Article | January 21, 2014 Innovation Project 2013

Stephen Bergeron, V.P. of Strategic Initiatives, APG Cash Drawer

By Stephen Bergeron, V.P. of Global Marketing, APG Cash Drawer, Follow on Twitter

Knowledge is the key to Innovation

I recently attended the Innovation Project 2013 conference on March 21st-22nd. Awards were presented for the most innovative payment solutions in a variety of payment categories at Harvard University.

After two days with at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I can honestly say, innovation is alive and well in the United States of America.  The conference included insight from some of the most elite payment innovators in the world. The sessions were outstanding and the networking was unmatched.  The halls were buzzing as payment leaders debated over new payment methods and visitors explored some of the most innovative start-ups in the payments industry. Even though most discussion circulated around mPOS and Mobile Wallets, the amount of cash usage data that was shared was outstanding—most stats favoring the usage of cash overall.

I think Karen Webster, President of, hit the nail on the head in her recap from the Innovation conference. Based on the content shared, it is evident that cash is here to stay:

“…there was considerable discussion over the two days about the role of cash in a world that is trying to kill it off. Data shows that cash in circulation, not necessarily the right way to measure cash usage, is on the rise. In fact, there was, in 2012, $1.2 Trillion of it swirling around the US. And, thanks to a bunch of innovators, it is getting easier and easier or merchants and consumers to access and use. Cash can be used to conveniently pay bills electronically the same day they are due, shop on line and pay in store, store conveniently in secure safes if you’re a small merchant and accept cash and access via ATMs just about everywhere. If anything, innovation is making cash as easy for consumers to use and merchants to accept than just about every other electronic payment method. And, we all know, as long as merchants like it and consumers want to use it, cash will stick around as a method of consumer payments.”

Below are some of my key takeaways from the conference:

  • Russell Simmons: “Never to give up, I have had more failures than successes. The successes are the results of learning from my failures.” He reminded us to seize to the moment and move quickly.
  • Eric Ries, author of The Lean Start-Up:  “Look in the mirror…you are the stumbling blocks to innovation.”  Makes you think doesn’t it?
  • Larry Simmons, former President of Harvard University and Treasurer of the United States: “I would rather give up my library card than my iPhone.” Imagine that.
  • Lars Blecko, the CEO of Loomis revealed that in a recent study, they see cash usage increasing 1 to 1.5% for the next 10 years.  Good news if you are a cash drawer company : )
  • Steve Rathgaber- CEO of Cardtronics talked about Mobile Wallets doing away with credit cards before cash. The news for a cash drawer company keeps getting better.
  • John Moore- CEO of the San Francisco Federal Reserve talked about merchants telling the Fed that cash is the cheapest transaction there is at 2 or 3 cents per transaction.  We need to work this into our TCO calculations.
  • Jim DeBello, CEO of Mitek, told us to innovate the experience. Many of the new innovations are cool, they don’t improve the experience.
  • Rosie Rios, Treasurer of the United States:  “Cash is still ‘queen.’ The amount of currency in circulation has increased 40% since 2008.”

At the end of two days and eighteen hours of round table discussions, it was easy to see this was an event worth attending–our reward was knowledge.  Our challenge will be what to do with it; our next innovation is our plan.

Thank you, for a great two days.  See you in 2014!