J.P. Morgan: 2021 Was the Year of Innovation

Think of 2021 as the year payments moved beyond the point of purchase, say Max Neukirchen, global head of payments and commerce solutions at J.P. Morgan and Mike Blandina, its global head of payments technology. Rather than just helping money change hands, they’re becoming the connective tissue between people, devices, homes, cars and even our virtual avatars. Read their thoughts in the PYMNTS eBook, “In a Word: 50 Thought Leaders Sum Up 2021.”


The stakes were high as businesses digitized across the board in response to the global pandemic and shifting consumer behaviors. From there, new and existing trends accelerated, reaching a tipping point to become lasting ways of doing business. At the center of all this were payments.

Payments have fueled innovation during the pandemic. Meanwhile, innovation has been pushing payments beyond a purchasing function, into a role that connects our physical and digital societies. This forms a connective tissue between people, devices, homes, cars and even our virtual avatars. From online marketplaces and streaming videos to cross-border money transfers, nearly all of our digital activities rely on a payment system.

Fueling Innovation 

Payment mega-themes such as platforms, online, wallets, embedded, real-time and value-added services are at the core of this impressive innovation. These mega-themes account for nearly $54 trillion in global payment flows.

For instance, the adoption of digital-first business models that leveraged digital platforms and eCommerce marketplaces grew during the pandemic, and they only continue to expand. Meanwhile, embedded payment solutions are adding new layers of convenience to the shopping experience, and demonstrate how financial services can seamlessly integrate into everyday activities. Demands continually increase for convenient, secure and instantaneous payments across any of these experiences, whether it’s a customer making an eCommerce purchase or a worker sending money to their home country. 

Empowering the Gig Economy

Businesses are also finding innovative ways to use technology, such as real-time payments to give gig workers more immediate access to wages earned, which helps empower the financial well-being of hourly workers across our communities.

Likewise, the online economy is transforming how we shop, how we work and even who we are. This year, we saw the combination of eCommerce and digital identity solutions, as well as the growing gig and creator economies that drive new payment innovations and greater global payment volumes.

Then there are cryptocurrencies, stablecoins and tokens. These digital currencies, and others, have emerged over the past few years, and continue to create a need for digital wallets that sit outside of traditional banks, allowing people to store value, transfer funds and make purchases using digital payment rails.

The innovation we saw within payments in 2021 was vibrant and will continue to be so. This is why the next decade of payments promises to be even more transformational than the last. It’s why we say “payments are eating the world.”