In the complex payments space, it’s often innovate-or-die, especially when it comes to cross-border payments methods and payments technologies. Bob Sneed, VP Payment Solutions, WEX, joined the latest installment of PYMNTS’ Commander In Chief Series to share why WEX is focused on building solutions that tie together payments, data and technology, especially when it comes to successfully developing and deploying alternative technologies.
Here is an excerpt of the conversation.
PYMNTS: How would you define your company’s approach to innovation?
BS: At the core of our existence, WEX is focused on building solutions that lie at the intersection of payments, data and technology. Technological innovation is the backbone of WEX — we’re a technology company first. We have a team dedicated to continually researching and evaluating emerging technology so we stay on top of cutting-edge trends for the sake of our business and our customers’ businesses.
At WEX, we’re unleashing the value behind payments, powering insights, efficiency and growth. We’re unlocking the ability to see beyond the transaction, using data and technology to automate processes, improve performance and allow our customers and partners to get more done in less time. By empowering our customers and partners with technology, they are better equipped to deliver on their promises to their customers.
PYMNTS: What do you think that most people underestimate about innovating in payments?
BS: I believe most people underestimate the complexity of the payments ecosystem. There are a wide variety of conflicting interests from all participants involved in the overall financial supply-chain process. Creating value through process efficiency, lower cost and/or margin improvement means taking a holistic approach to delivering value and a frictionless system. The complex nature of payments requires the management of multiple relationships — including balancing the Buyer and Supplier relationship — in an ever-evolving, procure-to-pay environment.
For businesses, the complexities are compounded as the world gets smaller and more interconnected. Most businesses are held captive by an entanglement of systems, data and processes that limit their ability to see beyond the transaction and into the possibilities that exist around them. At WEX, we’re focused on simplifying complex payment systems and providing visibility, actionable insight and control; thereby helping our customers by freeing them up to focus on taking their business to the next level.
PYMNTS: What keeps you up at night? What concerns you most in the payment solutions space?
BS: The pace of change has definitely quickened, but WEX remains focused on … driving this change; and not [getting] distracted by it. We carefully evaluate new market entrants focused on creating disruption.
We are always focused on managing security and fraud risk. We have an expert team of people who work to ensure our systems are secure and continuously monitored. We take every precaution available and feel confident that our company, customers and partners are well protected.
We are witnessing a number of changes and trends in the industry. Some of these include:
- Integrated payables offerings are becoming much more the trend as companies consider the benefits of complete payment outsourcing.
- Streamlined and immediate execution for Peer-to-Peer payments are here.
- Simplified alternatives to current cross-border payment methods are being considered.
- Payments providers are evaluating numerous use cases for the deployment of blockchain applications and the use of crypto-currencies or tokens as an added level of security.
But all companies will need to focus on more alternative technologies and closely track how they impact the payments ecosystem. The industry and global marketplace is challenging all payments providers and organizations to create more advanced platforms that not only make moving money more secure and seamless, but also emphasize the user experience.
PYMNTS: What product has had the most impact on payments in the last five years and why?
BS: In the B2B payments arena, it has to be the recognition and level of expanded participation/use of virtual or single-use accounts that has had the greatest impact on payments in the last five years. The movement to virtual payments offers buyers and suppliers distinct advantages, including cost savings, fraud and risk mitigation, revenue opportunities, improved cash flow, seamless reconciliation, analytics and access to currencies. We’ve seen the number of payment service providers rapidly expand as a direct result of virtual card issuance.
At WEX, we identify specific industries where virtual card technology can fill a specific business need. It takes a lot of time and effort to develop the expertise needed to break into each vertical, and that’s difficult to replicate. WEX has been extremely successful in delivering virtual payment solutions to its partners in the travel, media, insurance and fleet OTR sectors around the world.
In the consumer segment, mobile and peer-to-peer payments have captured strong interest and industry participation. The value of these applications has yet to be fully realized in the B2B segment and will have a big impact going forward.