January 13 was “Clean Off Your Desk Day”, in honor of de-cluttering your workspace in preparation for the new year. It’s a good time to think about just how much digital transformation is shifting everything to paperless. Whereas in the past, we may have printed a document, transferred it to its destination and waited for a response or action by the other party, that is no longer the case. From mobile apps that facilitate instant team collaboration to banks to settling cross-border transfers through blockchain, digital technologies are re-shaping every interaction. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the payments landscape, which is rapidly morphing into a user-centric, on-demand experience that can take place anytime, anywhere. However, ensuring a frictionless payment experience requires fast, secure low-latency data exchange between partners, locations, and clouds.
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Re-imagining payments in a paperless world
The key to delivering better value is real-time data exchange. Digital payment ecosystems already include a rich variety of participants that collaborate in real-time to deliver fast, secure transactions for customers. And technologies such as cloud, 5G, blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) are paving the way for new entrants to offer innovative services. Central to all of these is fast, secure and reliable data exchange between ecosystem partners. Example use cases include:
1. Digital banking upgraded: Challenger “digital native” banks like Starling and Monzo are on the rise because they are providing value-added insights and services such as integration with digital receipts and accounting systems. Taking it one step further, Monzo allows users to customize their own automations such as dropping cash into savings when they visit the gym or having a smart light in the home flash red if you are running low on cash.[i]
2. Digital receipts: Companies like Flux and Slyp are delivering retail receipts into banking applications and more. Flux offers a platform for banks and retailers to power digital receipts and rewards. The National Bank of Australia has incorporated Slyp into its mobile app to help its customers access receipts for managing spending and addressing tax requirements.[ii]
3. Paperless expense reports: Fintech startups like Brex and Divvy are providing real-time expense report systems to help businesses of all sizes. Brex underwrites the borrower based on current data to determine credit limits, enabling them to issue cards to small businesses that can’t otherwise obtain corporate credit cards. Divvy provides employees with spending cards that executives can fund instantly via a dashboard, making it easy to track corporate spending.[iii]
4. Request to pay: Fintechs are starting to close the gap in paperless billing processes with request-to-pay (RTP) functionality. RTP enables any business or individual that needs to receive payment to send an electronic payment request to the debtor account. In a click of a button, the payer can choose to pay in full, request an extension or other options. EBA Clearing, a payment infrastructure provider, launched a RTP solution in Europe with 26 payment service providers last year.[iv]
When I’m on a business trip, my boss can instantly fund pre-approved amounts for meals, hotels, etc. Once I use the card, I’m done – there’s no expense report to file because it’s all automatic. It’s a real-time process that uses insights to do just-in-time funding.
As we move to digital, it’s not just about repackaging the paper format in a non-innovative way like emailing a receipt. It’s about using the data from that receipt to provide insights and better experiences
From systems of record to systems of engagement
The shift to paperless began with exporting the paper record to an electronic format that could be accessed via a screen – for example, viewing your PDF bank statements from your mobile phone. Renowned business author Geoffrey Moore describes this as a system of record.[v] According to Moore, the next step in a digital systems maturity is a system of engagement, which leverages mobile applications and omni-channel communications to improve the customer experience and reduce transaction time. Banks and payment companies are now at this point in their paperless journey, and it involves being able to access and process data sets, which may be from different domains, in real-time. The next evolutionary phase is building systems of intelligence that can provide insights via artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). For example, a digital receipt from a grocer could automatically be sent your smart refrigerator and recipe apps to manage your supply of needed ingredients. At the same time, data from the receipt could be used by your fitness app to nudge you when you buy candy and your personal wealth finance app to suggest where you could buy same products for less. This is the sort of user experience that could not exist in a world of paper, nor could it be built with system architectures that are not designed to be interconnected to other applications in real-time.
Why digital payments need interconnection
Innovation often happens when dots are connected, and payments are no different. It’s not enough to just go paperless – businesses need to provide a better experience at speed, regardless of where (or if) the customer banks. Removing friction in the payment process and delivering value at the click of a button requires real-time collaboration and fast, secure data exchange across a dense ecosystem of partners. With more than 9,800 companies, including over 1,250 financial services firms and 2,900 cloud and IT providers, Platform Equinix® is where businesses dynamically interconnect to create new value. And an Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA™) approach can help businesses tie it all together by ensuring fast, secure, low-latency data exchange between partners, locations, clouds and things at the digital edge.
Download the Payment and Commerce Digital Edge Playbook to learn more about how private interconnection is powering Payments and other industries around the world.
[i]TechCrunch, Flux, the digital receipts and rewards platform, adds support for online takeout marketplace Just Eat, July 2019; Wired, Monzo vs Starling, Revolut and N26: The leading digital banks compared, Sept 2019.
[ii]TechCrunch, Flux, the digital receipts and rewards platform, adds support for online takeout marketplace Just Eat, July 2019; Finextra, NAB introduces mobile digital receipts with Slyp tech, Oct 2019;Mobile Payments Today.
[iii]Forbes, Two-Year Old Startup Brex Now Has A $2.6 Billion Valuation, June 2019; Venture Beat, Divvy closes $200 million venture round, third in 12 months for fintech dynamo, Apr 2019.
[iv]Fintech Futures, EBA Clearing launches request to pay solution for Europe, Sept 2019.
[v]Geoffrey Moore, Digital Systems Maturity Model, via LinkedIn Pulse, May 2017.