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To meet customer expectations, PSPs must prioritise end-to-end reconciliations

The payments sector’s success and growth over the past decade can largely be attributed to firms’ ability to meet and exceed customer’s expectations.

Unlike established banks, fintechs are largely free from the legacy tech stacks that slow down banks from modernising. So Payment Service Providers (PSPs) can anticipate customer needs and provide services that address their problems.

However, as new PSPs continue to emerge, the landscape is becoming increasingly competitive. So PSPs have to meet changing customer expectations more quickly.


PSPs are facing growing demands

As customers are becoming accustomed to faster, more convenient payment experiences, they’re also expecting more embedded, frictionless payment experiences in the future.

Central banks and governments are also picking up on the economic advantage that meeting these customer demands brings.

Last year, the Federal Reserve launched its instant payments service, FedNow, in the US. Chair Jerome H. Powell said it “built the FedNow Service to help make everyday payments over the coming years faster and more convenient” for both households and businesses.

The European Council and European Parliament also reached a provisional decision on its SEPA instant payments proposal, trusting the plans “will improve the availability of instant payment options in euro to consumers and businesses in the EU and in EEA countries.”

And, in November, the HM Treasury launched its Future of Payments Review as part of the Autumn Statement. The report states that the “UK consumer benefits from a world-leading payments experience today – but it could be even better.” To achieve this, the report recommends the government develop a strategy in which improving customer experience is central.

So, PSPs are facing huge pressures to adapt to customer expectations – from both customers and centrally. Offering faster, more convenient payments is no longer a “nice-to-have” – it’s an essential offering.

With all this in mind, industry leaders have responded by making meeting customer demands their primary focus. But to ignore the role operations play in adapting to a changing landscape would be a massive error.


Operations: The missing link

According to our 2023 payments survey report, we found that 14% of payments firms are not currently profitable. On top of that, one-third (33%) are breaking even.

A contributing factor to this is underinvestment in operational efficiency, leading to higher than optimal costs as they focus on developing solutions to their customers’ problems.

By underinvesting in operations, back-office teams get overstretched, and their hiring costs rise as firms require additional headcount to mitigate capacity, rather than investing in technology.

By neglecting back-office operations, these firms will likely be relying on in-house systems, and heavily dependent on spreadsheets. However, manual processes lack the scalability and flexibility needed to respond quickly to change.

As well as a lack of flexibility, manual processes also raise PSPs’ risk of regulatory breaches and result in poor data control.


How to achieve a robust framework

Firms must solidify their end-to-end reconciliation processes to deliver the seamless payment process that users have come to expect.

To meet customer demands for instant payments like FedNow, it’s really important to understand that these changes represent a fundamental shift in how payments operations must work – both in a holistic sense and across the end-to-end operational flow. Real-time payments need real-time reconciliations, so slow and inefficient operations just won’t cut it anymore.

The first step to improving your operations is to review your processes from end to end and identify and correct any inefficiencies – from data transformation to exception management to reporting. Firms must prioritise and address areas that would benefit most from investment. This is usually where there’s an overreliance on manual tasks.

Doing this ensures firms have processes that can handle any further changes and new customer demands in the future, while also being better placed to meet regulatory change.


The bottom line

The payments sector thrives on firms’ ability to exceed customer expectations, with agile fintechs leading industry innovation and front-end development.

However, neglecting operations risks inefficiencies – not to mention regulatory breaches. So firms must ensure reconciliation processes are efficient from end-to-end if they’re to deliver the frictionless payment experiences customers expect.

By prioritising operations alongside customer-focused innovation, PSPs ensure they achieve sustained growth and relevance in a dynamic, fast-changing payments ecosystem.


Article originally published here