With real-time payments expected to account for a quarter of all electronic payments by 2026, the writing is on the wall: real-time payments aren’t just growing, they’re the future.
ACI Worldwide’s Head of Pacific, Chris Hill, recently brought together a panel of regional payment experts to understand what this means for APAC’s banks and financial institutions, and to discuss the key factors that drive adoption of real-time payments.
This blog features highlights from that conversation with Lance Blockley, managing director of The Initiatives Group; May Lam, partner at Ernst & Young in Technology Consulting and Ashish Chouksey, senior director, Business Development – APAC, ACI Worldwide. (You can hear the discussion in full here.)
Chris Hill: Based on the global experience of the panel, what are the key factors behind real-time payments adoption?
Ashish Chouksey: India, China, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia have all experienced world-leading real-time payments growth. One lesson from these markets is that payment volumes and adoption really skyrocket when merchants can accept payments through eWallets, usually initiated by QR code. 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.
In addition to this, there are a few common factors that tend to help drive the successful adoption of real-time payments. First, central bank mandates for all financial institutions to offer real-time payments. Second, standardization of scheme connectivity options for all members. And, finally, the onboarding of market players beyond just traditional financial institutions, such as Fintechs, digital wallets, and digital or neo banks, to maximize the range of digital commerce services available to customers.
May Lam: 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. China, South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia are great examples of that. There also tends to be demand from businesses looking for real-time payments to enhance their cash flow management. And then on the consumer side, the region’s demographic shift has seen growing preferences for service-oriented, on-demand, real-time services — a trend accelerated by the pandemic.
CH: What are the challenges to driving real-time payments adoption in the markets where it is not yet at the levels seen in places like China, India and Malaysia?
ML: Challenges to real-time payments adoption in markets such as Australia include the fact that there are many different experiences managed by individual banks and banking apps. That makes consistent education and awareness tougher than in the markets we’ve referenced, where there tends to be a central app with a consistent experience. And then from the banks’ perspective it was a significant investment to launch the New Payments Platform (NPP) back in 2018. Now the challenge is to capitalize on that investment to develop overlay services that will drive bigger opportunities across the real-time payments category. In B2B, for example, beyond the actual payment, what does real-time mean to the accounts payable, accounts receivable and invoicing functions? In B2C, how can it support behavior changes arising from the pandemic, such as the gig economy and payroll? There’s a lot of opportunity for banks to hone in on.
Lance Blockley: More broadly, what any new payments system needs to be successful is ubiquity. It must be able to reach across all accounts so anybody can pay anyone. That takes time, but the two-sided nature of payments means you need that network effect. We’re on that road and we’ll get there, but today, not all financial institutions have all accounts accessible.
AC: That need for ubiquity also comes into play with the rollout of added-value services. When it comes to services like request-to-pay — or PayTo, as it’s known in Australia — the whole ecosystem needs to be ready from day one. It doesn’t work if one bank is ready, but the counterparty is not.
A partial rollout of services also does not help to bring the required value add for the customer and hence creates an undesired user experience. For any market, it is critical that the user experience is seen as a core value for better adoption of real-time payments.
CH: Do we feel the success of PayTo in Australia, and overlay services elsewhere, is more likely to be driven by businesses, SMEs, merchants, consumers or the banks?
LB: It will be a combination of all of those players. You need merchants accepting a new method of payment, and you need consumers to understand what it means to use it. And both parties need to be provisioned in the system by their financial institution — which brings us back to ubiquity.
ML: When it comes to early PayTo adoption, I also think the government has an important role as a user itself, enabling tax payments for example. If other players get on board like utilities, telcos, supermarkets and other large retailers, that would accelerate the exposure of a large majority of Australian consumers to the experience.
CH: Speaking of ubiquity and the network effect, again, the NPP has announced a roadmap for cross-border transactions. What does cross-border linking between countries look like in a real-time payments context?
AC: This issue is moving much faster than many people realize — a lot of countries are already live with cross-border real-time payments. At this stage we tend to see bilateral agreements — such as that between Malaysia and Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, India and Singapore — which enable merchants to accept consumers’ local QR payments and banking apps across both countries. But this shows that markets that have already seen good domestic adoption also see potential in expanding internationally.
This also paves the way for more B2B payments flowing through real-time, cross-border schemes in the near future.
LB: A good example here is the P27 project in the Nordics, a single cross-border real-time payments system that’s going to be handling multiple currencies: Euros and different types of Krone. That will be an interesting exercise to see how the FX gets handled, with different currencies flowing through.
ML: Cross-border real-time payments are also not simply a case of moving money across borders. There is a race between what cross-border payments look like in terms of whether it’s a fiat or digital currency, and issues like KYC, AML, CTF, data sovereignty — these will also create challenges.
For more information about ACI’s real-time payment solutions, go to aciworldwide.com/solutions/aci-low-value-real-time-payments