Speed, scale and engagement — if you say it a few times, really get your vocal cords and mouth into the exercise, there’s a certain snap to those words put together like that. As well there should be — those are among the main traits set to define payments in the 2020s.
We here at PYMNTS don’t mean to wear you down with all our anticipation about the new decade. But in fairness, it’s going to be a big one, at least from all the signs. In a way, the practice of payments — payments itself — is moving from the high minor leagues to the majors, and to the New York Yankees at that. Payments, of course, have always been important, but the new decade promises to be something else entirely.
But don’t take our word for it.
In service of polishing our crystal ball, PYMNTS recently caught with two experts to get a better sense of how speed, scale and engagement will shape our daily consumer interactions in the coming years. Those experts are Paul Diegelman, executive vice president at Fiserv, and Nabil Kabbani, CEO at CieloPay, a Texas-based firm serving as a SaaS mobile payment and loyalty platform used by brands to facilitate digital disbursement payments and influence customer behavior and retention.
“Today’s consumer is demanding increasingly better payment options,” Kabbani said. “And for many, speed is an essential factor. It’s becoming table stakes.”
Role of Disbursements
As you can imagine, digital disbursements stand as one of the main areas of innovation and disruption for the practice of payments going forward. And according to both Diegelman and Kabbani, change is happening at a noticeable and even quickening pace, which is sure to have global impact in the 2020s. After all, the trend involves nothing less than shifting from a reliance on paper-focused legacy systems and technology — and all the auditing and compliance weight attached to them — to digital processes that are quicker and friendlier to consumers.
CieloPay, which uses digital disbursements from Fiserv, is part of this trend. A client of the company is helping facilitate government subsidies that will allow residents to pay their utility bills. This is a state government program, and funds come from the state to CieloPay’s client. The program allows funds to go specifically to the designated utility companies and prevents misuse or misdirection of the funds.
This represents real change when it comes to disbursements, according to the story told to PYMNTS by Kabbani and Diegelman. In fact, back in 2017, Diegelman told PYMNTS that industries with a big footprint in paper checks (insurance, utilities, municipal and governmental payments) “have a different set of interests and priorities than newer markets like the gig economy and the marketplaces, which have never mailed a paper check.”
Since then, he said in this most recent interview, momentum toward digital disbursements has increased, with more energy all but certain to come in the early part of the new decade.
“Utility company refunds are making their way,” Diegelman said. “Senders know that digital creates a cost and consumer experience advantage.”
Sure, legacy inertia is a significant force to overcome, especially given all the auditing and compliance regulations such companies must adhere to.
“But they are, in fact, making great strides,” Diegelman said. “It’s happening. The movement is on its way.”
Law Firm Payouts
One place to look over the next year or two for further proof of the rise of digital disbursements? According to Diegelman, that would be payouts from law firms in big litigation cases. Expect to see even more activity in that area of payments.
Scale is being built in large part via the deployment of newer or enhanced payment rails, which in turn promote speedier transactions and disbursements, and deeper consumer engagement.
“Key is building the different rails and connecting with the right partners,” Kabbani said, which in turn can result in engagement and experiences that can help differentiate payment and commerce operators in a crowded and increasingly global field.
Integrations with payment systems also will become ever more important over the next few years — including integration with loyalty programs and offering more efficient apps to consumers. The dream might be familiar, but it certainly bears repeating, as this ideal will set the course for so many attempts at innovation and disruption in the coming decade.
“Imagine opening an app,” Kabbani said, “and seeing all the rewards and coupons you have, and to be able to pay and automatically apply the discounts and promotions earned, reducing friction and errors at checkout.”
At the same time, he continued, geolocation and big data technology allows brands to present their consumers with offers relevant to time, preference and geography.
That’s the promise of the 2020s, although much work needs to be done to really know what works best where and for whom. But the simple truth hasn’t changed, and that simple trust will perhaps be the master guide of this next wave of payments disruption and innovation.
“Consumers are incredibly busy,” Diegelman said, “and they want to be engaged and have less tasks to perform.”