Iowa's Place in the Payment Revolution

Sep 15, 2016

Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Samsung Pay, Venmo -- the cutting-edge payment options of today are in our pockets, if not in our wallets. Before we had technological access to our bank accounts, there was a more rudimentary barrier to jump: getting money regardless of what bank or ATM was available. 

That's where Shazam, a Des Moines-based company, came in. In the mid-70s, they developed a system  that allowed banks to verify the person was good for the money, and subsequently pay out the requested amount. It started as a way for rural community banks in Iowa to remain viable. Now, it works everywhere in the U.S.

"Today, Shazam provides financial services to about 1200 institutions in 38 states. We process in excess of a billion transactions every year, and we route and process transactions throughout the entire country,"  says Terry Dooley, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Shazam and son of the company's founder.

Shazam turned fifty this year. Along the way, they've made history, creating the first EBT card for food stamps in the country, and facilitating the first point-of-sale transaction (aka, using a debit card at a place of business). 

Though the future marches on, and technology has invaded payment processing like it's invaded every other sector, Tony Townsend, Associate Professor of management information systems in Iowa State University’s college of business, says plastic forms of payment aren't going anywhere. 

"Credit cards serve as a coin of the realm; cash continues to be big because people still want some measure of anonymity. It just doesn’t die because it serves its function."

In this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Townsend and Dooley about the future of money. Jeff Gore, President and Founder of Citizens to Retire the Penny, also joins the conversation.