Often times people speak of disruption as this traumatic thing being imposed upon them, their industry or society. Yet, if we look under the covers disruption more than likely is all about a competitor, not locked into a legacy approach, approaching the market with different tools.
The world of payments, as so many others, have implemented technology then gone on to enhance or update multiple times. Each time, someone or some group of people, had to adapt therefore invest to keep up. More often than not, a community would decide to hold on to what they built, sometime ago, hoping no one tried to disrupt the status quo.
With payment the need to embrace more effective approaches parallels the robustness and frequency of transactions. It also parallels the desire of sellers to do business with anonymous buyers. A lack of trust and a need to reduce the amount of cash we carry drove, markets to promissory notes. These promissory notes further evolved, as trusted intermediaries entered the market and created more efficient methods of providing that guarantee of payment.
Not wanting to duplicate what is already written about the history of money and payments we can jump forward through the paper phase to where we are in North America: Cash, cards, some checks and electronic debits & credits.
If we look inside the evolution of legacy. We find what we have, is a stumbling block, holding innovation back. We need to decide to adapt what exists or remove and replace.