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Pandemic, Panic and Payments

The economic turbulence created by this pandemic is making any shift from legacy payments processes to intelligent digital transactions more compelling.

This week we learned rather dramatically (or rather re-learned) that pandemic and panic often travel together. Markets moved dramatically downward as the forecasted infection rates increased exponentially.

During this challenging time where working remotely is no longer optional but required and social distancing takes hold, we remain committed to ensuring we deliver for our clients while ensuring our teams are safe, healthy and productive. And we collectively remember what’s of most importance to all of us – our health, our families and our communities.

So what do either pandemic or panic have to do with payments? Well, let’s hope there’s very little.

Except that each can best be impacted with accurate information and innovative thinking. And all can be improved through the smart application of technology whether it be better testing regimens, new treatments or remote collaboration tools to make working or going to school remotely in support of social distancing viable.

And again, while there’s no parallel to compare payment processes with the upheaval to businesses and everyday life, there are connections.

On Tuesday (March 17), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that he intends to get relief funds into American’s hands as quickly as possible. “We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately. What we’ve heard from hard-working Americans is many companies have shut down, whether it’s bars or restaurants,” Mnuchin said. “Americans need cash now and the President wants to get cash now. And I mean now as in the next two weeks.”

And then on Wednesday (March 18), published a blog post, Paper Checks, Covid-19 and the Flaw with Analog Relief Payments, (a 5 minute read) detailing the problems with paying 200 million Americans with paper checks. For the government it is the easiest means of distributing these ad hoc funds despite the fact that the government has digital disbursement capabilities that could, if made available, put the cash in American’s pockets faster and more securely than mailing out checks. If speed is of the essence, then digital payments would be far superior.

Thinking about this from a digital wallet architecture perspective, the funds could be made immediately available to everyone as soon as they self-enrolled and connected their bank account, saving as much as 14 days in getting access to their funds. This, of course, won’t happen because the infrastructure isn’t set-up that way.

But thinking about this at a much higher level and what these changes mean to every business. Businesses large and small are rapidly rewiring how we work. In some areas, only ‘essential services’ are being allowed to remain open as social distancing has extended to shelter in place, principally grocery stores, pharmacies and banks or rather food, medicine and money.

As business revenues shrink leading to employee layoffs, it’s important to also remember how recovery begins. First, by finding every opportunity for belt-tightening and that should include lowering the cost of making payments. And second, by identifying new revenue sources on a dramatically different playing field.

For technology software and service providers, this can mean embedding greater functionality into their product or service in an effort to retain existing clients or gain new ones. The economic turbulence created by this pandemic is making any shift from legacy payments processes to intelligent digital transactions more compelling.

There may be much larger challenges immediately facing your business than new payment solutions, but as these challenges are met the need for faster, more efficient and remotely managed processes is sure to follow.

Meanwhile, stay safe, wash your hands and let us know how we can help.

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