James Booth, VP Head of Partnerships, EMEA at PPRO
It’s January 2022. Countries around the world are teeming with life again. Roads and trains are packed with employees commuting to work. High street retailers are seeing foot traffic, and restaurants are gearing up for flocks of hungry patrons. After a continued global effort to flatten the curve and months of social distancing, COVID-19 is finally in the rear-view. People around the world are relieved to be back to life as it was, but will things ever truly be the same?
COVID-19 shook the global economy as the largest pandemic since the Spanish flu in the early 20th century. Social distancing drastically shifted consumer behaviour and introduced a new set of challenges to stores and shoppers alike. But, as humanity has always done, we came together, adapted, and innovated.
We’ve entered a more stable 2022, adjusted to a new normal, and now we’re pausing to reflect on what we’ve just overcome. Let’s take a closer look at how payments and global commerce have changed in the last 18 months.
Monumental (and Permanent) Changes in Shopping Habits
COVID-19 was a major accelerator in the shift to digital for most of us; how we take classes, do our jobs, connect with friends, and definitely how we shop. Online shopping had already been the norm with Gen Z and Millennials, but COVID-19 served as the inflection point for older demographics and slow adopters. Gen X and Baby Boomers are often reluctant to change their habits, but 2020 disrupted the status quo for nearly all aspects of life. Throughout 2020, discretionary spending dropped due to a surge in unemployment rates, but e-commerce is now enjoying an all-time high thanks to its inherent convenience.
COVID-19 revealed a structural problem in our reliance on big-box retailers. At first, consumers suffered shortages of goods and frustrating checkout experiences, but big businesses responded with unprecedented agility. They quickly made improvements to overcome the new challenges of the market. Because of social distancing, many brick-and-mortar retailers were forced to go online for the first time. This was enabled by various e-commerce plug-and-play platforms that allowed small retailers or sole traders to sell online in a matter of days.
The market became a cornucopia of choice for the consumer. Millions of people who had previously resisted e-commerce – particularly for fast-moving consumer goods such as groceries – signed up with e-commerce sites. Post-pandemic, few of us have gone back to old shopping habits.
A Flood of Fierce Competition
The rapid, sustained increase in online shopping created an interesting challenge for merchants. More consumers meant higher earning potential, but it also meant more competition in the marketplace. To stand out, merchants are applying new rigor and attention to customer and user experience. Brick-and-mortar stores have largely become showrooms or click-and-collect points. Retailers have invested in connecting digital experiences to the physical using robust augmented or virtual reality and immersive experiences.
As a result of the increased quality in the market, consumers (who were already insisting on intuitive user journeys pre-pandemic) now have zero tolerance for sites that are not at least easy to use. When it comes to that all-important payment experience – the make or break moment of conversion – it’s critical to have checkout flows that feel invisible for digital natives, yet inspire trust for those late-adopters.
Local Payment Methods Continue to Drive ‘Glocalization’
In 2020, COVID-19 drove consumers to look outside their immediate geography for goods and services. Major drivers of this included price point, quality of products, and availability due to global supply chain challenges. The opportunity for merchants to sell across their borders became even greater, and acted as a solution to bridge revenue gaps and increase reach to an entirely new, global audience. Now, in 2022, most large and medium-sized retailers are selling across borders.
While it’s become easy to navigate logistics around the world, collecting funds in other markets is still an entirely different story. Like all aspects of culture, payment preferences vary from country to country. Surprising to Americans and Brits is that not all e-commerce is paid for with big brand credit cards. In fact, over 70% of global e-commerce is powered by over 450 local payment methods (which is why the misnomer ‘alternative’ has swapped for ‘local’ in recent years). Indeed, e-wallets like Alipay, WeChat Pay, and GrabPay dominate payments in Asia – now more than ever.
Offering local payment methods (LPMs) has always been a critical part of boosting conversion across borders. During the pandemic, as consumers clung more tightly to their money, the demand for payment methods that were familiar and trusted only increased.
How the Local Payments Landscape Changed During COVID-19
The payment needs and preferences of global consumers still vary from country to country. In fact, they are more diverse than ever. Still, a global trend has been the accelerated shift from traditional cash and card payments toward digital payment methods at the point of sale. Out of social distancing necessity, the pandemic led to increased use of contactless, digital payment methods like mobile e-wallets, bank transfers, and QR codes. Many retailers, particularly in the US, who have long resisted installing contactless technology due to processing fees have now been compelled to offer it.
When it comes to shopping online, installment payment methods like Klarna and Afterpay have surged in use, as they enabled shoppers suffering from the economic impacts of COVID-19 to defer payments and still buy what they wanted. Before the pandemic, apps like these were primarily used by younger demographics to break up payments on big-ticket items, luxury goods, and travel. Many consumers now prefer a ‘buy now, pay later’ option.
During the pandemic, cash obviously circulated less as brick-and-mortar retailers closed or implemented digital payment methods to avoid contact. In 2022, the markets that have remained predominantly digital are markets that had low cash use before the pandemic: the US, UK, Western Europe, and large parts of Asia. Cash-based payment methods remain popular for some economies around the world (especially places in Latin America, where there are high percentages of unbanked consumers). But make no mistake: We are closer to a completely cashless society in 2022 than we have ever been.
Innovation in a Time of Crisis
Even before 2020, the proliferation of local payment methods was only set to increase. Now, in a world that faced a pandemic that made e-commerce a necessity, we’ve seen an explosion of new fintechs, local payment methods, and product functionalities. Legacy providers struggle to keep up as new players create integrated, easier-to-use, and more secure options for consumers.
But while there’s more competition than ever, there’s also a new spirit of cooperation and collaboration. Rivals have joined forces to innovate for global consumers. COVID-19 incentivized businesses to provide simple solutions for people stressed by a pandemic. ‘Coopetition’ fueled complex advancements in payments tech.
Despite the havoc wreaked on the global economy, it’s come out stronger than before. In 2022, e-commerce continues to be a powerful force for good. Many consumers have new ways to shop, and retailers now have access to larger, global audiences. Small merchants have a bigger share of the local market and are now able to compete on the same level as big-box retailers.
Before COVID-19 upturned life as we knew it, 2020 sounded so futuristic; there were endless thought pieces in January 2020 on how the internet and AI were taking over. But, as it turned out, technology has become one of humanity’s greatest gifts, enabling us to connect, keep working, and get access to the goods and services we need.
ENLISTING TECHNOLOGY TO HELP FIGHT FINANCIAL CRIME
By Rachel Woolley, Director of Financial Crime Fenergo
Million-dollar properties, private jets and parties on luxury yachts with celebrity friends. Although it might sound like the plot for a new reality series, this is what corruption, illicit funds and political connections can buy at the expense of ordinary citizens.
Following an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), thousands of leaked documents, known as the Luanda Leaks, suggest that the daughter of Angola’s former president, Isabel Dos Santos, acquired her enormous wealth through favourable access to lucrative deals. These activities were often to the detriment of Angola’s poorest citizens.
We’ve also started to see the application of unexplained wealth orders (UWO) in the UK, with the first UWO issued in 2018. The latest UWOs relate to the grandson of Kazakhstan’s former president, Nurali Aliyev, is currently being investigated by Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) to explain where he got the money to buy a £80 million house in one of London’s most expensive neighbourhoods. It is thought that the funds used to buy the property have criminal origins.
But these aren’t isolated stories. There have been countless examples in recent years of how corruption, fraud and political connections has resulted in billions of dollars being stolen worldwide in countries such as Brazil, Malaysia, Gabon, Russia and many more.
A recent report by Fenergo found that regulators have issued over $36 billion in AML/KYC and sanctions-related fines (and rising) since the financial crisis. This staggering number shows that related financial institutions had inadequate policy, processes, procedures and systems, in addition to poor governance and oversight in many cases. Interestingly, a similar report found that the vast majority of these regulatory costs were associated with an AML/KYC-specific labour force.
Not surprisingly, the methods used to hide the illicit wealth are pretty similar; invoice fraud, suspicious transfers, offshore companies and complex ownership structures to disguise beneficial ownership of assets and property. Another commonality is the detrimental impact this has on some of the poorest citizens in these countries and the global economy.
But what can we learn from these scandals? And perhaps more importantly, what can be done?
For financial institutions, the importance of leveraging technology to unwrap complex hierarchies, related parties and identifying individuals with political connections cannot be understated. Understanding the ownership and control structure when onboarding entities is critical, along with robust screening practices to enable sufficient oversight of the relationship, accounts and transaction activity. Enhanced due diligence measures must be applied to politically exposed persons (PEPs), their immediate family members and known close associates. Relationship patterns are also significant, as the same service providers are often used, as was the case with Mossack Fonseca in the Panama Papers scandal.
It’s critical that financial institutions are vigilant in the detection and prevention of financial crime before it’s too late. By automating KYC/AML compliance and leveraging rules-based technology, financial institutions can ensure that internal policies are fully in-line with constantly changing regulations across multiple jurisdictions. However, human input will still be necessary when red flags are identified by the system.
Rachel Woolley, Global AML Manager at Fenergo, has over 10 years’ experience in the Financial Services industry having worked primarily in the funds industry and retail banking. She has a strong background in regulatory compliance, particularly in the areas of anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing (AML/CTF).
Rachel holds a BSc (Hons) Degree in Applied Accounting from the Oxford Brookes University and is an ACCA Affiliate. She currently holds three professional designations; Licentiate of the Association of Compliance: Officers in Ireland (LCOI), Certified Financial Crime Prevention Practitioner (CFCPP) and Certified Data Protection Officer (CDPO).
CONSUMERS ARE READY FOR BIOMETRIC PAYMENT CARDS
Lina Andolf-Orup, Head of Marketing at Fingerprints
We’ve come a long way in the evolution of digital payments. Magnetic stripe cards, chip & PIN and contactless technology have all played a role in dethroning cash as ‘king of payments’, with many countries well on their way to becoming cashless economies. As with all tech innovation, though, consumer readiness is always the deciding factor in the crowning of new payments royalty.
Now there’s a new technology on the block, ready to help contactless offer even more value: the biometric payment card. In recent years, biometric payment cards have been steadily gathering momentum, currently being trialled by over 20 banks across the world, with the first commercial launch announced last year. A mass-market roll-out is imminent.
But with all the noise from the payments world, it’s important to answer the de facto question that’s key to any technology’s success: are consumers ready?
Contactless is (almost) king
Contactless has achieved great success globally, and are now seeing a steep increase across the world.
In addition to consumers being frustrated with having to remember a plethora of PINs and passwords, the current pandemic has also brought to light the unhygienic nature of cash and PIN-enabled payments. Now more than ever, consumers are eager to use a secure, convenient, and hygienic payment method. And contactless almost fits the bill.
Although consumers want to use their contactless card more often, security worries, payment experience frustrations, and the limiting payment cap are all preventing the card from reaching its full potential usage.
The missing link
This is where biometrics comes into play: the missing element that can take contactless into the era of worriless and limitless payments, and provide consumers an experience they expect in the 21st century. With consumers clear about what they want, let’s take a look at what’s top of their checklist and how biometrics can fill in the gaps to realize their ideal payment experience.
- Smarter, safer contactless. Just for you.
Security is a primary concern for consumers when it comes to contactless, with 38% of consumers citing security as the main reason they are hesitant to use the payment method. For older generations, this number rises to almost 50%.Yet with hygiene concerns at an all-time high, many consumers aren’t eager to use PIN-pads to secure their payments either. By moving the authentication onto the card itself, biometrics secure payments in a way that allows consumers to never touch a PIN pad again.
With the rise of data privacy concerns, consumers can rest assured that their biometric data never leaves the card and won’t be shared with third parties or cloud-based databases. Everything remains securely stored on the payment card itself.
- Let’s talk about UX
Although every generation is keen to use contactless more, millennials are especially eager to take greater advantage of this convenient payment method. 87% of millennials that own a contactless card use it regularly and three quarters are set to use it more often.
Biometrics bring additional trust to contactless payments, while keeping the same level of convenience, allowing consumers to make a secure payment in less than a second. And with a unified experience so you know what to expect every time you pay; not PIN code sometime, contactless another time, it always works the same no matter where you are in the world.
Because a biometric payment card does not need to be charged – it’s powered from the payment terminal in the same way traditional contactless is – there is nothing standing in the way of efficiency-loving consumers embracing this technology.
- Contactless made limitless
To offset the lack of PIN security, traditional contactless payments are capped. In light of the current hygiene concerns, countries around the world have already raised contactless payment caps in a bid to reduce PIN entry and cash use. But without any additional strong authentication, the limit has not been lifted completely anywhere to date. This is not only frustrating consumers, but our recent research found this was the primary frustration banks felt regarding contactless.
With the touch of a finger, biometrics brings the robust security needed to remove contactless payment limits altogether. Across contactless cards, mobile, wearables – and even future payment options – biometrics can provide a strong and seamless authentication solution to however we choose to pay or whatever contactless form or shape. Limitless payments with a harmonized UX, wherever consumers are, however much they spend, and wherever they pay: the perfect companion in the age of convenience.
- Tech nation
A less pressing, although by no means trivial matter, is that consumers are simply ready for something new. Over a third of consumers want to use more modern and personal payment cards, and biometrics sits alongside metal cards, tailored designs and other innovations to do just that. Not to mention that the standard contactless card, the last great innovation in card payments, is now over a decade old!
Featuring the latest fingerprint sensors and an advanced algorithm with AI, biometric payment cards not only meet the criteria for a modern and next-generation payment card but offer the most personal touch imaginable. Your fingerprint.
- Ready to roll…
We’ve arrived at a crucial point in the evolution of payments. With the technology tested and accredited in line with the rigorous standards of the payments ecosystem, the mass market adoption of this technology is just around the corner. But most importantly, consumers have never been more ready to embrace limitless and worriless contactless.
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