Paying the World Should Be As Easy as Sending a WhatsApp Message

“Pay the world” is the theme of the day and for Thunes Collections CEO Christophe Bourbier, in an ideal world, consumers anywhere in the world can leverage technology to make payments as simple and as fast as using an instant messaging platform.

“When we say pay the world, we would like any payment, not just payments in the U.S. or Europe or between the U.S. and Europe, [but] any payment to be as easy, quick and as inexpensive as [sending] a WhatsApp message,” Bourbier told PYMNTS in an interview.

But, consumers in developed regions like the U.S. and Europe have far more advanced options than those in emerging regions like Africa, Asia-Pacific (APAC) and Latin America (LATAM), where payment options are limited and where connectivity, homogeneity and interoperability are lacking between zones.

Unlike moving funds between developed countries, he said transfers between developed and emerging markets — and within emerging markets — can be challenging given the multiple domestic schemes and platforms that are not connected coupled with the different regulations at play.

In those regions, he said, the most friction happens in cross-border peer-to-peer (P2P) transfers or between a business sending small amounts of money — less than $30,000 — to an individual in another country.

This is why having a payment system on par with WhatsApp will simplify transfers, making it easy for an individual in the U.S. to pay a tour guide in Kenya ahead of a trip to the East African nation.

Read more: To Simplify Cross-Border Payments, FinTechs Should Borrow a Page from WhatsApp

But with payment systems today, it’s much more complex because of the different payment modalities used, as “the guy in the U.S. might be using PayPal or credit card, or the ACH [Automated Clearing House], bank transfer, and is going to send that to the Kenyan guide,” he told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster.

Moreover, several intermediaries in between, like the sender’s bank in the U.S. and the corresponding local bank in Kenya, further complicate the process and could lead to multiple fees and a recipient getting a lower amount than what was initially sent.

These complexities, he said, are deepened when differences in payment options offered by the sender and what buyers may want to use to pay them are thrown into the mix.

Whereas PayPal and bank transfers are common in the U.S., for example, Bourbier said a receiver in Kenya, where mobile money is more commonly used, might not have a bank account and the PayPal platform might not be able to make transfers to Kenya in Kenyan Shillings.

However, he said he was optimistic about the opportunities that exist for platforms in these emerging countries, particularly as the adoption of mobile payment services rises rapidly amid a smartphone adoption boom.

Unique Efforts, Common Goal

“That’s what we want to crack at Thunes,” Bourbier said of the company’s goal to make payments simple, fast and cost-effective for customers and businesses sending and receiving money cross-border.

He said the Singapore-based FinTech Thunes, which connects payment players in several countries, is hoping to achieve this by connecting domestic schemes, not just at the technical level but at a security and compliance level as well.

“The vision here is to pay the world, and that is making sure that anyone can pay anywhere, quickly. That will take connecting every local scheme, every local payment method [and] every local bank partner at a high security level, while ensuring that we comply [with laws and regulations] in every zone,” he explained.

See also: Thunes Leans on Xoom for Broader Worldwide Reach 

Bourbier referenced other payment players like Alipay and its Alipay+ solution that are contributing to the overall goal of advancing global payments by enabling merchants to easily accept other payment methods once they’re connected to the international system.

Other initiatives like open banking have also helped merchants and buyers bypass Visa and MasterCard and move funds seamlessly and inexpensively between accounts, not to mention the limited chargeback and fraud risks involved with that technology.

But as much as these initiatives are helping to solve payment challenges, they have somehow added to the complexities involved, he said, using the different open banking solutions in India and the U.K. as an example.

“In Europe, there are two or three players that are fighting to become the network and then Swift is trying to launch an open banking solution that is not just about data but that could help move money [across borders],” he added.

That is why Thunes’ vision is to connect these solutions, Bourbier noted, without necessarily merging them to create one unique solution.

“We believe in diversity [and] heterogeneity between countries and zones, and we want to make all of this very interoperable and effective,” he said.

Achieving that also hinges on networks doing their part and ensuring that regardless of how payments are initiated, senders and receivers can send money easily and without a problem.

The Trust Factor

Consumers do not necessarily know how payments are initiated and simply trust that the enabler of whatever payment method they are using is not only going to transfer the funds successfully but is going to protect them should something go wrong along the way.

While that high level of trust has been achieved in developed countries, Bourbier said emerging markets are still lagging considering the long wait times involved to receive funds and the high fees, which often result in people receiving a lesser amount than what was originally sent.

He said it would take several years to move the needle and see effective change in emerging regions to level the playing field globally. The advantage, however, is that these zones are experiencing a digital revolution that will help move payments forward in the years to come.

As Bourbier said: “There are many things that are [already in place] and I believe that’s something we can crack within five to six years and make this a new premium ‘Swift’ [enabling] faster, seamless and less expensive [transfers across borders].”