Behavioural change takes patience
Technically, such an application is already available today. However, it will probably take some time before the app gains traction. First, the smartphone needs to become more widely recognised as a payment tool. There are already many people who use this new technology and integrate it into their daily lives. “Twint is clearly the leader here in Switzerland, with 800,000 registered users. But as always, the broad masses will only jump on the bandwagon once they get the feeling that everyone else is doing it that way,” says Kneissler. Until then, patience is needed.
By way of comparison, he gives the example of contactless payment with a credit card. In fact, this is merely a function that was added later on to an otherwise well-established means of payment, i.e. plastic. “More and more people are now paying by simply swiping their card along the side of the terminal instead of inserting it into the slot. However, this contrivance was launched already seven years ago – and in the first several years, the adoption rate was low,” says the Twint boss. Unlike in Asia or Scandinavia, it just takes longer in Switzerland for innovations to gain a foothold in the market.
Ambivalent attitude towards anonymity
The fact that innovative payment methods frequently meet with scepticism has mainly to do with concerns about security or the loss of anonymity. However, this hesitance is at odds with the behaviour of the local population in other matters. “Compared to foreign consumers, the number of Swiss who are members of a merchant’s loyalty programme is indeed large,” notes Kneissler. This type of data provides far deeper insight into one’s private life and personal proclivities than his mobile payment application ever could. And when it comes to social media, many users voluntarily relinquish their anonymity. “Just take a look at how people usually behave and it becomes clear that this scepticism is hardly warranted, especially since Twint consistently applies the security standards of Swiss banks,” he argues. “Of all mobile payment methods, Twint is the safest. This also applies to data protection, because with Twint you needn’t disclose highly personal data such as your credit card number and CVV code when transacting online.”
“Today’s high degree of mobility is a blessing as well a curse for me as a boss.”
No rest for the weary (almost)
On the whole, though, people seem to be quite amenable to digitalisation. The majority own a smartphone and have a private Internet connection. Things that used to take several hours to accomplish are now done in a few seconds. “But along with that, life has also become much faster-paced and hectic than ever before,” sighs the Twint CEO. People end up being reachable anywhere, anytime, and often forget to take a step back and question whether everything absolutely needs to be done immediately. “I try to draw the lines as best as possible,” says Kneissler. Nevertheless, the more tumultuous his day-to-day work becomes, the less he succeeds in doing so. Even during holidays he can’t let go completely. “I do my best to keep to a fixed schedule, and devote myself to work when duty calls,” he says. The father of two rejects constant availability. He also tries to instil this philosophy in his children. Evenings, the electronic gizmos stay in the kitchen. Hopefully.
Mobility – a blessing and a curse
Work life without at least some aspect of digitalisation has become unimaginable these days – and Kneissler has put the paperless office into actual practice: thanks to his notebook and smartphone, he works from any location and no longer needs his own workplace with a nameplate on the door and a rubber tree plant in the corner. Like his other employees, he uses one of the free desks in the Bern offices of Twint situated in a former co-op creamery. Communication takes place via email, instant messenger or telephone conference – and much more frequently than before. However: “This high degree of mobility is a blessing as well a curse for me as a boss,” he says. For this reason, he tries to ensure that as many participants as possible are physically present at management board meetings. Managing decentralised teams requires a great deal of trust. Since there are fewer control possibilities due to the distances involved, 100 per cent faith in the reliability of the team is an absolute must. Accordingly, Kneissler is exceedingly thorough in the selection of partners with whom he wants to work.
Learning responsible comportment
All in all, Kneissler believes the advantages of digitalisation far outweigh the downsides – and those plus points will likely increase as time passes. Especially in terms of healthcare and mobility, he expects to see significant progress: “In 20 years, we’ll probably no longer have cars of our own, and this will have a considerable influence on the cityscape,” says the devoted public transport user. And ultimately, the leisure industry should also be a beneficiary as people gradually have more time to themselves thanks to digitalisation. “However, whether we use those extra hours for self-realisation or instead piddle them away in the social media space is an entirely different question,” he adds. As always, when something is new and habits change dramatically, people must first learn to deal with the novelty responsibly. “There will no doubt be excesses that need to be corrected,” he’s convinced. But one thing is clear to Kneissler: people won’t want to go back.
Short questions – short answers
Background image on smartphone:
Photo of Kneissler and his family ascending Mount Fuji early in the morning
Dream profession as a child:
“Pilot (but that dream faded quickly)”
Steps along the way:
“Primary/secondary school, high school, business studies. My interest in banking led to an initial job at a cantonal bank and then to Postfinance.”
First mobile phone:
“Sony Ericsson, a red model, relatively compact. I don’t recall the exact model, but I was one of the few who didn’t own a Nokia.”