When evaluating the future of business payments, we’re finally starting to see a reflection of the same digital transformation that has impacted consumer payments. The industry can envision what business payments could and should be in a digital world; now it’s a matter of developing the technology, regulations, and processes necessary to make a truly digital exchange of business payments and associated information a reality.
Why has this evolution in business payments lagged behind consumer payments? Complexity. Compared to consumer payments, business payments involve significantly greater scale and detail. If someone sends money to a friend via a P2P payment app, the recipient is unlikely to question what the payment was for. But if a business is receiving thousands of payments from around the globe each week, it needs accompanying data and systems in place to reconcile what was paid against what was owed. That’s why the majority of businesses still pay by check; it’s the least optimal form of payment, but the processes, people, and skill sets are in place to handle it. The remittance information is attached to the paper check.
Meeting Customer Expectations
While trends and technology like Open Banking and the cloud will help drive the digital transformation of business payments, the expectation of the customer will be the most important factor.
Think about how people used to rent a movie, call a cab, book a place to stay, or even order a pizza. Companies have upended the way we, as consumers, hear about, investigate, select, buy and pay for products and services. Today’s corporate payment professionals have become accustomed to doing things differently with technology in their personal lives, which means business payments must digitally transform—prompting the need for solutions that meet higher expectations of convenience, speed, flexibility, and intelligence. Corporate finance professionals might not have consciously decided that the payments they manage at work should follow a similarly streamlined approach to the payments they exchange in their personal lives, but it is up to the innovators in payments technology to show them that this is possible to do in an elegant and secure way.
Spearheading Improved Security
Solutions are one thing. Security is quite another. Nothing else matters if you can’t ensure the security of the payment — full stop. Short of a new cyber security governance force that operates outside of current law enforcement agencies, right now it’s up to the banks, payment platforms, and business customers to ensure the security of business payments. To that end, the future of business payments is going be as focused on securing the payment as it is on enabling it.
For example, a future business payment platform will use machine learning to analyze the validity of a payment request against metrics like how the payment has been made in the past, if the payment is consistent with what the person initiating the payment usually does, and even the grammar of the person supposedly ordering the payment.
Right now, a significant element of security is human. Business rely on employees to identify business email compromise and avoid clicking on suspicious emails. Fraudulent insiders may only be identified when another employee notices discrepancies. In both cases, the money or identity information stolen may be long gone. Imagine instead that we get to a point where technology alone can defend against malicious actors, flagging suspicious activity before it happens, and removing the weakest link in the security chain — the reliance on employees to notice, prevent, and not commit fraud.
Despite the industry being at the cusp of a digital inflection point, finance departments are not going to adopt new technologies and automate more of payment processes unless their needs around information, system integration, and security are met. It’s up to the next generation of payment platforms to ensure that solutions are truly compelling, not just incremental to the status quo. The right technologies will make the choice to adopt an obvious one, with the promise of clear and significant improvement.
Download The Future of Business Payments to learn what global industry thought leaders say about the opportunities and obstacles facing the digital transformation of B2B payments.