financial services industry for the old….and FINTECH for the new generation.

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