Mastercard, Gemalto, Intesa Sanpaolo Team Up on Contactless Biometric Payment Card

December 21, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

To look at the concept, it almost looks like a round of buzzword bingo gone so far awry it’s almost gibberish. Yet what we have here is word of a major new development in financial technology (fintech) from a coalition effort of Mastercard, Gemalto, and Intesa Sanpaolo. The trio is getting together to produce the first-ever contactless biometric payment card Italy has ever seen, a move that represents a huge step forward in the field.

The combination brings together three elements that make perfect sense in such an endeavor: the card and network experience of Mastercard, the digital security of Gemalto and the banking group Intesa Sanpaolo. The end result is a card system that works by tapping against a terminal in the usual contactless method, but also one that precludes the need for signing receipts or entering PIN codes.

Once complete, the program will launch in Turin, Rome, and Milan, and will run for 16 weeks while any initial problems are spotted. With Intesa Sanpaolo representing the largest banking group in Italy—it’s got just under 12 million customers to its credit and operates 4,400 branches at last report—it should represent a solid platform from which to launch this card.

Intesa Sanpaolo’s retail manager Cinzia Bruzzone noted “We are proud to have undertaken the first step to introduce a card in Italy a card which technology offers consumers clear and concrete benefits, following our choice to anticipate and facilitate the diffusion of innovative technologies functional to people’s everyday banking.”

The elements appear to be in place to make this a winner, but will this prove all dressed up with nowhere to go? While users will welcome a more secure mobile payments system that doesn’t require a lot of extra work on their part, the whole point of the Europay / Mastercard / Visa (EMV) system was to provide greater security. Europe has had EMV in place vastly longer than that; does this new card represent anything more than an incremental—if even that—improvement over the current system?

Addressing that point would likely be helpful here, and help customers make decisions about whether or not this card would be useful. Still, with a pilot program in place, we’ll likely have hard data at the end of the four month trial.