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Yet the atmosphere — and attendance — at the annual conference was the sunniest in years. About 750 bank employees, consultants and vendors descended on the Fontainebleau resort in Miami Beach, sipping pineapple-flavored water and sharing post-panel cocktails on a patio overlooking the ocean.
The crowd included employees of Bank of America Corp, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, American Express, MasterCard Inc and Visa Inc, as well as other large U.S. lenders and networks.
It was the conference’s best attendance since 2008, when consumers started losing their jobs — and stopped paying credit card bills — in record numbers. As losses surged during the financial crisis, few lenders could afford either the expense or the reputation of sending employees to hobnob at a beach resort with the size and opulence of a French chateau.
But last week those employees were eager to talk about new business — and to trade tips for recouping the revenue losses of whatever regulations are finalized.
From Mercator’s view, conference participants were definitely re-engaging in the critical issues of the industry, including mobile payments, EMV, the latest debit strategies, rewards and loyalty, and fraud management, to mention a few. Competitors were not exactly spilling the beans about their planned marketing and product strategies, but there are clearly some major initiatives underway in the background. Attitudes were not unrealistic—there are clearly challenging times ahead—but the re-engagement was good to see.