Isis needs a phoenix-like reincarnation for its mobile wallet


By Shaunt M. Sarkissian

Founder & CEO, Cortex MCP Inc.

It goes without saying that it has been an interesting month, and year, for Isis, the mobile wallet platform consortium lead by Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. As most of the payments and telecom world knows by now, Isis recently announced it will be rebranding in the coming months in order to distance itself from the terror organization of the same name.

While I’m certain it is painful to go through a rebranding exercise due to unforeseen geo-political issues, as an entrepreneur I can’t help but see opportunity where others may see a setback or defeat. Given the circumstances, the rebranding of Isis could be considered to be a fundamental opportunity–not only to rebrand their platform–but to reinvent its model by leveraging the current relationships and trust Isis has already earned.  All while bringing in a broader scope to define success for its future mobile wallet.

As we mentioned in a blog post back in March, carriers across the globe have most of what it takes to have a successful mobile wallet. They have an existing fiduciary relationship with the consumer, control of the hardware, and an established distribution network. Isis is no different. With the pending rebranding, it could be time for Isis to leverage all that its partner companies have to offer and to build on current successes to provide consumers and merchants with a wallet that is useful and adds value. Isis is in a unique position to truly accelerate mobile payments across the board, not simply apply leverage against other players until a revenue model for the carriers is defined. No business has ever succeeded without its own independent survival the sole purpose guiding its mission.

Isis has established various relationships with some of the top issuers like Chase, Wells Fargo, and American Express. It has strong relationships with some premier retail brands like CVS, Foot Locker, McDonalds, Office Depot, Jamba Juice, and Coca-Cola. It has a potentially extensive consumer reach through Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile outlets, yet its existing solution has yet to really hit it off (except when Isis offered free money to consumers who signed up). Now is its chance to make right the wrongs of the past, to have all of the SG&A efforts to date not be wasted, and for Isis to take its rightful place among the winners of the mobile wallet wars.

We believe that one of the things that has stopped Isis from being a smashing success to date is its over-reliance on hardware. We understand that when Isis started the process, in reaction to the Google Wallet, the Secure Element was the way to go, and it also was the only way, back then, to get merchant partners card-present rates. Times have changed, technology has evolved, and now is the opportunity for Isis to rise like a phoenix by making its wallet platform more flexible and useful by quickly abandoning the politically restricting and inherently flawed secure approach and adopt solutions that leverage the best of what HCE and Tokenization can provide, while still differentiating itself in providing something truly revolutionary.

If necessary, Isis could maintain its existing secure element initiatives and its install base, but should consider a revamped parallel EMVCo-compliant tokenization platform to help power the use cases that the existing infrastructure cannot reach.

Carriers have the reach, funds and consumer trust to drive standards in the emerging mobile payments space, as long as Isis is willing to take the initiative and reinvent not only its brand, but its model. And from our perspective at Cortex MCP, this shift is all but necessary to ensure Isis’ long-term relevance and a sustainable foothold in the rapidly evolving mobile commerce space.

Just as the Yankees have proven time and time again, capital investment and money are never assurances of success (sorry my New York friends, we are a Boston company after all). The right focus, technology, team, and business model–coupled with the relentless drive to make it a reality–are always the determining factors in an organization’s inevitable success.

And in the case with Isis, with a refreshed/refocused and corrected effort, this can be achieved.

This contributed article originally appeared in Mobile Payments Today on July 18, 2014.

Posted by Rob Stringer on July 18, 2014