There is no lack of good ideas in financial services, nor is there a lack of enthusiasm for putting them in place and enhancing the customer experience among banks and other financial service providers. Two years of tracking by the Innovation Readiness Playbooks has clearly demonstrated that financial institutions (FIs) of all sizes are interested in innovating – and avidly looking to invest in the initiatives that delight their customers.
The trouble is that this near-universal enthusiasm isn’t translating into near-universal progress, as the data demonstrates. Some players are innovating, but most seem unable to bridge the gap.
It’s a problem Jim McCarthy has been dealing with tangentially for years. As executive vice president of innovation and strategic partnerships for Visa, he served as an advisor to FIs, FinTechs and key payments stakeholders. What he saw over and over, he told Karen Webster, were institutions hitting a brick wall when it came to executing the innovative ideas on their go-to-market roadmaps.
Why? Despite the innovations in the acceptance side of payments, outside the world of pre-paid products, there is a dearth of issuer processor platforms that enable new payment products, payment flows and business models.
As McCarthy told Webster, solving that problem for those clients repeatedly led him to i2c, which ultimately led him to his new role as its president, reporting to Amir Wain, founder and CEO.
“Over the last two decades, [i2c] has done a lot of the really hard work in building a product, building a platform, putting real customers on it and driving real volume with it,” he told Webster.
Filling In An Empty Field
What attracted McCarthy, he told Webster shortly before news of his new position went public, was the opportunity to scale i2c’s solution in what he described as the “shockingly barren” issuer/processor landscape.
i2c’s tech stack is both robust and flexible, McCarthy noted. Because it’s built on an architecture that Wain once described as a series of “building block-like” application programming interfaces (APIs), FIs can build a customized payments suite of services that can be continuously and quickly modified and expanded, without the need to rip and replace legacy systems or staff, or to support massive integration projects.
An ever-larger number of players in the consumer ecosystem are recognizing the need to custom-fit payment modalities to services. i2c’s tech stack makes that possible by treating those individual modalities as building blocks that can be swapped in and out, stacked and otherwise configured to meet customer requirements. This, of course, helps FIs and FinTechs get payment products to market more quickly – which is of critical importance as payments becomes the connective tissue across the many connected economy ecosystems that will emerge over the next decade, both domestic and globally.
“I always laugh when people talk about the app economy and debate about whether Uber, Lyft or Airbnb are travel companies or rideshare companies or whatever,” McCarthy mused. “Taking payments is a foundational capability for them, particularly as they scale. Unfortunately, many of these firms now realize they are payments companies – and not owning more of that [payments] stack is having an effect on their customer experience.”
So is the reliability and scale of its operations. As McCarthy told Webster, having a great, flexible tech stack is only as good as it is reliable – and in its two decades of operation, i2c touts that the company has had no outages. In an increasingly global world, international scale matters a lot in payments, McCarthy emphasized – particularly when one is looking to affect a sea change in the payments experience for consumers the world over.
Unlocking The Interconnected Next
Today, for a lot of financial services players – banks, FinTechs, app economy firms and the like – expanding their offerings can be a stumbling block for anything other than a prepaid card. Offering debit, credit and installment solutions doesn’t fail the desirability test for businesses that aim to integrate a mix of payments products into their flows – but it might fail the feasibility test.
McCarthy told Webster that in his new role as i2c’s president, he looks forward to bringing the company’s platform to FIs and FinTechs that see the potential in an increasingly connected economy, as payments become a springboard to unlocking differentiating customer experiences.
“Literally, payments can open it up to allow institutions to define their programs, define their go-to-market, find the customers they’re trying to reach and pinpoint how they want to reach them,” he noted. “And we will support that.”