Even the contact information listed for MasterCard in their annual SEC report seems old-fashioned.
Instead of listing something like an email address, MasterCard provides their “telephone number, including area code.” The form actually indicates that the filer should include the area code, as though using telephones is a new thing.
And it turns out, when this form was invented, telephones were a new thing.
The top of it reads “Annual Report Pursuant to Section 13. . . of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.”
That's right. This annual ritual has gone on unchanged since 1934.
And the general tone of the remainder of the report solidifies what the opening lines hint at: that MasterCard – and third-party payment processors in general – are becoming old news, and are likely living their last days.
Competition, Competition, Competition
MasterCard's SEC report mentions the word cryptocurrency three different times, and each time, it's under the heading of the word “competition.”
First the report mentions that MasterCard competes against cash, checks, other credit card issuers, wire transfers, mobile payments, and cryptocurrency.
It then goes on to mention cryptocurrency again in its “startup and emerging competitors” category:
“These competitors include digital wallet providers such as PayPal, AliPay and Amazon, merchants. [...] mobile operator services, services such as mPesa, handset manufacturers, and cryptocurrencies.”
The report mentions cryptocurrency for a third time when it later reads:
“Rapid and significant technological changes could occur, resulting in new and innovative payment methods (including cryptocurrencies) and programs that could place us at a competitive disadvantage and that could reduce the use of MasterCard products.”
The Beginning of the End for MasterCard?
MasterCard then goes on to discuss threats to their business model. The first and foremost is government regulations, which is ironic, seeing as they lobby for regulations as a matter of practice. The next named threat is the cost-cutting taking place among competitors:
"Over the past several years, we have experienced continued pricing pressure. The demand from our customers for better pricing arrangements [...] moderates our growth. We may not be able to continue our expansion strategy [...] at levels sufficient to compensate for such lower fees or increased costs in the future […]. We may not succeed in [cost containment] efforts.”
Perhaps this rather gloomy outlook was predictable after MasterCard's highly uninformed video release last year – you know, the one that attempted to paint trustless money as inferior to fiat:
Oh the Times, They Are A-Changin'
All considered, MasterCard's report gives heavy indication that the times, they are a-changing. When Internet protocols like cryptocurrency simply cut out the middle man in value transfer, the costs of transacting go down significantly.
In other words, the reasons for using a middle-man are disappearing. The “decentralization of all the things” has begun, taking such deep root in payments that one of the world's largest credit card companies is not sure they can compete.
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