By Bob Dowd
Our digital-first world is evolving so rapidly, we may live to see the end of paper money. In the wake of COVID-19, the accelerated digitization of payments on a global scale has changed the game in the B2B payments marketplace.
Growth of RTP
Digital payment providers are slowly eclipsing banks since Payment as a Service (PaaS) competitors working within the fintech ecosystem offer more cost-effective digital real-time payment (RTP) solutions.
FIS Global reports that ‘real-time’ is quickly establishing itself as the standard for all payments, both on the consumer and business side. In the B2B marketplace, global expansion of payment rails has been transformational, from building trust and strengthening alliances, to capturing higher market share and improving operational performance.
Driven by robust APIs, real-time payments rails have expanded into both advanced economies (AEs) and emerging market and developing economies (EMDEs) now that there is a digital, real time equivalent to physical cash.
Meeting market demands
With the increasing need for rapid payment solutions in small and medium enterprises (SMEs), it should come as no surprise that this market is booming. A year ago, Ernst & Young Global predicted cross-border payment flows would reach US$156t in 2022. This trillion-dollar estimate represents all cross-border payments between people or businesses and gives us the big picture of change in progress.
For business leaders, the global B2B payments market size was valued at $870.42 billion in 2020, and is projected to reach $1.91 trillion by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 10.6 percent from 2021 to 2028, according to Allied Market Research. This research indicates that the key driving forces of the global B2B payments market include an increase in usage of technology in B2B payments and rapid development of the domestic SMEs & medium-sized companies engaging into massive trades.
These new, tech-forward payment rails fall outside of the traditional SWIFT network historically used by banks and payment providers. They meet customer demand by increasing transparency, eliminating lifting fees and correspondent bank fees, and enhance the speed of delivery to the end beneficiary, providing an optimal customer experience. They enable B2B, B2C and even C2B transactions payments to be initiated and settled nearly instantaneously, with 24/7/365 accessibility, including weekends and holidays. Real-time payments (RTP) offer the quick turnaround that is top priority for many businesses, especially for organizations that rely on accelerated cash flows to make payroll, vendor payments, and more.
Enabling expansion into new markets
Hard-to-reach jurisdictions have long been one of the sector’s unique challenges. In addition to access, hurdles have traditionally included cost, speed, security and transparency — all of which can be addressed with tech-enabled, digitally-forward solutions.
Robust APIs also allow for expanded in-country payment capabilities by offering access to alternative payment rails in Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and Africa. This fortified infrastructure will extend into hard-to-reach jurisdictions where the full value of payments can be received within an hour. This offers businesses a growth path. In an industry that is complex and ever-evolving, it’s crucial to stay a step ahead with simpler, secure tech-enabled solutions.
Meeting stakeholders needs
Any organization with foreign vendors or suppliers knows the value of seamless cross-border payments, for B2B clients, vendors, contractors, offshore payroll, foreign offices, and more.
For merchants, that means better cash flow and transparency — since payer and recipient both receive immediate confirmation of payment — and potential added value includes integration with invoicing to facilitate automated payment processing.
According to Entrepreneur, the pandemic also amplified the gig economy. Companies who have outsourced work or employ contract employees in other countries, whether through a satellite office or freelancers who share digital platforms to connect, have historically faced the same problems with payroll as multinational organizations do.
Robust API payment rails offer businesses the capability to pay freelancers & contractors in their local currencies faster, more efficiently and more cost effectively.
Advanced cross-border RTP capabilities also allow businesses to pay B2B clients in foreign markets, in their own currencies. These re-imagined global payment solutions offer considerable advantages over traditional, cumbersome procedures.
For example, a business owner no longer has to worry about when a cheque will clear. In addition to eliminating the stress of waiting for cash flow, cross-border payments are more cost-effective. Real-time payments transact at a fraction of that cost than the standard bank process.
What’s next for global digital payments?
Although about 60 percent of overall payment transaction volumes are still paper based, credit card and cell phone payments have already disrupted the physical cash market. B2C led the charge with demand for real-time payment solutions, then the B2B market followed suit and we’re closing the gap. The global cross-border payments market will continue to be disrupted by specialized, new players that can solve long-standing pain points.
Eswar Prasad, Professor of Economics at Cornell University and author of The Future of Money: How the Digital Revolution Is Transforming Currencies and Finance, says the world is approaching a tipping point where cash phases out and digital currencies reign supreme.
Industry pundits agree that cash systems and the high-friction, costly and cumbersome payment processes of central banks will continue to be displaced. We’re already witnessing displacement. This is the Digital Revolution. It’s already here.
Bob Dowd is Chief Executive Officer, Moneycorp Americas.