By Max Grogan-Crane
Payments - A Platform for Transforming Your Business
Receiving and making payments – to and from customers, franchisees, suppliers and partners seldom arises in discussions regarding company strategy or competitive advantage. Yet there is no process as central to the lifeblood of any for-profit or non-profit enterprise than the flow of funds into and out of the organization.
In this era of proliferating business models, collaborative commerce, and as-a-service offerings, the ability to aggregate and facilitate payments on behalf of connected accounts and to enable customers to self-serve are no longer simply tactical considerations; they are essential to enabling many business models.
With the revolution in new fintech solutions both within financial institutions and outside traditional banking, the idea of managing payments as a strategic decision is no longer just the realm of the CFO.
No matter your business, if you need to receive or make any type of domestic or global payments, then removing complexity and cost while simplifying the burden of making global, secure and rapid cash or non-cash payments is essential. The ability to deliver that as-a-service on behalf of your partners or directly to your customers is now within reach for all types of business.
Nearly every line of business, as well as department heads managing key business relationships with external stakeholders – channel partners, franchisees, agents, influencers and customers – have detailed business processes that dictate how they serve their stakeholders and how they monetize these relationships. Many require aggregating groups with common characteristics, e.g. distribution partners, agents, affiliates, etc., to meet their specific business needs and complex requirements to facilitate immediate, seamless payment flows into and out of their accounts and their customers or partners accounts.
By aligning operational processes with your business strategy, implementing new processes using a global payments platform embracing these new technologies and embedding payment platform APIs, you can accept, transfer, disburse and control the movement of your or your customers’ money in a way never before possible.
New Platforms – New Possibilities
By converging traditional card processing and bank transfer methods such as ACH and wire transfer with a sophisticated, flexible digital wallet system, you can now build payments directly into any business model that you might currently have or plan to implement. Many businesses require flexibility in managing the flow of funds to maximize their own revenue. Business can now take advantage of this collaborative wallet model to ensure they reach that goal.
Embedding payment processes directly within these business processes is essential to any enterprise interested in aligning economic value exchanges with efficiency and efficacy.
- Efficacy – are we paying the right people (or entities) the right amount (value to them) for the right outcome (value to us) to achieve an optimal return.
- Efficiency – are we managing the processes to serve the needs of our extended, external stakeholders (payers & payees) with the optimal use of internal resources and cost-effective services in doing so? Are our processes scalable?
- Experience – are we managing the experience for simplicity – transparency – scalability.
Efficacy is created when the business model and operations model are perfectly attuned. Payments in any form – payables, receivables, payroll, benefits, incentive pay, profit-sharing, loyalty rewards, etc. – each are forms of economic value exchange. However, some are less well served by traditional tools and methods than others. Aggregating dynamically created customer accounts to accept payments, share proceeds or escrow funds are but a few use cases that traditional payment tools simply cannot address.
Direct or Indirect Flows
Accepting funds directly from Customers and paying Suppliers directly is straightforward. However, when funds and/or customers are engaged indirectly the value exchange is often oblique. Aligning the needs for a Company operating as an Aggregator or payment facilitator on behalf of their Partners (affiliate, franchisee, reseller, agent, etc.) and Customers can be complex. However, the managing inbound and outbound flows can be simplified through connected accounts to ensure a smooth Customer experience and direct any Customer payments received directly to Company and Partner using business rules deployed via APIs.
For many indirect go-to-market business models, a more flexible payments platform may be required to know who their Customer is even if the Company does not (yet) – to comply with Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations among other reasons – without restricting the flow of business to known entities.
Adding new payees can be done automatically and KYC compliance tasks managed from within the payments platform without the need to hold-up fund transactions. APIs can be used to link newly acquired customer info to both a Company and Partner’s CRM tools.
Funds received can be immediately designated to a digital wallet assigned to a Customer beneficiary trackable to what (event) and attributable to the Company using your platform who is responsible for engaging the Customer.
My Portfolio View
Providing a ‘My Portfolio View’ to everyone involved – Company or Program Manager, Partner or Payee – is essential to ensure transparency. Linking the who, what, when, where and why enables you to manage to multiple objectives using a common process and platform even with various entry points (credit card processing, PO, invoices, etc.) of incoming funds and end points of various payment mechanisms (ACH, wire, PayPal, prepaid debit, gift cards, cryptocurrency, etc.)
To be most effective, you’ll need to see the whole process – from beginning to end – in a single view. And be able to provide a single view to everyone in the value chain – aggregator, company business and personal users.
Efficiency, then, can be found in leveraging payment platforms to align incoming and outgoing payments to simplify business process, lower operating costs and provide transparency, flexibility, compliance and security to both payor and payee. Customer self-service and digital wallets are essential components of improving operational efficiency for payments.
Digital wallets can be created for any purpose (program, event, transaction, etc.) as well as at any Partner or Customer level for creating the ‘My Portfolio View’ to everyone involved. This is what we call the ‘collaborative wallet.’ In such a wallet , while you can dictate the payment endpoint options, the end-user beneficiary can also be granted the choice of any payment mechanism.
This isn’t a shared wallet – what’s yours is yours; what’s mine is mine – but just as collaborative commerce was about sharing knowledge, process, analytics, rather than physical inventory. So, too, the collaborative wallet is about making payments far more efficient by sharing the pertinent information to the corresponding stakeholders from aggregator to end-user to scale globally, lower cost and improve speed while increasing choice for end customers.
Where efficiency often runs afoul of reality in today’s marketplace is that many of the entrenched financial institutions (and their tools) change very slowly in comparison with other technologies. Open API’s allow more flexible systems. Enabling the potential to serve up multi currency, multi-endpoint ‘bank accounts’ inside an aggregator portal.
That said, we believe the more prudent path to near term efficiency is to change payment processes and without the changing the players – a sound operational strategy would align its core with multiple entry points and end points to maximize operational efficiencies where possible. Open APIs should enable that strategy to succeed without getting locked into proprietary networks that might choose, for example, to replicate the competitive lock-in created by the credit card networks over the past generation.
Company and Partner Considerations
While perhaps we should dedicate another blog post to Aggregator Company and Company issues that impact payments, there are three imperatives that should frame that discussion: Simplify. Automate. Integrate.
Payees Prefer Cash – And Choice!
Simply put, people should be paid in the manner they prefer. For a large majority, this will likely mean being paid in “cash” – ACH, wire transfer or perhaps their PayPal account. Others may prefer payment in prepaid debit or gift cards, even cryptocurrency.
Managing multiple endpoints within a singular payment platform enables you to serve up options that might be either more attractive for your payees’ personal or business reasons or more aligned with your payment’s business purpose.
And using the digital wallet concept enables a payee both the ability to choose their preferred endpoint and the ability to handle frictionless wallet-to-wallet (P2P and P2B) transactions within the payment platform. A currency FX within the platform enables payees to convert to their preferred currency before transfering funds to their preferred payment endpoint. – at far lower rates than are available through traditional financial institutions
Cash Currencies or Other Forms of Payment
Cryptocurrencies, while not acknowledged as cash instruments, are an emerging value exchange mechanism growing in importance – or not. No matter your view, the ability to offer cryptocurrency as a potential endpoint eliminates any need to set-up alternative, unaligned payments should the need arise. Combining currency exchange within global payments platform with cryptocurrency as an endpoint offers payees the widest possible choice – and choice is the key.
When used for incentive applications, payment mechanisms are often wrapped in a layer of obscurity (aka reward points). We believe that the original purpose of this obfuscation – to disguise the actual value of the rewards being received has long since lost its value in this era of greater transparency. In some cases, however, the funding source (e.g., OpEx) or the local market may not permit or desire cash payments. Non-cash reward alternatives include closed-loop prepaid card with limited redemption options or digital gift cards. Your payments platform should accommodate both cash and non-cash options.
To summarize, viewing payments from a business strategy perspective enables you to look at how the flow of monies best align with your business practice. Leveraging new technologies that incorporate connected accounts using digital wallets, and streamline customer self-service, can radically simplify and improve those processes for all your stakeholders.
What are your thought on improving payment program operational efficiency and effectiveness? Please let us know. And for more information on XTRM™, you can find more on our website.
We look forward to hearing from you.