Global Citizens are an attractive (and quickly growing) market. They make high-ticket payments in full for things like education and health care, which can be a big revenue driver for institutions on the receiving end. But as Flywire’s Sharon Butler, EVP of sales, and David Herrick, GM of health care, pointed out, if an institution isn’t overcoming the challenges of accepting international payments and delivering the right experience, they stand to miss out on a big financial opportunity.
The growth of international markets has brought much attention to Global Citizens, who have very specific payment needs when moving money outside of their home country to fulfill their personal and family ambitions.
Oftentimes, institutions looking to expand their acceptance of international payments are ill-equipped. While they may have a payment environment in place that works domestically, being prepared to meet the challenges and demands that come with a new global business opportunity requires an entirely different approach.
In the latest installment of Flywire’s podcast series on meeting the payment needs of Global Citizens, we took a look at the two largest verticals Flywire operates under — education and health care — to gain a better understanding of the payment experience and expectations within each.
Sharon Butler, EVP of Sales, and David Herrick, GM of Health Care, for Flywire joined Karen Webster to address the similarities, differences, challenges and opportunities that impact the high-ticket international payments of Global Citizens as they engage with educational and health care institutions around the world.
The Payment Acceptance Challenge
When an institution is used to handling payments in one way, particularly domestically, there can be many things that are missed or are overlooked when expanding services to reach more global consumers.
Butler saw this play out in the higher education system here in the U.S. as more universities sought growth by increasing their acceptance of international students.
Though schools may be investing heavily in reaching and recruiting international students, Butler said there’s often neglect when it comes to what the payment experience should be like for those students.
As global education expands — and universities look to generate more revenue and become more diversified — there seems to be a disconnect between the admissions department focused on attracting global students and the finance department tasked with ensuring these students can actually make their tuition payments successfully.
With the tremendous growth international education has seen over the last 10 years, Butler explained that education institutions are no longer able to just “muscle through” the challenges of accepting payments from international students. Whether it’s being able to facilitate a payment during off hours or overcoming language and currency exchange barriers, without efficient processes in place, schools can struggle to keep up with the growing number of international payments coming in.
Herrick said it’s a very similar situation when it comes to Global Citizens seeking expert, acute care from a different country.
While hospitals and health care providers have domestic billing platforms in place, there’s often nothing really out there that takes care of the international market, he explained.
Unlike domestic patients who may have access to insurance-based payments for their medical treatment, Global Citizens are typically paying their entire bill before they even arrive to receive care. In many cases, this is done through old-fashioned wire transfer, but Herrick said it’s not unusual to see payments made via credit cards and even some with cash.
Across both verticals, Butler and Herrick agreed that the challenges faced by institutions when accepting international payments include having no internal process for reconciling payments, no extension of their business to support an international consumer and a lack of attention to the payment experience itself.
Why Experience Matters
In today’s digital world, the payment experience plays a significant role in a business converting a shopper into a satisfied customer and making a sale, but when it comes to cross-border payments for Global Citizens, that experience becomes critical.
International payments for both educational and health care institutions are big revenue boosters, which is why ensuring those payments can be facilitated with the best possible experience is so important.
"Both of these two different verticals are seeking growth — universities are looking for international students who will generally pay in full and really help them from a financial perspective, and that's the same with healthcare,” Herrick explained. “These Global Citizens are coming in and they're paying the full bill, so hospitals out there are very clear about the fact that they want to grow their international business.”
As a result, institutions are putting a greater emphasis on ensuring they can provide a better payment solution and experience to their growing Global Citizen students and patients.
On the education side, Butler said Flywire’s main focus is helping universities to essentially extend their campus and give the global students that they invested a lot of money to recruit a payment experience that feels both familiar and localized.
“We are helping to implement a payment solution that will help the school create more efficiencies and demonstrate to the students that they're recruiting that they care,” she added.
Herrick agreed that, on the health care side, supporting a clean, simple, transparent payment solution for the patient is very important. Since many hospitals require payments from Global Citizens upfront, he explained that the ability to have a localized approach and know exactly where funds are at any point in time adds some real assurances for both the hospital and the patient seeking care.
"This only really works if both receiver and payer (or hospital and patient) come away feeling good about it,” he noted.