I’ve just returned from the Money 20/20 conference located at the Aria in Las Vegas this year. It was a fantastic conference with over 7500 attendees and over 62% of the attendees were VP or above. The sessions covered virtual currencies, mostly centered around Bitcoin, loyalty, mobility and governance. I’d like to share my top 5 observations from the conference.

1. Apple Pay is going to be big….really big. The amount of interest and participation in any session that covered Apple Pay was unbelievable. The session called “Apple Picking” (at the end of the day, mind you) had a session description led by “Is Apply Pay a 10-year old technology or the beginning of a new platform for consumer engagement?” This session was filled to the brim – standing room only. For an announcement that’s only been in the public eye for months, my take is that there is a strong belief that Apple Pay applies the right ease of customer use with security to be massively successful. The word of the day was “tokenization.” Followed by the second word of the day – “Apple.”

2. Companies want open API access to banking and payment services. The attendance of the session, “Planet of the APIs: Making Banking and Payments Programmable” was a shock to the panel – again standing room only. Multiple panelists stated that, if this session was offered two years ago, there would be about….10 people in the room. While the session was not that technical, the hunger for safe, open access to banking and payment to expand business was clear. There was much discussion among the panel around whether too many APIs or a standardized API was the right approach. Doesn’t matter. Companies want their banking and payment APIs. The closed walls around banking are crumbling.

3. Bitcoin’s technology has an excellent chance of being adopted. Notice I used the word “technology” versus “currency.” Bitcoin is an intriguing technology. In one of the Bitcoin keynotes, the idea of “side chains” was discussed – essentially allowing alternate digital currencies to flow via the technology. This is an interesting example of a technology that could be widely leveraged to apply to loyalty points for redemption and transfer across different parties.

4. Mobile stays at the forefront of thought leadership. There was a lot of discussion about customer experience at the conference. While some experts disagreed with the speed of adoption around mobile payment, no one disputed the fact that mobile smartphones are a game changer around customer experience. Multiple sessions showcased technologies like BLE/beacons and improved lift via Apple Passbook/ Google Wallet enabled dynamic couponing. The consumer’s life is changing for the better via mobility.

5. Retailers will adopt technology when either their consumers are screaming for it or if it achieves a business benefit almost immediately. Multiple retailers reminded the audience of startup technologists that a retailer will not be on the bleeding edge of technology for technology’s sake. Consumers need to be pushing the retailer – not vice versa. In addition, security is an equal priority to speed, reliability and ease of use. Having said that, there were retailers at the conference who are pushing forward with mobile payment, couponing – even the use of IBM’s Watson technology to improve consumer product search across a large catalog of SKUs. These technologies were adopted because of consumer demand and/or quick ROI on the implementation of the solution.

Money 20/20 was a fantastic conference that I’d recommend to any company that has direct B2C interactions. The quality of participants and content was “off the charts” high. It’s rare that you find a conference where you actually learn something.

Money 20/20 is one of those rare conferences. I’ll be going back next year.