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Payments | Bil Ahmed |
11 April 2023

John Kander, legendary Broadway and film composer wrote “Money Makes the World Go Round” and this song has been used endlessly in financial services ever since. Payments plays a very important role in making our world go round, whether you’re a consumer buying something instore or online, an expat worker sending money back home, or a business buying raw materials from the other side of the world. Banking and payments go hand in hand, and banks are in the perfect position to leverage payments to create new forms of value. In this blog we’ll discuss why banks are missing a trick with payments, how banks can get creative and take more advantage of payments within their banking products.

WHY BANKS ARE FINDING IT HARD TO HARNESS THE POWER OF PAYMENTS

Historically banks have become very good at the transaction part of payments, think of capture, authorisation, and payment processing. It is reliable, secure, and fast. However, getting transactional data and exposing this as an API to a digital channel, or trying to expose payments data to other parts of your eco systems, or even just consuming payments data yourself becomes complex. The traditional banks’ platforms were never really designed to support fast moving digital products, that require constant iterations to fulfil your customer’s changing needs and demands. Also, banks annually add to their technology debt in creating work arounds when it comes to digital products. These tactical short-term fixes become fragmented and problematic integrations. Banks who have this are left to focus on the transactional part of payments, while modern digital competitors are focusing on the high value opportunities around payments.

MODERN MONEY REQUIRES FOLLOWING THE PAYMENT DATA TRAIL

We are living in very exciting times, as we witness the digitalisation of financial services. The payment aspect of this for banks is super interesting. If you take a step back and look at payments through the eyes of your customers, payments is simply a means to an end. Now this may be difficult for the die-hard payment fanatics to accept, but the actual act of payments is commoditized and just hygiene. Your customers want payments to be fast, secure and cheap, yet what is important for your customer is what happens before the payment transaction and what happens after. If you buy that premise, then payments is a snapshot of your customers’ lives, giving wonderful insights that you can learn from and use to help them. This all points to data. Making sense of your payments data is paramount if you want to be an insight driven business, and we all want our organisations to be, right? Each payment that happens in your bank is a data trail and clue to what is happening in your customers’ lives. And if you want to be awesome with modern money in the digital financial services world, you must have a systematic way of making sense of payment data across all of your banking products.

PAYMENTS & VALUE-ADDED SERVICES - THE OPPORTUNITY COST FOR BANKS

The bank account, whether you’re a consumer or business, houses all of your money coming in and going out. The concept of the account really hasn’t changed much over many decades, and some might argue it doesn’t need to, but it depends on your perspective. The payment Value Added Service (VAS) ecosystem has spawned many businesses over the last five years. FinTech, Accounting, and Enterprise Resource Planning companies are taking payment data sitting in bank accounts and are using it to try to help these account holders with what is more important to them pre and post payments. If you’re a consumer you might want help to ‘Buy wisely’ or ‘Manage expenditure’. If you’re a business, you might want help in ‘Selling more’ or ‘Run my business more efficiently.’ Since the first online banking service was launched in the US in 1994 everyone now uses online banking services. There are millions of payment transactions sitting in bank accounts and organisations other than banks are leveraging these payment insights to provide VAS, to control margins and make end users more sticky to them than the banks.

WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN FOR YOU?

Banks have been sitting on mountains of payment data that has a commercial value. Here are 3 steps to help you get on the journey of using payments data, to unlock value, and create new opportunities:

  • Step 1 - Tackle your legacy systems: Now this might be a daunting task but not if you start small, think big. Identify a use case that starts to liberate payment data in a way that allows you to standardise and normalise it so that it can be reusable for the rest of your organisation. It’s a journey that must start.
  • Step 2 - Explore your payment insights: What is the data telling you? Learning how to explore, and ideate from these insights should drive assumptions, questions, and hypotheses that need to be tested. This is a muscle that banks can develop to start harnessing the power of payments.
  • Step 3 - VAS is where banks need to play: The sooner you can enter into the VAS ecosystem of payments the better it is for you as a bank. This is where so many companies are playing and starting to own the customer experience. Banks have been the custodian of payments data for so long, by creating more VAS powered by payments data, they will also create a barrier to protect their core payment services.

Bil Ahmed

PRODUCT & TECHNOLOGY ADVISOR

Bil is an international product and technology executive, with a track record of success in fintech, banking, and payments. He has over 25 years of experience in building multiple digital product businesses, such as digital banks and global payment businesses. Bil regularly advises start-ups, scale-ups, and heritage organisations on all things products across strategy, execution, and commercialisation. Bil is a hands-on leader, with significant research experience in understanding customer needs and synthesising them into digital solutions.

 

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