Think for a moment of a time in the late 90s to early 2000s when the telecom field was experiencing a step wise change as cell phones were becoming ubiquitous. The idea of continuous communication combined with the advent of the internet was causing futurists and entrepreneurs alike to dream up the most optimistic scenarios.
Telecom companies also thought deeply about how new technologies were going to impact society and which segments of the economy would be most important to play an integral role in. Turns out, financial technology was pinpointed as a key area to invest in. So, by 2010 AT&T set up a joint venture with other leading mobile carriers to form a payments platform – it was unfortunately named isis.
As time progressed, the poorly named venture did not pan out and it was announced in 2015 that Google would acquire the JV’s IP and integrate it into its Google Wallet service.
Today, the area most important to fintech executives and the broader industry is the quickly evolving topic and technology of 5G. A game changer, is what many consider 5G to be. The increased bandwidth is a massive step change where latency will be all but non-existent and almost infinite continuous data transfer can take place from unlimited data devices.
So does this change how AT&T prioritizes its near term strategic initiatives? For certain, but not in the area of financial technology. In a recent interview, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson stated he does not think much of acquiring financial technology or companies in the space. His focus is on how his distribution network can be a huge boost to their entertainment operations. Moreover he holds conviction of how his network will produce extremely valuable data to inform the decisions they make and how they conduct their business from one moment to the next.
As to any fintech companies he pays attention to? Stephenson expressed he finds some interest with the way SoFi uses data in their business.