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P20 Atlanta conference to be center of global payments world

The city of Atlanta will play host to Payments 20, a conference of the elite electronic transactions companies and regulators from the U.S., England and Canada in what’s been dubbed by organizers as the “Davos of payments.”

The P20 conference, as it’s known for short, is in its second year, and comes to Atlanta after its inaugural conference last year in London. On Wednesday at the Atlanta History Center, about 200 top global executives and government officials will discuss some of the key issues in payments technology, including regulatory issues between North America and the U.K and cybersecurity.

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Payments are a critical and often overlooked part of the global economy. Georgia is the payments capital of the U.S., processing some 70 percent of all debit, credit and gift card transaction in the nation each year, according to the American Transaction Processors Coalition. London is a global financial hub and also bills itself as the financial technology, or FinTech, capital of the world.

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H. West Richards, P20 president and founder, and executive director of ATPC, said the conference was born for Atlanta and London to help drive the conversation about the future of payments technology and how to conduct business around the world.

How consumers pay today — by and large with a piece of plastic — is likely to change in the years ahead as smartphones become more sophisticated and ingrained in society. Consumers also are engaged in more online purchasing. That’s not to mention the potential of virtual currencies like Bitcoin.

At a launch party for this year’s conference at the Holland & Knight law firm in February, Richards called the U.K. America’s “natural partners.”

“America could not have a better partner,” he said. “They are the ones who have set a great example to move this industry forward.”

Bruce Lowthers, chief operating officer of payments giant FIS and the conference’s chairman, said this year’s conference will focus on how to streamline regulation to ensure the industry on both sides of the Atlantic can continue to innovate and make products for businesses and consumers more efficient. He said protecting the global payment systems from cyber threats is also a key priority.

Last year, Equifax, the Atlanta-based credit reporting company, was breached in one of the nation’s worst cyber thefts. The threat from hackers, whether from foreign adversaries or criminal gangs, is a daunting issue that’s required coordination between payments companies and government.

“What’s really great about what this group represents, if we’re going to make change, we’ve got everyone in the room we need to make change,” Lowthers said.

On Wednesday, the conference will present the results of a cyber war game that tested the resiliency of the financial technology companies’ networks.

Companies that are expected to be represented include American Express, Visa, Mastercard, FIS, First Data, TSYS, Fiserv, Incomm and Worldpay.

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron will be one of the featured speakers to address the geopolitical climate and the FinTech industry.

Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms are among the local political leaders expected to speak.

Hala Moddelmog, CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, said FinTech is one of the region’s most important industries. The state has developed curricula to help drive a talent pipeline to attract new FinTech and cybersecurity companies.

The conference will offer corporate recruiters from Atlanta and the state to show off the region’s FinTech muscle, she said. It’ll also open the door for new customers and vendor relationships and potential new sources of foreign investment.

“We’ve got density and concentration in the FinTech vertical,” she said. “We can own it.”

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