Modern consumers expect real-time experiences and services, as well as instant fulfillment from the companies providing them.
Real-time payments have emerged as a key enabler of this “always on,” instantaneous — and, usually, digital — economy. Indeed, as reported in the latest edition of ACI’s annual Prime-Time-for Real-Time report, they’re expected to account for a quarter of all electronic payments globally by 2026. Real-time payments aren’t just growing, they’re the future.
New Zealand is yet to establish a domestic real-time payments system of its own, but COVID-19-driven adoption of digital payments underscored known gaps in its payment experiences. Today, the industry appears keener than ever to close these gaps, and Payments New Zealand is coordinating the exploration of infrastructure options for the market’s first real-time payments scheme.
The nation’s payments ecosystem looks set to experience a large amount of change in a very short amount of time. ACI Worldwide’s Head of Pacific, Chris Hill, recently brought together a panel of regional payment experts to understand what this means for New Zealand’s banks and financial institutions, as well as explore key factors that have already driven the adoption of real-time payments in the wider APAC region.
This blog distills relevant extracts from that conversation into three high-level considerations for the market’s payment players as they formulate their real-time payments strategy. (You can hear the full discussion here.) It also references the collaboration between ACI and Bank Indonesia to stand up the BI-FAST real-time payments scheme in less than nine months and ACI’s work with Malaysia’s central infrastructure provider to launch “one of the most future-proof, inclusive, and flexible real-time payment systems Celent has ever seen.”
#1. Learn from — and improve upon — the experiences of other markets
In the view of our panel, a key advantage for New Zealand is its relative proximity to markets that are several years down the track with real-time payments. Banks and regulators do not have to look far for learnings that can be leveraged to accelerate adoption and innovation.
“One lesson from these markets is that payment volumes and adoption really skyrocket when merchants can accept payments through e-wallets, usually initiated by QR code,” said Ashish Chouksey, senior director of business development – APAC, ACI Worldwide. “Because when real-time payments are treated as a key pillar of a digital economy — not just a funds transfer mechanism — more stakeholders are incentivized to build on these schemes to add value and create new experiences that drive adoption.”
Regarding the payments infrastructure required to support this digital economy, Lance Blockley, managing director of The Initiatives Group, believes that New Zealand’s payment players have already drawn at least one major lesson from the experiences of their closest neighbor, Australia.
“In New Zealand, the banks are determined not to make the kind of huge investment made in the Australian system, but rather to try and move the existing direct entry operation into a 24/7, near real-time approach,” he said. “A large investment in an all-new infrastructure could still be forced upon them by regulation, but it’s questionable whether there’s any appetite for that from either banks or customers. Certainly, consumers and businesses want convenient, secure and fast payments – but they don’t really care about the underlying infrastructure.”
#2. Regulators’ key to stimulating adoption
The economic importance of real-time payments, combined with the need to coordinate multiple, diverse stakeholders throughout the payments value chain, means members of our panel expect proactive regulatory involvement to be an essential success factor for New Zealand.
“In the APAC region, in particular, active regulatory involvement in the name of stimulating the digital economy and broadening financial inclusion has enabled rapid adoption of real-time payments,” said May Lam, partner at Ernst & Young in Technology Consulting. “China, South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia are great examples of that.”
Lam continued, “Implementing real-time payments is an industry movement that requires an entire ecosystem and the government to collaborate and coordinate. It is not a compliance project. The biggest opportunities lie beyond enabling an alternative payment capability. Regulators and banks should be looking to launch with new use cases that can make the biggest impact right from the beginning.”
#3. It’s about more than moving money
Real-time payments unlock greater potential for innovation by enabling closer alignment with global initiatives such as open banking and message standardization through ISO 20022. Both will create opportunities for New Zealand’s banks to harness richer data that can be monetized through new products and services.
Our panel was unanimous: when it comes to adopting these standards, New Zealand’s relative late entry to the market is a chance for it to bypass the challenges experienced by more mature markets. However, new thinking is required to truly capitalize on these opportunities, according to Ashish Chouksey.
“The examples set by countries that have been fairly successful with real-time payments show that you have to stop thinking in terms of payments rails. When the perspective changes from ‘How do we add another rail?’, to ‘How do we modernize payments to help build the digital economy?’, that’s when the new services get built, innovation accelerates and adoption takes off,” said Chouksey.
ACI Worldwide’s technology is already helping customers around the world successfully deliver a range of capabilities for processing real-time payments, including origination, processing, orchestration, clearing and settlement, fraud detection and connectivity. For more information about ACI’s real-time payment solutions, go to aciworldwide.com/solutions/aci-low-value-real-time-payments