Back in the October edition of “Digital Transactions” there was a nice column by George Warfal from our friends at Edgar Dunn called “The Next Way to Pay” in which he says that “merchants are re-purposing their rewards cards as payment cards using the automated clearing house and gaining per transaction savings”. He goes on to say that this mode of operation presents a challenge to the current card network model, and I’m sure he’s right. In fact, if you take a look at the latest figures from the US ACH, you can see an explosion in the account-to-account (P2P) payments which, I think, is related to growth in mobile app-instructed transfers.
As you can see, all categories of ACH transfer are growing, with the exception of the check-replacement volumes that continue to fall (including at POS), as you might expect. I expect this trend to be even more marked in Europe, where the arrival of PSD2 means that retailer direct access to payment accounts will be one of the defining trends of the next era of payment evolution.
Under PSD2 banks and other payment service providers (PSPs) must give so-called payment initiation service providers (PISPs) access to their customers’ accounts so as to facilitate transactions ordered at the customers’ request.
I wrote an article exploring this for the Electronic Payments Law & Policy newsletter, arguing that while banks have been rather nervous about the effects of the access-to-account provisions of PSD2, it is time for them to adopt a more positive strategy, disrupting themselves before others do so. One suggestion, therefore, might well be for the banks to create their own access-to-account payment service, a sort of next generation debit product.
The recent EUR21.2 billion deal agreed between Visa Inc and European banks over the sale of Visa Europe has led to increased calls for the banking industry to put the windfall to use to create a competing product to tackle the duopoly enjoyed by Visa and MasterCard.
Now, Visa and MasterCard are rather good at what they do, so it would really take something special to be better at it than them. It might, in some observers’ calculation, be better to focus on delivering products into new channels where Visa and MasterCard have to work harder, such as mobile and online. Creating a direct-to-account service, with appropriate security and consumer protection, delivered through the EBA Digital Customer Service Interface (DCSI) as an API for retailers and other service providers to use, could deliver a worthwhile new payment product that (rather crucially) keeps the information relating to the transaction under bank control.
The European Payments Council has released proposals for the design of a pan-European instant credit transfer scheme, with the aim of bringing real-time money transfers across the Sinlge Euro Payments Area (Sepa) by November 2017.
This is pretty interesting. API access to a pan-European instant payments networks would mean a really important new “push platform” for product and service innovation in the payment space. If George is correct about the pressure from retailers to move to direct to account solutions, then I can see that there will be plenty of new opportunities for services in that environment: banks can offer real-time, API-centric, value-added payment services that offer specific functionality for retailers.