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Ex-Marks and Spencer boss pushes new money

Sir Stuart Rose was asked to leave M&S with an £8 million handshake and, at 61 years of age, could well retire to a humble Yorkshire mining town – supping bitter and regaling locals with tales of retailing wonder. But he’s not doing that. In fact he’s getting quite dramatic. KitGuru takes a walk across the Blue Harbour to listen.

What is money?   Simple enough question and, for several thousand years, very easy to answer. People killed a lot of other people with knives and swords – and the biggest/baddest gang would declare their leader king and start producing coins with his/her face on them. Money.

PayPal changed things in a quite drastic way. The idea of completely virtual money – without the need for knife crime – worried royals and political leaders across the globe.

Who was this young upstart – and why wasn’t their violence and bloodshed – the true mark of an established currency?

Despite no one getting hurt, PayPal proved itself to be a great success and – if it were a country today – it would be turning over around the same amount of money as a country like Barbados. That’s today, but what about historically – and where does Stuart Rose fit in?

Confinity was the initial ‘seed’ company that grew into PayPal and, interestingly, it was designed as a way to do payments on a PDA called a Palm Pilot (if PDA or Palm Pilot have you looking bemused, ask a grown up).

Now, it seems, the evolution of money will pivot back in the direction of the mobile computing device.

Your phone is already, in a ways kind of credit card. Most people will have limits of anything up to a few hundred pounds and, once activated/approved, you don’t need to speak with the supplier again – your credit is there for you, waiting to be used.

Stuart Rose is leading the drive for a company called The Mobile Money Network with its new software application, the ‘Simply Tap’ application. The proposition was powerful enough for Visa to take a huge stake.

In essence, you walk around a shop (on or offline) and tap/scan your purchases into your phone – with the payment being handled for you. It’s even possible to engage in product customisation at the point of purchase, something which Sir Stuart is quick to point out about a recent shopping expedition to Nike – where personalising trainers was possible.

The retail genius explained, “We’re going back to the craft mentality. We had the butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker 50 years ago. Then we went to the ubiquitous supermarkets. Let’s not name them, but Tesco has made itself a pretty bland place to go and is having a tough time”.

For a multi-millionaire, he’s still very cost-conscious “Consumers are turning away from that sort of blandness and sameness. What people want is uniqueness, but uniqueness doesn’t have to cost extreme amounts of money”.

KitGuru says: The logical conclusion to what we see around us is a smartphone – biometrically encoded to one individual (think Judge Dredd’s LawGiver), which opens your house, starts your car, makes your calls and pays for all your purchases. How long before someone in authority begins pushing the message, “Cash is for criminals” ?

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