Nick Corrigan, UK&I Managing Director & President, Global Payments
Last month, my favourite local pub switched to offering only delivery of food, beers and craft beers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through two world wars, Britain’s pubs stayed open, but have now been forced to evaluate, and drastically change, their business models — a true indication of the unprecedented times we’re living in.
Like the pubs in Britain, many other merchants and retailers are also facing similar difficulties, particularly those primarily focused on face-to-face business. These businesses are not alone, and amidst these uncertain times, there are ways in which businesses can continue driving forward.
Understanding the terminology
It’s important to start by first understanding the different types of payment terminology in order to navigate which types are the best way to connect with customers during this challenging time.
Card present payments are those where the physical card — or device in the case of mobile wallet payments — is presented in person by inserting a card into a terminal or ‘tapping’ a card, watch or phone for contactless payments. Previously, in some cases, customers regularly signed a receipt or pin pad during checkout. Now, however, many customers and employees no longer want to touch a keypad, pen or stylus to provide those signatures.
Card not present payments are those where the physical card or device is not present in person, but instead, the card data is transmitted and processed digitally through other means, like when your customer enters a card number in a payment form online. In this social distancing landscape, many businesses realise that to keep their employees and consumers safe, they need to start, or increase the use of, card not present transactions.
Commerce channels are the mediums in which commerce can happen. For example: ecommerce (online and in app or browser via mobile phone), face-to-face, over the phone or social selling. With limits and restrictions on face-to-face channels, businesses are utilising, or switching quickly, to these other commerce channels.
Explore these 5 ways to accept payments during COVID-19
More and more, people are confined to their homes because of stay-at-home orders around the world. So, if businesses are already accepting payments online, now is a great time to ramp up. For those that aren’t, this is the optimal time to start. Part of online payments strategies can include reaching customers, and delivering products, through social networks.
To establish and set up an online presence, two things typically need to be done: build an ecommerce website from scratch, or utilise a 3rd-party software, commonly referred to as a shopping cart. Building an ecommerce site from the ground up is, of course, a much larger undertaking in terms of time, money and technical capability. Conversely, the use of a shopping cart lends itself to faster and easier implementation.
There are benefits to each option, which can be explored with payments partners, but in either scenario, any online payments solution needs to come equipped with robust fraud prevention capabilities and strong data security features to lower potential risk and better protect the business.
There are a few different ways to take orders over the phone to reduce or eliminate physical interaction with customers. The easiest and most cost-effective is with existing points of sale. Many point of sale solutions can be utilised to process phone payments.
And although credit card payments over the phone are not a new concept, there is still some unease due to the risk that the person on the other end of the line is not the cardholder or an authorised user of the card. However, tools like Address Verification and CVV Codes can help minimise fraud when in-person payments are not possible.
If businesses are looking for a card not present payment type that offers the convenience of paying over the phone, but with another layer of security, a pay-by-link solution could be an option. Pay-by-link technology allows the merchant to send a customer a secure payment link while on the phone to ultimately provide them with an ecommerce checkout experience.
Additionally, there are other payment solutions like virtual terminals that facilitate phone payments. With a virtual terminal, businesses can easily authorise, process and manage card payments in real time. Through this technology, they can retain payment details for one-off or regular future transactions and issue refunds from a secure, hosted payment page in their browser.
In-app and in-browser mobile wallet payments
For those already accepting online payments, the customers’ experience can be enhanced with online mobile wallet payments. In fact, many of today’s consumers are comfortable with – and even prefer – using mobile wallet payments like Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.
These types of payments offer a safe, secure and convenient way for customers to pay online or via mobile technology. Through this payment type, conversion rates can be increased and abandoned shopping carts eliminated by allowing customers to check out seamlessly without needing to enter payment, delivery or contact information after their first purchase.
Have a need to offer recurring payments service to customers? Credential-on-file payments allows a merchant to store customer credit card details on file for repeat online payments. This technology saves valid cardholder details in a secure vault and enables them to automatically schedule payments to reduce manual workload and enhance the customers’ payment experience.
When looking for a credential-on-file payment solution, it must provide the security and flexibility needed to protect the business and improve the customer experience. For example, look for options that offer strong fraud prevention, card management and tokenisation capabilities.
During this pandemic, people are looking for fast, easy and efficient ways to exchange funds in a business-to-business setting. For businesses that use invoicing as a form of payment collection, digital accounts payable solutions are a viable option to streamline the payment process and eliminate the physical need for invoices and cheques.
Through these “virtual invoices,” payments can be accepted instantly and electronically, without dealing with the physical limitations of traditional invoicing. When evaluating an electronic invoicing solution, businesses must look for those that have the technology to truly automates the invoicing process to reap the full benefits of this payment type.
As businesses continue to navigate today’s uncharted waters, innovative payments methods will be at the heart of ensuring they can continue serving and staying connected to customers.
TIPS TO PROTECT YOUR CASHFLOW DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
By Rita Cool, Certified Financial Planner at Alexander Forbes Financial Planning Consultants
The full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is as yet unknown, but individuals have already begun to have their lives disrupted by the country’s economic shutdown, with retrenchments, salary cuts and forced unpaid leave making them take stock of their financial position.
The basic principles of financial planning are especially relevant at this time, but in the short term, cash flow is more important to many people.
To help safeguard you and your family’s financial security, here are some tips to follow to make sure you’re making your money work hard for you:
- Draw up a budget – this is especially relevant if you’re worried about possible retrenchment of yourself or your partner. This will help you know how much you need to cover your basic living expenses and where you can save money. Don’t only look at what you need to spend money on, but also when you think you will need that money. Perhaps you paid school fees upfront at the beginning of the year, or your car registration is only due again next year.
- Check your bank fees. Are you in the best structure for your needs? Are you paying for services that you never use? Consider moving banks to get a better deal.
- Banks have waived the Saswitch fee payable for withdrawing cash at another ATM other than your own bank, but if you’re doing this, be aware of when this switches back as you can end up paying almost double the bank fees.
- Did you know that you start paying interest immediately if you draw cash from a credit card and that you do not get three or six months’ interest free?
- Go through your house while you have extra time and identify potential items which you could sell, as this will free up cash.
- Where possible, pay cash for items as the interest rate on hire purchase items is very high and you pay around 20% more for those items than the sticker price. If you cannot afford the item and you don’t need it right now, wait.
- Look around for bargains online rather than driving around. There are some good sales on, and you can support businesses that need your help.
- At the same time, be aware of spending extra cash you could be saving towards your financial safety net. There are lots of deals available, so balance the need for the 70% off bikini or new laptop with being cautious about the future.
- Use store coupons and discount vouchers. The main food retailers have loyalty programme structures that can be tailored to your specific spending patterns. Make sure you claim point or vouchers but look out for monthly costs to belong to a rewards program. Ask yourself if your monthly savings validate the cost. Optimally a reward scheme shouldn’t cost you money.
- Check with your insurance company if your premium can be reduced because you’re driving less during lockdown.
- Check your current insurances. Do an insurance rebroke. Make sure you are covered for what you need and take things off the list that you do not have any more and add what you have bought since the last update. Make sure you are not under or over insured and that your premium is market related. The cheapest premium isn’t always the best so be aware of exclusions and excesses and make sure you can afford the excess if you need to claim.
- In most cases you can reduce your monthly insurance premiums by not having a cash pay-out in the future. If you want a pay-out, save the extra premium in an investment product, not a risk product.
- Be wary of consolidating debt. You might pay a lower interest rate but it might well be over a longer period so the total interest paid will be higher. If you have debt issues, set up a debt plan with dates and goals to reduce the debt little by little. Do not give up.
- Be aware that payment holidays are not a free loan, you still owe the money and you’re paying interest on it. Check with your service provider.
Remember that the pandemic will pass. Try not to panic as this may lead to rash financial decisions, which could have an impact on your finances later down the line.
FIXING THE FLAWS IN FINANCIAL SERVICES’ DATA MANAGEMENT
Simon Cole, CEO at Automated Intelligence, a cloud-based data compliance and governance solutions provider to the financial services sector, warns FS firms must address the data issues flagged and created by the Covid-19 pandemic
When the pandemic started, organisations within the financial services sector were faced with three key questions. How do we do homeworking? How do we go remote? How do we manage this?
In trying to answer these questions, the business continuity measures taken by FS firms were not up to scratch. Mistakes that could have been avoided were made. To start off with, users had to be given the necessary equipment to make remote working happen and they had to have access to the infrastructure needed, such as broadband. Users also had to have access to the information and data needed to do their job. And this is where they started to run into trouble. While software applications like Zoom and Microsoft Teams made it possible to stay connected, the systems in place were not adequate to facilitate secure data management practices en masse.
These are the downsides that need to be addressed.
Where’s the governance?
Historically, firms operating in the financial sector have been slow to adopt cloud technology, preferring to store sensitive data on premise, in order to mitigate perceived risk. As such, through the lockdown, much of the data people need access to is not in the cloud, but is stored in applications or file servers.
Adding to the issue, the VPNs of many organisations don’t have the capacity to allow large numbers of users online. This lack of VPN availability has forced FS firms to allow users access to GDPR sensitive data multiple times, with little or no method of tracking in place.
In order to acquire the information they need to do their jobs while out of the office, employees have been copying, downloading and sharing files that now exist outside of the corporate firewall, without any governance or security considerations. Such data is now, for all intents and purposes, in the wild, making it harder to bring back under control. Teams working remotely don’t have the corporate governance and security protocols that they would have when working in the office.
So, being forced to work remotely, at short notice, has impacted compliance and governance in a very negative manner. The way data is being handled greatly increases the chance of a data breach occurring. It also flies in the face of FCA regulation, and in particular GDPR where personal data is being used. While the FCA might be a little more lax in light of the current challenges right now, this will change when data breaches start to occur and customers start asking questions. Poor choices now will not be a reasonable excuse to avoid future fines.
If this crisis has shown us one important thing, it’s that the slowness of financial services firms in adopting cloud technology, which made it significantly harder for them to access and use data, has hurt business continuity, security and privacy.
Better Data Practices
So, how can organisations take control of their data? For many this means deploying it to the cloud in a rapid manner, whilst retaining security and governance practices. It is possible for organisations to make data accessible if the technology is deployed correctly, allowing all the necessary controls to remain in place. Having the short-term decisions correctly in place and making them under an umbrella of good governance and accountability, ensures that you don’t suffer knee jerk reactions and risk losing control of data.
By keeping on top of your data as much as possible, you significantly reduce the opportunity for chaos to happen. That starts with making it available on a safe and secure platform. At a time like this, it is imperative that organisations have a good understanding of their data. Information asset registers should be kept up to date to track where their information is, where it’s being used and the purpose for which it’s being used.
For our clients, we are now using AI to help them assess and understand their data, flag any risks their data is posing to their organisation, and help them mitigate that risk. By implementing the right systems this can all be automated, and there is nothing stopping organisations from doing this with next to zero impact on their userbase.
Remote working is becoming the norm: It has been proven to work and organisations will start reflecting on how much office space and connectivity they really need. As such, organisations are being forced to act now and adapt their data governance and compliance practices to suit the ‘new normal’. Waiting until the pandemic passes is not an option.
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