2018 marked a competitive and eventful year in the payments industry, with digital payments swelling, tensions over interchange fees escalating, the number of records impacted by data breaches surging, and mobile banking becoming nearly ubiquitous in the US. Across industries, firms have been forced to diversify their offerings to become more competitive and meet demands for speed and simplicity propelled by rising smartphone penetration, regulatory tension, and digitizing consumer habits. Based on these developments, our proprietary research, and industry trends we’re continuing to see unfold into 2019, here are our top five predictions for the payments industry in the year ahead:

1. Amazon will launch a full-scale payments or banking product in 2019. Though Amazon isn't new to payments, several recent moves indicate a much more concerted push into the payments and banking industry, which we believe will culminate in a 2019 service launch. Most notably, it’s rumored the firm is in early-stage talks with banks, including Capital One and JPMorgan Chase, about a partnership for a checking account-like service — a move that could allow Amazon to scale into the space without waiting to apply for a banking license. Amazon has also been building out other payments services — like its cash top-up service that makes it easier for un- and underbanked users to access Amazon, as well as a debit card in Mexico — while aggressively working to recruit merchants to Amazon Pay and weighing a brick-and-mortar push for the service.

Combined, Amazon's moves indicate a push not only to develop a product, but to find a network and user base for it as well, making a near-term launch likely. Amazon's massive reach and strong customer loyalty would aid in this launch: Sixty-five percent of Prime users would be willing to try Amazon online banking, a number that remains as high as 37% among non-Prime members, according to Bain & Company. As Amazon continues to target Gen Z — a group less likely to have credit cards or access to traditional banking services, and more likely to prefer digital or alternative financial services — it could be easy to garner an audience. For the firm, launching a [...]