Even before the pandemic, there was already an inexorable shift taking place within payments.
And yet, depending on where you look, there’s still a few spots that are due for a bit of catch up.
Tracy Monson, chief product officer at Onbe, and Renee Albert, chief product and strategy officer at Equity Trust, told PYMNTS in a recent conversation that real estate-related disbursements are set to follow other payments in their increased and accelerated shift toward modernization and digital transactions.
“There’s been this drive towards choice, flexibility and speed, on the part of the average consumer and on the part of the average employee,” said Monson.
That’s due, in part, to a long-term pivot on the payments acceptance side of the equation, where everyone from retailers to service providers had been allowing customers to pay them in whatever fashion those individuals have wished.
In that way, she said, the consumer has taken on a level of control not previously seen. In Monson’s telling of it, individuals can decide how and when they share their bank credentials (if they have bank accounts) or if they want to use payment apps.
As for the payouts themselves, Monson said, “When we think about modernizing disbursements, we think about: ‘How do we bring that up to speed and really turn the disbursement into a great seamless payment experience where there is choice and speed?’”
Moving Beyond the Paper Check
Equity Trust’s Albert said the opportunity to move disbursements beyond the paper check, and beyond paper-laden manual processes, can be illuminated by her firm’s own operations. Equity Trust, she said, is a self-directed individual retirement account (IRA) custodian, where clients hold alternative assets including real estate.
Increasingly, there is a demand for real estate property operators to make the leap into digital payments.
For years — decades, even — as Albert said, real estate operators have been paying their taxes, repair bills and all manner of expenses by check. That’s changing as real estate companies are using digital means, including virtual cards and digital wallets, to get the bills paid.
Equity Trust, she said, sends out tens of thousands of checks every month (at least some of which tend to get lost in the mail). Moving to more modern payment methods can enable investors to pre-load cash to their cards for their self-directed IRAs’ real estate investments — and pay expenses at their rental properties as needed.
“We’re changing the status quo and the ways in which people have been paying,” Albert said, “and since we’ve launched the card, we’ve seen significant declines in those checks going out the door.”
However, she noted that getting to that point has required Equity Trust to contend with the challenges of making sure that transactions are done in an Internal Revenue Service (IRS)-compliant manner, and with various regulatory mandates. Partnering with disbursement platforms such as Onbe help automate those functions, Albert said.
Monson said the platform “acts as the toolkit to let our enterprise customers deliver on these more modern demands and to satisfy the changing expectations across their user bases.”
The two said the stage is set for the digitization of transactions such as renter security deposit returns or incentives for signing leases – and for disbursements in the automotive, telecommunication and healthcare sectors to follow similar journeys.
“There’ll be a continued need to deliver an integrated payments experience,” said Monson.