Apple has been filling out its payments team for the past few months, poaching a number of executives from PayPal, American Express, and others — but not just to prep for Apple Pay’s launch this week. It turns out that at least some of these execs are coming on board to launch a loyalty program for Apple, solidifying our earlier report about Apple developing a pilot program with merchants.
Apple has been hiring aggressively for the past few months. Bank Innovation has learned that Apple has been attempting to poach a number of high level executives from competing tech companies with payments services (use your imagination).
PayPal and Apple all commented for this story (just kidding, they didn’t).
American Express could not be reached.
Back in the spring, Apple hired Rick Krakowski to be an iCloud product manager, with a focus on worldwide product marketing. According to LinkedIn, Krakowski was previously a product manager at American Express, where he led product management and development. At American Express, Krakowski worked on Serve, the prepaid platform, and managed a team of four senior managers “successfully launching several major platform features, user experience enhancements and high‑profile partnership capabilities leading to over five times more users on the platform in one year.” Krakowski joined Apple last April.
Also in April, Apple hired Steve Mansour from PayPal to head up engineering. Mansour has significant engineering experiences, so he may not have been brought in for payments specifically, but Mansour was most recently the senior director of engineering environments at PayPal. According to his LinkedIn, Mansour worked at eBay/PayPal to “enable highly scalable applications.”
Earlier this week, Bank Innovation reported that Apple was preparing a pilot program for merchants, potentially linked to a loyalty program. Not only have we heard that Apple has been reaching out to smaller loyalty programs for a potential acquisition, but we have also uncovered job postings that directly mention a loyalty program.
Apple is hiring a product manager to focus on global retail marketing for its loyalty program. The qualifications say that the person must have “strong knowledge of the retail environment” and experience in marketing. The description is even more telling. The position will be a part of the “greater Retail organization” and as the lead of the loyalty venture, the employee will be “a champion and expert of the Apple brand in the Loyalty space.”
Here’s a bit more from the posting:
You will play a key role in identifying new opportunities, shaping the future of loyalty programs and informing media strategy, creative direction, and messaging. With your Retail partners, you will help Apple reach its broader goals of deepening customer loyalty and fostering community… Innovate around Apple’s loyalty program strategy. Recommend and develop initiatives to sustain and evolve our loyalty programs, while maintaining fiscal responsibility.
Experts in the fintech industry, who were not permitted to speak on the record, are torn about whether an Apple loyalty program can actually succeed. There are many limitations when it comes to loyalty, since rewards are usually decided by the issuer and the merchants. Merchants, of course, are not pleased with the issuers or Apple right now — they’re not happy that Apple managed to get a discounted rate from the issuers, as Bank Innovation reported earlier.
Experts who spoke to Bank Innovation said that the most likely way of Apple launching a loyalty program would be leveraging the only asset they have that people want: iTunes media. Apple has been experimenting with pushing out free content to iOS users. Last Christmas, Apple launched a “12 Days Of Christmas” app where users were sent a free “gift” of iTunes media — whether it be an app, song, album, TV show, or movie — every day for 12 days. Just this week, Apple pushed the new U2 album to iTunes users across the world — another demonstration of the company’s ability to push free content in real time to a large number of users.
A loyalty program is ambitious for Apple, but offering free music, movies, TV shows, and apps for users who shop at Apple’s partners (remember what we wrote about Nordstrom?) is an easy way to develop a loyalty program — merchants don’t really need to give up anything and Apple can develop the program to make sure the volume of transactions continues to grow at a steady rate.
Still no word on when we can expect confirmation of this pilot program.Like This Post