As payment methods continue to evolve at a rapid pace, so too is the relationship between financial acquirers and merchants. The system between the two is feeling increasingly outdated, worn, and tired, and if acquirers are to face any possibility of reprieve, they must urgently rethink the type of service they’re offering.
This viewpoint is shared by Ciaran Chu, who holds the position of Head of Cloud at the American payment systems company ACI Worldwide. In this guest post for The Fintech Times, Ciaran identifies the global shift in payment technology, and discusses the practical solutions prominent industry acquirers can make to not only better their services, but to also improve their market position post-Covid.
Alternative payment methods have experienced exponential growth as a result of the pandemic, finally removing cash and cheques’ hold over consumer purchasing. This paradigm shift is having an impact on the power dynamics in the payments landscape.
Last year saw 3.2 billion mobile wallet transactions made in the UK, representing a year-on-year growth of 25.5%, with mobile wallet adoption rising to a historic 46% globally; according to ACI Worldwide’s Prime Time for Real-Time report.
The accelerated timeline for the launch of new consumer payments methods globally, such as “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) and digital wallets, means that all stakeholders in the ecosystem – especially acquirers like Visa, MasterCard, and American Express – have their work cut out for them.
Acquirers will play a central role in the new real-time ecosystem, and could potentially come out on top when the dust settles in the post-pandemic payments landscape. However, this outcome relies on acquirers making some smart moves in the coming months and years.
Accelerating Opportunities for Acquirers
In recent years, banks have been getting rid of their acquiring operations, viewing them as low-margin utility businesses. But, for new payment systems like FedNow in the U.S. or the European Payments Initiative (EPI) to be a success, acquirers must bring new services to market to capture, process, and reconcile new alternative payment methods for merchants.
Acquirers need to be ready to provide acceptance, processing, and settlement services to merchants. Or alternative payment methods, including those based on real-time or instant payments, will struggle to achieve critical mass in the consumer purchasing space. Solving for this link in the value chain is the key to capitalising on digital payments potential.
Battling Real-Time Barriers
The challenge for many acquirers today is that they are connected to multiple legacy payments gateway systems. Legacy systems lack the flexibility needed for the ever-changing requirements of global merchants, meaning many acquirers cannot rapidly adapt to emerging market trends, as they are burdened by higher maintenance, development, and operational costs.
By harnessing real-time payments infrastructure, acquirers can handle new and alternative payment methods. There’s a real opportunity to achieve rapid growth by offering merchants new eCommerce services through the cloud, leveraging network flexibility and connectivity, and enabling the seamless, fast, and secure payment processes their customers rightly deserve.
Harnessing real-time can also optimise revenue and protect cash flow. For instance, acquirers can guard against chargeback risks and enhance decision making – such as balancing when and what they pay merchants – through added-value data. The result is smarter and more effective decisions that help to improve cash flow.
Likewise, real-time infrastructure can transform the merchant experience for the better. With far more access to data, merchants can tailor customer experiences and adopt alternative payment processes to meet the changing nature of consumer purchasing.
There is a huge opportunity for acquirers to dominate payments and become the linchpin for the whole ecosystem to work. But they need to make some smart moves, and provide the real-time infrastructure merchants need to enable alternative payment methods so they can meet their consumers’ needs. If acquirers can do this, they will ultimately come out on top in the new world of payments.