As payments continues to move and evolve, it’s become clear that the approaches that worked well in the past may not be enough to keep moving the industry forward. Tre Cage, COO of AOC Solutions, explained to PYMNTS why taking on innovation in today’s payment landscape means keeping an eye on where things are moving, without losing sight of how consumer and merchant insights are changing along the way.
Here is an excerpt of the conversation.
PYMNTS: How would you define your company’s approach to innovation?
TC: The key to innovation is observing what’s happening in the market today — and understanding the history of payments — and being able to anticipate where the industry is going. Payments are evolving faster than ever before, and disruption is a key part of innovation as well. You’ve got to offer solutions that shake up the status quo, while also providing new and updated technology that makes payments easier, faster and more secure.
Today, there are so many commercial payments solutions available from so many different providers, and often, customers get lost among all the options. Or maybe they have a solution from Company A to address AP, a different solution from Company B to address AR and a third solution from Company C to address payment processing, yet those solutions don’t effectively integrate with each other.
To combat that, our mission is to provide end-to-end solutions that address the entire payments ecosystem — from payment automation in accounts payable to an intuitive supplier portal for both AP and AR, to payment processing and credit card tokenization for merchants, to virtual card issuer processing for financial institutions and so much more. No matter what a client’s needs are, from the buyer side or the supplier side, they can rely on us for the consultative expertise to help them find end-to-end commercial payments technology solutions in our wheelhouse.
PYMNTS: What is the most innovative thing you have introduced into the market?
TC: Most recently, it’s Transact Global®, the issuer processing platform dedicated exclusively to single-use virtual payments. With Transact Global, financial institutions no longer have to rely on legacy systems with delayed batch processing for card payments. Those systems were designed for plastic, but virtual payments are the future. Transact Global provides data for virtual card transactions in real time, processing payments six times a day, six days a week (as soon as the scheme clears transactions). But most of all, the appeal of Transact Global is in its simplicity and ease of use as the industry evolves away from plastic and embraces more virtual payments.
PYMNTS: Where do you look for innovative ideas, and why?
TC: Honestly, innovative ideas often arise from our customers. We listen closely to their feedback prior to a platform update or new product launch. Our customers are the ones using our technology solutions every day, and their insights are valuable to our continued success and competitive positioning.
PYMNTS: What do you wish you had more time to do?
TC: I’ve got a great team, and they do an excellent job interacting with and supporting both our current and prospective customers. Ideally, I would love to spend more time in the field with them, visiting our clients and prospects onsite to better understand other issues related to payments that AOC Solutions can help them address going forward.
PYMNTS: What keeps you up at night? What concerns you most in the payment solutions space?
TC: While I try not to take work home with me too much, my mind is always racing. I think a lot about executing — executing on initiatives for our current clients, with the product set and solutions they know today, while also looking forward to the next innovation for us. The payments industry is changing so much and so rapidly. It’s so crucial for us to keep trying new things, keep learning from both successes and failures and keep anticipating what our customers need next.
PYMNTS: In your opinion, what has had the most impact on payments in the last five years?
TC: The evolution of virtual payments. While virtual credit cards were introduced in the early 2000s, initially, they were developed for niche markets, such as the travel industry and vehicle maintenance and repair. More recently, though, industries all across the board are exploring virtual cards and recognizing the key benefits of virtual payments, such as tight controls, reduced fraud, enhanced data capture and lower costs. I could see virtual card payments surpassing plastic within the next five to 10 years.
PYMNTS: What person or company do you think “gets” innovation, and why?
TC: When I think of innovative companies, Apple immediately comes to mind. Hands down, Apple gets innovation and the power of transforming the customer experience. Plus, Apple has created a culture of innovation throughout the company, and the Apple team understands that accepting and learning from failures is a crucial part of innovation.
PYMNTS: What advice would you give a young innovator in this space, and why would you tell them to heed it?
TC: Innovators are leaders, and the best innovators soak up knowledge. They develop expertise in the details of the payments industry and understand the complexities of the commercial payments ecosystem. They also become familiar with adjacent industries, global economics and the brightest minds on the planet. They network, and they’re constantly learning from others. To be innovative, you’ve got to act on insights before anyone else, anticipating where the market is going in your space. And without developing the knowledge and expertise necessary to cultivate those insights, you’re destined to be a fast follower, at best, rather than an innovator.
Tre Cage is the chief operating officer of AOC Solutions Inc. Prior to joining AOC in 2004, Tre served for three years in the U.S. Air Force. Tre earned his Bachelor’s degree in management from the U.S. Air Force Academy and his Master’s degree in business administration from Troy State University. Connect with Tre on LinkedIn.