All posts by Tiffany Taylor

Blog Contributor Tiffany Taylor is a technology marketing professional with broad expertise in a number of marketing disciplines and financial technology expertise including payments, retail and digital banking, core processing, and lending. As the owner of Tiffany Taylor Marketing, Tiffany brings a well-rounded perspective to FinTech marketing and creative content development.

2021 Year in Review: Real-Time Payments, Crypto and BNPL

*Originally published on CUInsight.com

The billing and payments landscape continues to undergo rapid change. Over the course of 2021, our blog strived to keep clients updated on the latest industry developments and offer our views on future trends. As we close another unconventional year, we’ll revisit a couple of developments we touched on earlier in the year, including real-time payments (RTP) and Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL), as well as provide a look ahead at cryptocurrency and how its increased adoption may impact the billing ecosystem.

  1. Real-Time Payments and Request for Payment Availability Continues to Expand

We’ve all been following developments in payments modernization—headlined by increased adoption of real-time payments (RTP) by both financial institutions and businesses—as well as it’s spin-off Request for Payment (RfP).

While RTP availability has steadily increased since its rollout by The Clearing House (TCH) in 2017, the global pandemic has heightened calls for payments modernization headlined by RTP and faster payments. The burgeoning gig economy has also presented a favorable environment in which to grow RTP.

According to a recent report, “the RTP network’s real-time payment capabilities are accessible to financial institutions that hold 73 percent of U.S. demand deposit accounts (DDAs), and the network currently reaches 60 percent of U.S. DDAs.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is still forging ahead with its own real-time payments service, FedNowSM, set to launch in 2023.

As a natural complement to RTP, TCH’s Request for Payment (RfP), is also gaining in popularity as businesses realize the benefits of pushing requests for payments to be delivered in real-time, including higher straight-through processing levels, guaranteed “good funds,” simpler reconciliation, faster time to payment and reduced operational costs.

  1. Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) Continues to Gather Steam

Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) is a fairly recent and increasingly popular payment option among consumers exhibiting pent-up purchase demand. BNPL gives purchasers the option to pay for their purchases in multiple, interest-free installments. Essentially, it’s a new and improved instant credit option. 

Instant store credit options of the past also often offered interest-free purchasing for a set period of time, but missed or late payments or failing to pay off a purchase within the interest-free period triggered sometimes astronomical interest rates (and sometimes back-interest). BNPL offers all the rewards of interest-free purchasing without the cloud of high-interest and penalties hanging over consumers’ heads. 

The benefits to consumers are obvious, but what about the benefits to businesses offering BNPL? Mainly, a BNPL option can be the deciding factor in a consumer’s ultimate decision to buy and can take the sting out of sticker shock associated with higher-priced items. But regardless of the size of the purchase, BNPL can offer businesses a competitive edge to gain more market share in these uncertain and uncharted economic times. And financial institutions can leverage BNPL as a competitive differentiator by partnering with BNPL vendors to offer BNPL payment options of choice to consumers linked directly to their DDA accounts. 

  1. Crypto Achieves Sharp Adoption Curve

We discussed cryptocurrency briefly mid-year, but it’s worth taking another look as its adoption is steadily increasing. With the global pandemic exacerbating an already rapidly accelerating drive toward digital-everything, increasing interest by average Americans into crypto is the next natural extension. 

One recent study found that “48 percent of investors in the country bought such alternative currencies in the first half of 2021. Younger consumers especially are growing increasingly intrigued by digital currencies. The report found 37 percent of investors 18 to 44 years old who have not yet bought digital currencies are either “very” or “somewhat” interested in doing so.”

What might this mean for merchants and billers? It means that as interest and investment in crypto increases, merchants and other billers will need to consider accepting crypto forms of payment—and payment processors will need to consider building infrastructure to support such payments—in order to gain or retain a competitive edge. 

Crypto is in its infancy as an emerging payment type and its volatility calls into question its mass appeal, but merchants, financial institutions and other businesses should watch trends around crypto closely to be future-ready.

Now that you’ve reviewed trends from 2021, watch the webinar, Top Payment Trends to Watch in 2022


Alacriti’s Cosmos for RTP® enables financial institutions and organizations to quickly and seamlessly connect to The Clearing House’s RTP® network without the burden of significant infrastructure overhauls or capital investments. To speak with an Alacriti real-time payments expert about RfP, please contact us at (908) 791-2916 or info@alacriti.com.

Mobile Payments: What Will It Take to Convince Consumers?

As if mobile payments at the point-of-sale weren’t already becoming more commonplace for merchants and consumers, the pandemic only exacerbated adoption even further. As the technology becomes more ubiquitous, the lion’s share of mobile payments in the U.S. is being conducted via four platforms—Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and the Starbucks app.

While the Starbucks app once dominated the mobile payments space, in 2019, it was finally overtaken by Apple Pay with 27.7 million in the U.S using the payment platform that year, according to eMarketer. However, the Starbucks mobile app remains a formidable force, with 25.2 million users accounting for 39.4 percent of mobile payment app users. Google Pay and Samsung Pay come in third and fourth, with 12.1 and 10.8 million users, respectively. 

While mobile payments adoption has been slower in the U.S. than in many international markets, it is increasing. With the onset of the global pandemic, adoption has grown and is expected to continue to increase. According to Mercator, 39 percent of consumers reported making a purchase via a mobile phone (either online or in-store) in 2020, an increase of 5 percent over the previous year. What will it take to accelerate mobile payment adoption by convincing U.S. consumers to change their payment habits and embrace the benefits?

Accessibility

For many consumers, mobile payments are still an abstract concept. There are also key demographics that might be uncomfortable using the technology. Widespread adoption of new payment methods often takes time, as seen previously with the transition from cash to card-based payments.

In order to convince these consumers to adopt a new payment method, digital wallet providers need to emphasize convenience and accessibility. From sign-up to daily use, everything about the app’s design must be seamless and intuitive. Any amount of friction in the user experience can mean the difference between a consumer quickly integrating the technology into his or her daily life and one who never opens the app again.

Merchant Acceptance

Late adopters are out there, but for millions of other consumers who embrace the benefits of mobile payments, accessibility is not the issue. Despite their enthusiasm, they may be discouraged from using mobile payments due to a lack of merchant acceptance. Until merchant acceptance is as ubiquitous as credit cards and debit cards, mass adoption of mobile payment platforms will likely remain an uphill battle.

Consumers shouldn’t have to wonder whether their mobile payment platform of choice is accepted by the retailers and service providers they frequent most often. Businesses can display signage that helps take the guesswork out of whether a certain mobile payment type is accepted.

Merchants can also encourage adoption by offering customers enhanced rewards. Part of the Starbucks app’s success may be due in part to the seamless integration between its rewards program and mobile payment technology. Integrating these features (plus mobile ordering) into a single, sleek, and comprehensive app allows customers to place orders, make payments, manage their accounts, and collect rewards from the convenience of their mobile devices.

Disruption

Mobile payments took off in India after the central government announced the sudden nullification of large-denomination Rupee notes. This announcement left millions who were previously dependent on cash transactions panicking to find a secure and legitimate way to pay for goods and services. Without a similarly disruptive force giving consumers a real reason to change their payment habits in the U.S., adoption is expected to remain slow. However, the fast rise of mobile payments in other parts of the world could convince U.S. consumers to embrace the trend as well.

The Bottom Line: Mobile payments can be faster, more convenient, and more secure than traditional payment methods. Convincing consumers to overcome the hurdles that challenge widespread adoption will require creative thinking from mobile payment providers and merchants alike. Enhancing accessibility, broadening merchant acceptance, and embracing disruption are just three factors that can help encourage a permanent shift in consumer behavior.

*This is an update on an original post published July 2019

Paperless Billing: Why Make the Switch?

It’s undeniable that technology has impacted every aspect of our lives, but that doesn’t mean traditional ways of doing business have been eliminated completely. For example, paper billing remains a critical touchpoint in many business-to-consumer relationships, even though electronic billing is second nature to countless consumers.

Paper statements do provide benefits, including tangible payment reminders, easy record keeping, and a natural touchpoint for customer communication. But electronic billing can deliver those benefits and more. Here are four reasons why businesses should continue encouraging their customers toward electronic bill presentment.

  1. Enhanced Security

Paper bill statements require businesses to print and mail account information to customers. That printed information makes its rounds through several people and departments before arriving in the hands of the correct customer. These lengthy, manual processes can give rise to human error as paper statements are easily lost and can potentially end up in the wrong hands.

Electronic bill presentment allows businesses to communicate personal information directly to customers, reducing the risk of lost statements and mail fraud. Going paperless also makes it easier to maintain consistency because it ensures that statements are sent at the same time each month without relying on a third party. In addition, accessing historical statements through a username and password provides another layer of security to help keep customers’ account information safe.

  1. A Reduced Carbon Footprint

Paper waste is a growing problem for offices across the country and accounts for 26% of the total waste in landfills. Switching from paper to electronic statements can help businesses take a step toward greater environmental sustainability. And for customers, electronic statements can help reduce unwanted clutter and paper waste.

  1. Reduced Costs

Electronic bill statements can save businesses time, money, and other resources. It often requires a whole staff to fulfill paper bill statements month after month. Workflows could span weeks, with little time for other tasks between billing cycles. For some businesses, especially large ones with heavy billing operations, paperless billing can help significantly reduce operational costs.

Aside from the paper itself, traditional statements require a constant supply of printing materials, postage, and manual labor. Paper statements also require business arrangements and regular correspondence with postal or shipping services. In contrast, e-billing can help businesses cut back on recurring expenses and improve the bottom line.

  1. Accelerated Operations and Payments

Sending paper statements in the mail is a significant administrative function that requires many dedicated hours each month. Paper statements require printing, fulfillment, and postage for every recipient. On the other hand, paperless billing streamlines the process and gives employees more time to focus on strategic tasks.

Much is left up to the customer when paper statements are sent in the mail. Weeks could go by before the customer ever opens the bill, leaving a long period between a business’s request for payment and receipt of funds. Because email is instant and a regular part of most customers’ daily lives, an electronic statement is likely to be viewed sooner. Customers may also make payments sooner, especially if they are given a variety of payment options and empowered to submit payments online.

The Bottom Line: There are many benefits in breaking away from traditional paper statements. Going paperless not only reduces environmental impact but can also help businesses reduce costs, reprioritize workloads, and improve cash flow by accelerating payments. For customers, electronic statements offer convenience and enhanced security leading to an overall improvement in customer satisfaction.

More on bill pay in Bill Payments: Helping Small Businesses Think Big.

*This is an update on an original post published July 2019


Today’s legacy and siloed banking technology infrastructure limit financial institutions’ ability to rapidly innovate. It’s time to look at money movement in a new way. Alacriti’s Orbipay Unified Money Movement Services does just that. Whether it’s real-time payments, digital disbursements, or bill pay, our cloud-based platform enables banks and credit unions to quickly and seamlessly deliver modern digital payments and money movement experiences. To speak to an Alacriti payments expert, please call us at (908) 791-2916 or email info@alacriti.com.

4 Ways Chatbots Are Revolutionizing Electronic Bill Payments

Chatbots are transforming how we interact with businesses every day. Consumers can ask questions, receive suggestions, place orders, and make payments with the help of chatbots designed to streamline the customer journey. The technology also provides the benefit of analyzing past behavior to help predict future actions. This data mining allows chatbots to “learn” from historic behavior and apply this knowledge to curate more personalized experiences going forward. 

Chatbots also give businesses the ability to provide on-demand customer service that doesn’t rely exclusively on physical teams of customer service representatives—something that became essential almost overnight during the global pandemic. Rather, chatbots can be deployed strategically to service customers in tandem with their human counterparts, delivering a more streamlined and coordinated customer experience than ever before.

Bill payments are just one step of the customer journey where chatbots have a big impact. Here are four ways that chatbots are revolutionizing how businesses present billing information and accept electronic payments from their customers. 

  1. Fast answers to frequently asked billing and payments questions

What’s my account balance? When is my bill due? Can I make a payment today? A chatbot can answer all of these questions (and more) without human intervention. A chatbot accessed via an intelligent personal assistant (Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, etc.), a messaging app (such as Facebook Messenger), or directly on a website can process these questions and return answers with the touch of a button or a simple voice command.

  1. Consistent interactions with customers

Chatbots use natural language processing and machine learning to constantly refine their interactions with customers. For example, a chatbot can understand a question that’s asked in a variety of ways and return a consistent response that accurately answers the inquiry. The technology is also becoming more adept at detecting frustration and transferring dissatisfied customers to human agents to help address challenging situations. This allows companies to maintain more consistency in their interactions with customers and allows them to review historic interactions to identify areas of improvement.

  1. Cost savings

Servicing customers is often a significant expense for businesses. Chatbots can help lessen the burden on customer-facing teams by freeing them from routine requests and allowing them to focus on more complex inquiries. A report from Juniper Research predicts that by the year 2022, chatbots will be responsible for cost savings of approximately $8 billion per year. As businesses constantly evaluate new ways to reduce costs and improve efficiency, chatbots may be a natural place to invest in streamlining operations.

  1. Accessibility for all businesses

Implementing a chatbot might seem like something reserved for large businesses.  However, small and medium-sized businesses can also reap the benefits of chatbots without building them themselves. Select electronic bill presentment and payment (EBPP) solutions offer chatbots as part of their offering, making it easy for businesses to get up and running quickly.

The Bottom Line: Chatbots are quickly becoming table stakes for businesses of all sizes due to the benefits they provide across the customer journey. Implementing a chatbot for electronic bill payments can be as simple as working with an EBPP provider that offers a turnkey and fully integrated solution.

*This is an update on an original post published August 2019.

Why Should Businesses Offer Flexible Payment Options?

Customers have seemingly endless options when it comes to their commerce decisions, from what they buy to how they buy it. As this universe of choice keeps expanding, businesses are often left with the challenge of how to set themselves apart from the crowd. 

Payments play a crucial role in the overall customer experience, but they can sometimes be an afterthought. However, investing in a flexible, customer-focused bill payments experience can help businesses get paid faster, reduce the risk of bad debt, and adapt quickly to changing customer expectations.

Get paid faster

Operational efficiency and organizational growth are fueled by steady, predictable income. Streamlining bill payments for your customers can help reduce barriers in getting money from their accounts into yours. Manual billing processes and traditional payment methods like paper checks require time and effort, which can be a burden on internal resources. They also require work from your customers and can create a less-than-ideal interaction with your brand.

An electronic bill presentment and payment (EBPP) solution can help deliver bills to your customers faster and encourage on-time payments. Offering electronic funding methods such as credit cards, debit cards, and ACH allows payments to be processed faster than paper checks and requires less work than in-person payments. Offering customers these electronic payment methods is a simple way to accelerate cash flow and improve the overall experience.

Reduce the risk of bad debt

Slow payment processing isn’t the only problem plaguing cash flow within some organizations. There are many reasons why customers might miss their bill payments, from financial hardships to simply forgetting their payments are due.

An EBPP solution can help reduce the risk of bad debt by sending regular communications to your customers regarding their outstanding balances and upcoming due dates. Email and text messages can be scheduled to reach customers at regular intervals in the communication channels they use most, reducing the risk of forgotten payments. An EBPP solution can also be configured to offer payment options like autopay, recurring payments, and payment plans to give customers more control over their finances.

Adapt quickly to changing customer expectations

Innovative apps like Starbucks and Uber are elevating your customers’ expectations for simple, seamless payments. More and more, customers are coming to expect the same level of high-quality digital service from all businesses they interact with. And, the global pandemic has accelerated demand for increased digitalization—and that extends to payments. 

Flexible payments are about more than just a sleek mobile experience. An EBPP solution can also give your business access to chatbot technology that can incorporate into the apps your customers use most, like Facebook Messenger. Chatbots can also be leveraged via intelligent personal assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, allowing customers to request account information and make voice payments using natural spoken commands.

The Bottom Line: Flexible electronic bill payments are a must for organizations of all types and sizes. The right EBPP solution can help your business transform costly manual processes into payments that accelerate cash flow, increase satisfaction, and engage customers in innovative new ways.

More on changes in consumer expectations in Turn and Face the Strange Changes in the Payments Industry.

*This is an update on an original post published May 2019


Today’s legacy and siloed banking technology infrastructure limit financial institutions’ ability to rapidly innovate. It’s time to look at money movement in a new way. Alacriti’s Orbipay Unified Money Movement Services does just that. Whether it’s real-time payments, digital disbursements, or bill pay, our cloud-based platform enables banks and credit unions to quickly and seamlessly deliver modern digital payments and money movement experiences. To speak to an Alacriti payments expert, please call us at (908) 791-2916 or email info@alacriti.com.

4 Ways to Reduce Friction in Bill Payments (Infographic)

Consumer acceptance of online bill payments is increasing, along with expectations for a seamless bill payment experience driven by retail leaders and increasingly innovative payment methods. To reduce friction in bill payments for consumers, you have to think one step ahead of them and offer 24/7/365/anywhere convenience—whether online or through more traditional channels.

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What Are Payment Rails?

For consumers, payments can be as easy as the dip of a credit card or the touch of a “Pay Now” button. The ease of these transactions belies the complex architecture that makes modern payments so fast and effortless.

When a payment is initiated online or at the point of sale, an intricate flow of information and instructions is passed between entities. This information includes customer account information, merchant identification numbers (MIDs), and instructions for financial institutions, just to name a few. The flow of this data is supported by established networks, commonly referred to as payment rails, that ensure the correct flow of funds between businesses and consumers.

Payment rails were established to transmit this information quickly and accurately, resulting in the speedy payment transactions that consumers have come to expect. What are these payment rails, and how do they work? This blog takes a closer look at three payment rails commonly used for payment transactions in America – the ACH network, card networks, and The Clearing House’s RTP® network.

ACH

ACH is an acronym for Automated Clearing House, and it has a long history of facilitating transactions between merchants, consumers, and financial institutions. It’s one of the most used payment rails in the US, having processed almost 27 billion payments in 2020.

ACH can be used for both credits (direct deposit of payroll, for example) and debits (including mortgage, loan, and utility bill payments). It’s also being leveraged to power popular peer-to-peer (P2P) payment solutions like Zelle®, Venmo, and Square Cash. Users can either link their bank accounts directly or access them using an alias (email address and/or phone number). Using an existing payment rail like ACH has allowed these solutions to thrive because they can leverage an established, reliable payment rail without building it themselves.

Card Networks

Card networks are payment rails maintained by four major brands–American Express, Discover, Mastercard, and Visa. Much like ACH, they are established networks with infrastructure, rules, and regulations that allow payment transactions to run smoothly between parties (card issuers, consumers, merchants, acquiring banks, and the card networks themselves). Unlike ACH, these networks also supply branded plastic cards that consumers can use to make payments. The widespread issuance of these cards, plus global marketing campaigns, have made the card networks some of the most recognizable brands in the U.S.

The card networks are also evolving to support new payments technology. Push-to-card is one-way companies leverage the card networks as payment rails to send money to consumers, flipping the traditional flow of consumer-to-merchant card payments. Both Lyft and Uber have introduced push-to-card solutions (Lyft Direct and Uber Instant Pay) that allow drivers to receive their earnings directly to a debit card for a small fee. More companies are expected to adopt push-to-card solutions as consumers shift away from paper checks and toward digital disbursements. Thanks to the ubiquity of their plastic payment cards, card networks are an attractive payment rail for businesses that want to offer fully digitized transactions to a broad range of consumers.

The Clearing House – RTP

One of the newest payment rails is The Clearing House’s RTP network. It launched in 2017 with the goal of bringing real-time payments to the U.S. Consumers and businesses can use the network to send, clear, and settle payments in a secure environment designed to make payments more efficient. RTP is unique from ACH and the card networks in many ways, the most obvious being its relative youth. Currently, no mandate requires U.S. banks to use RTP but, according to this publication, real-time payment capabilities are accessible to financial institutions that hold 70% of U.S. demand deposit accounts (DDAs), and the network currently reaches 56% of U.S. DDAs.

The Bottom Line: Payment rails work behind the scenes to facilitate payments between businesses and consumers. Some are new, and others have existed for decades, but they’re all used in imaginative ways to support traditional payment flows while facilitating up-and-coming payments technology.

Click here to see how U.S. faster payment channels and their respective advantages compare.  

 *This is an update on an original post published July 2019


Alacriti’s Cosmos for RTP® enables financial institutions and organizations to quickly and seamlessly connect to The Clearing House’s RTP® network without the burden of significant infrastructure overhauls or capital investments. To speak with an Alacriti real-time payments expert, please contact us at (908) 791-2916 or info@alacriti.com.

machine learning

3 Applications of Machine Learning in Financial Services

Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence that allows computers to “learn” from data without explicit programming from humans. In financial services, it can transform business processes related to customer service, personal finance, and fraud and risk management. Here are some real-life applications of machine learning in each of these areas.

  1. Customer Service

Chatbots are being deployed in financial services to automate common customer service requests, answer frequently asked questions, and assist with transactions like making bill payments. They use natural language processing to understand what a person is saying and formulate an appropriate response in return. However, chatbots sometimes struggle with interactions that go off-script from specific instructions they’ve been programmed to follow.

Machine learning helps customer service chatbots assimilate information from each interaction and “teach” them how to respond in the future. For example, machine learning can teach chatbots how to identify frustration and adapt subsequent responses. This might mean replying with calming language designed to diffuse the situation or perhaps redirecting the frustrated customer to a live agent.

Machine learning can also be used to improve the customer experience. For example, if a customer tends to pay the minimum amount due on their bill at the latest possible date, this behavior might indicate that the customer is facing a cash-flow crunch. Machine learning can identify these patterns and offer the customer a different due date, a payment plan, or even a personal loan to help improve their ability to make on-time payments.

  1. Personal Finance

Budget management apps powered by machine learning provide customers the benefit of highly targeted financial advice and guidance. These apps allow customers to track their spending daily using their mobile devices. Machine learning can then analyze this data to identify spending patterns that customers might not be aware of and identify areas where they can save.

Machine learning helped one international bank identify struggling customers and provide better options for serving their needs. When the system detected unusual spikes in late-night credit card usage among certain customer segments, combined with low savings rates, the bank determined that these customers were facing some level of financial stress. To reduce the risk of defaulting, customers tagged by the system were automatically given credit limit increases and offered free financial advice.

  1. Fraud and Risk Management

Financial services organizations handle a staggering amount of customer and transaction data that must be scanned for fraud. Payments, in particular, are a hotbed for fraudulent activity—and surveyed treasury and finance professionals believe much of the increase in 2020 can be attributed to the pandemic. Organizations must constantly look for new ways to strengthen fraud prevention and risk management protocols to handle these demands.

Companies like PayPal are using machine learning to enhance their fraud detection and risk management capabilities. Through a combination of linear, neural networks, and deep learning techniques, PayPal’s risk management engines can determine the level of risk associated with a customer within milliseconds. Similarly, financial services organizations can replace statistical risk management models with machine learning algorithms. Several organizations use programs that scan transactions for risk, move flagged transactions to a risk queue, and investigate suspicious activity automatically. Continuously expanding knowledge bases improve the ability of these programs to detect (and prevent) fraud over time.

Insight gathered by machine learning also provides financial services organizations with actionable intelligence that acts as a foundation for subsequent decisions. For example, a machine learning program could tap into various data sources to assign risk scores for loan applicants. Algorithms could then predict which customers are at risk for defaulting on their loans, allowing the bank to tailor its services or adjust terms for each customer.

Machine learning can also help lenders determine the creditworthiness of potential customers. By analyzing past spending behavior and patterns, machine learning could help identify how much credit should be extended to a given customer. The technology would be especially useful for new customers that lack long credit histories. Automating credit and risk scoring processes on a mass scale can help these organizations enhance their models across the board.

The Bottom Line: The applications of machine learning in financial services extend far beyond these few examples. Machine learning shows promise in helping the overall financial system enhance security, deliver better service, and increase operational efficiency—and that’s just the beginning.

More on artificial intelligence in Conversational AI for the Customer Experience.

*This is an update on an original post published July 2019


Today’s legacy and siloed banking technology infrastructure limit financial institutions’ ability to rapidly innovate. It’s time to look at money movement in a new way. Alacriti’s Orbipay Unified Money Movement Services does just that. Whether it’s real-time payments, digital disbursements, or bill pay, our cloud-based platform enables banks and credit unions to quickly and seamlessly deliver modern digital payments and money movement experiences. To speak to an Alacriti payments expert, please call us at (908) 791-2916 or email info@alacriti.com.

Bill Payments on Mobile Devices: A 5-Step Approach

Americans love their mobile devices. Ownership levels of smartphones have continued to climb steadily to 85 percent, while tablet ownership has remained steady since 2016. And in some demographics, mobile device ownership is at near saturation. The average user spends 5.4 hours on their mobile devices per day, and nearly every household in the U.S. owns at least one smartphone. 

This vast ownership of mobile devices has empowered users to streamline many aspects of their lives, from finding information online and communicating with others to consuming media on-demand. The global pandemic has only increased the demand for mobile access to products and services. Mobile devices have transformed commerce experiences with both retailers and service providers. One of the most important elements of this transformation is the ability for consumers to make payments directly from their mobile devices.

Only a few years ago, estimates suggested that almost half of Americans made a mobile payment on their smartphones, and though slower in adoption than other transactions, mobile payments use is increasing. The widespread ownership of mobile devices combined with the increasing use of digital wallets, mobile apps, and P2P payments will only make mobile payments more ubiquitous over time. Customers can benefit not only from the handheld convenience of mobile-based bill payments but from other perks like electronic receipts, custom alerts and notifications, and direct integration to rewards and loyalty programs.

Considering that bill payments are among the most critical payments that consumers make, billers must offer a fully optimized bill payment experience on mobile devices. How can billers do this? Here are five steps to consider.

  1. Mobile optimized biller websites

A mobile-optimized website is a must for bill payments. Users that make payments via a mobile web browser must be able to do so quickly and easily. If not, they might abandon the transaction altogether. Think about design choices like larger font sizes, not-to-be-missed buttons, auto-fill form fields, and limited scrolling.

  1. Guest Pay

Why make bill payers log in on their mobile devices at all? An electronic bill presentment and payment solution (EBPP) can offer a Guest Pay option that eliminates the need for users to log in with a user ID and password. Simply configure the system to request limited information (like an account number and ZIP code) to identify the bill payer and accept their payment.

  1. Text-based bill payments

Text messaging is one of the most-used features on mobile devices and is increasing, so it’s a natural place to engage with customers regarding their bill payments. EBPP solutions can send bill-related alerts and notifications via SMS text message, and users can also configure their accounts to make payments directly via text.

  1. Messaging apps

Messaging apps like Facebook Messenger can also facilitate customer bill payments. EBPP solutions can allow users to connect their billing accounts to Facebook to access billing information and make payments directly in the app via chatbot technology.

  1. Biller apps

Billers might want to invest in their own apps as well. When a user downloads an app, it gives the biller valuable real estate on a device that heavy phone users may check up to 86 times per day. It can also push alerts directly to the user’s home screen and integrate to payment methods saved on the mobile device.

The Bottom Line: A holistic, mobile-based bill payments strategy includes components like optimized websites, Guest Pay, text-based payments, messaging apps, and biller apps. A modern EBPP solution can help billers deliver a seamless bill payment experience directly to the mobile devices that consumers use most. 

Read more about mobile bill pay: Bill Pay the Mobile Way.

*This is an update on an original post published June 2019


Today’s legacy and siloed banking technology infrastructure limit financial institutions’ ability to rapidly innovate. It’s time to look at money movement in a new way. Alacriti’s Orbipay Unified Money Movement Services does just that. Whether it’s real-time payments, digital disbursements, or bill pay, our cloud-based platform enables banks and credit unions to quickly and seamlessly deliver modern digital payments and money movement experiences. To speak to an Alacriti payments expert, please call us at (908) 791-2916 or email info@alacriti.com.

Faster Payments: Full Speed Ahead

Modern commerce can be described in one word – immediate. Customers expect on-demand transactions whether they’re hailing rides, consuming media, or paying bills. Technology has elevated business-to-consumer (B2C) interactions with the help of apps, mobile payments, and ecommerce software that streamline even the simplest transactions.

Now that consumers can pay for goods, services, and experiences with the touch of a finger, expectations are rising for immediate payments in other aspects of commerce. For example, businesses moving money to other businesses more quickly and efficiently. Insurance companies paying their customers’ insurance claims on the spot to lessen disruption to their lives. Employers paying contract employees and freelancers more expediently than issuing paper checks. And cross-border payments of all types being conducted in simpler, more streamlined transactions.

Faster payments are evolving quickly to bring new speed, connectivity, and efficiency to money movement around the world. This blog provides an overview of faster payments, what’s currently underway in the U.S., and global systems that have been developed in support of faster payments. It also provides use cases of real-life applications for faster payments in business to business (B2B), B2C, and consumer to business (C2B) transactions.

Faster Payments Defined

So, what are faster payments? This blog uses the term as a catch-all for advancements in the payments ecosystem designed to help move money between entities faster than the traditional settlement times of the past. Faster payments are also built to leverage safety and security features that can help businesses and consumers better manage the risk that surrounds payment transactions.

Faster Payments in the U.S.

How are faster payments taking shape in the U.S.? Let’s take a closer look at how payment rails are being developed and adapted in support of faster payments.

  1. The Clearing House: Real-Time Payments (RTP®)

When was the last time a new payments infrastructure was launched in the U.S.? In 2017, The Clearing House (TCH) launched its real-time payments (RTP) system, the first new core U.S. payments infrastructure in over 40 years. As a net-new payment network (or “rail”), RTP enables businesses and consumers to instantly send, clear, and settle payments. In addition to speedier transactions, RTP also conforms to consumer protection criteria designed to prevent fraud and increase safety.

The RTP network is currently accessible to financial institutions that hold 70 percent of U.S. demand deposit accounts (DDAs), and the network currently reaches 56 percent of those accounts. The network is built to streamline financial transactions between businesses and consumers by supporting fund transfers, payment requests, and two-way communication between parties.

  1. Same Day ACH

Automated Clearing House (ACH) transactions are the backbone of money movement in America. The network has been in place for over 40 years and facilitates everything from employee payroll direct deposit to mortgage payments. In 2015, Nacha (the governing body of ACH) announced improvements to ACH in support of Same Day ACH. These improvements were intended to accelerate the traditional settlement time of one to two business days to same-day settlement.  

In 2018, Nacha announced further improvements to Same Day ACH that accelerate the availability of funds, increase the dollar limit of transactions to $100,000, and extend the submission window an extra two hours per business day. These improvements took effect over the course of 2020 and 2021, with the expansion of business hours effective March 19, 2021. ACH’s established ubiquity among financial institutions and businesses makes it a natural place to facilitate faster payments via Same Day ACH. In Q1 of 2021, more than 141 million Same Day ACH transactions were recorded, and this number is only expected to keep growing.

  1. Early Warning Services: Zelle®

In 2017, Early Warning Services launched Zelle® to streamline person-to-person (P2P) payments among account holders at U.S. banks. The solution allows money to move by providing an email address or a phone number, thereby avoiding the need to provide sensitive banking, personal, or payment information. Users can pay one another via Zelle through their banking websites, the stand-alone Zelle app, and or other mobile apps.

Zelle leverages relationships with major national banks, credit unions, and regional/community banks to extend its reach to millions of U.S. customers. Transactions are completed within minutes, eliminating the need to write personal checks or use cash. At the end of 2020, Zelle reported 1.2 billion transactions worth $307 billion. Given this uptake and the huge reach of Zelle’s infrastructure, one can only imagine that its usage and adoption will continue to grow over time.  

Faster Payments Around the World

The U.S. faces unique challenges in adopting faster payments due to legacy systems and a fragmented marketplace. However, many countries around the world have established infrastructures in place. Japan was at the forefront of faster payments, launching its Zengin System in 1973. Dozens of countries followed suit in the coming decades, with China’s Internet Banking Payment System (IBPS)  and India’s Immediate Payment Service (IMPS) both rolling out in 2010. More recently, Australia’s New Payments Platform (NPP) went live in 2018. All told, there are approximately 54 real-time payment systems globally, with more to come.

Faster Payments for B2B, B2C, and C2B Transactions

Given that backdrop, what are the real-life applications of faster payments for businesses and consumers? Here are three examples where faster payments can expedite commerce.

Use Case #1: B2B Payments

Businesses depend on suppliers to keep operations running smoothly. And suppliers require on-time payments to keep their goods flowing to businesses. Faster payments can be used in these B2B situations to make immediate payments that reduce the need for invoices, bills, paper checks, and lag times. A supplier can even use RTP messages to make a Request for Payment, a non-obligatory payment “ask” in lieu of a bill or an invoice.

Use Case #2: B2C Payments

Insurance claim payouts are a prime example where faster payments can create an immediate impact on consumers’ lives and strengthen their relationships with insurance providers. In the event of a natural disaster, policyholders may require immediate payouts to help secure basic human needs like food and shelter. Insurance companies can expedite these emergency payouts using faster payments methods, cutting down the time required for policyholders to receive their funds.

Use Case #3: C2B Payments

There are situations when consumers need to make immediate bill payments to, quite literally, keep the lights on. Using utilities as an example, a customer who is delinquent on their account might be at risk of losing basic services. Faster payments can allow them to make an immediate bill payment on their account and have the funds transferred near-instantaneously.

The Bottom Line: Faster payments are becoming a reality both domestically and globally. As the US catches up to major infrastructures around the world, the use cases for faster payments are sure to expand. The positive impact of faster payments could be a game-changer for businesses and consumers alike, with the potential to streamline commerce like never before. 

What can the rest of the world teach us about faster payments? Find out here

*This is an update on an original post published June 2019


Today’s legacy and siloed banking technology infrastructure limit financial institutions’ ability to rapidly innovate. It’s time to look at money movement in a new way. Alacriti’s Orbipay Unified Money Movement Services does just that. Whether it’s real-time payments, digital disbursements, or bill pay, our cloud-based platform enables banks and credit unions to quickly and seamlessly deliver modern digital payments and money movement experiences. To speak to an Alacriti payments expert, please call us at (908) 791-2916 or email info@alacriti.com.

How to Convert Customers to Paperless Billing

Some customers might prefer paper bills for perceived benefits like record retention and physical reminders of upcoming payments due. However, the global pandemic has increased the demand for paperless everything. Providing a choice between the two options is important. But e-bills can provide benefits for billers and customers alike.

What are some ways your organization can encourage a permanent switch to e-bills? Here are six techniques to consider. 

  1. Present digital bills designed with users in mind

Paper bills are designed to help readers easily identify important account information on the first page. A digital bill must present an equally easy-to-read design customized for the screen it’s displayed on (desktop, tablet, or smartphone). It must also allow users to quickly identify the amount owed, due date, and any additional fees or charges without unnecessary clicking, scrolling, or searching. Delivering an easy-to-use electronic billing experience is the first step in convincing customers to move away from paper.  

  1. Reinforce the eco-friendly benefits of electronic bills

Paper bills require precious resources including, ink, paper, and fossil fuels, for delivery. Electronic distribution can help reduce the overall carbon footprint of the bill issuing process. As customers become increasingly aware of their consumption habits, reinforcing the message of e-bills as a friendlier option for the environment might encourage them to make the switch.

  1. Maintain historical bills in a secure online location

A key benefit of paper bills is that the physical copies can be easily retained for future reference. Many electronic bill presentment and payment (EBPP) solutions provide access to archived bills for easy reference and printing on-demand. In addition, accessing these bills with a user ID and password also helps protect the personal information they contain.

  1. Send timely, personalized electronic bill reminders

Many customers may depend on paper bills as physical reminders that their payments are due. EBPP providers can send email and text message reminders with bill information, delivered to the electronic channels that customers use most. This is a critical customer touchpoint that can help encourage on-time bill payments and create positive brand interactions.

  1. Offer incentives for adopting electronic billing

Convincing customers to adopt e-bills might just come down to incentives like gift cards, promotional items, and or discounts. A small financial incentive might be the tipping point that encourages a customer to change their billing behavior. To determine which incentives are most appropriate, consider their cost in relationship to the long-term operational savings your organization can realize.

  1. Remind customers of the benefits of touchless self-service bill pay options in light of COVID-19

Demand for contactless everything has increased exponentially in the days since the pandemic began. Remind customers that paperless, digital options for paying bills exist and offer a safer way to settle their accounts while educating them on the features that can replace the benefits of paper bills, like digital record-keeping and automated reminders, to overcome objections.  

More on bills in Bill Payments: Helping Small Businesses Think Big.

*This is an update on an original post published May 2019


Today’s legacy and siloed banking technology infrastructure limit financial institutions’ ability to rapidly innovate. It’s time to look at money movement in a new way. Alacriti’s Orbipay Unified Money Movement Services does just that. Whether it’s real-time paymentsdigital disbursements, or bill pay, our cloud-based platform enables banks and credit unions to quickly and seamlessly deliver modern digital payments and money movement experiences.  To speak to an Alacriti payments expert, please call us at (908) 791-2916 or email info@alacriti.com.

Back to Basics: ACH for Bill Payments

Electronic bill payments are only possible because of the payment methods that make digital fund transfers possible. The “big three” funding methods of electronic bill presentment and payments (EBPP) include credit cards, debit cards, and ACH transactions. While there are benefits associated with each of these payment methods, ACH dominates the transactions processed via Alacriti’s Orbipay® EBPP. In 2020, 68% of total transactions used ACH as their funding source, far outpacing debit card and credit card payments.

For those that might be unfamiliar with ACH, here’s a quick look at the basics of how it works and some of the attributes that make it a desirable choice for funding bill payments.

What is ACH?

ACH stands for the Automated Clearing House network, which moves information and money electronically between U.S. bank accounts. The network is a batch processing system that supports two types of transactions, Direct Deposit and Direct Payment. For example, Direct Deposit of paychecks from employer to employee are typically executed using ACH when the employee authorizes these transactions and provides their bank account information to their employer. Direct Payments are popular for making bill payments, both one-time and recurring because customers can automate their payments and reduce the likelihood of missing a due date.

Which entities participate in ACH transactions?

ACH transactions require cooperation across several different entities. Here are the key players.

Originator

An Originator is a company, consumer, or organization that is authorized to initiate ACH entries (both credits and debits) into the payment system. These entries can initiate  once an arrangement is in place between the Originator and the Receiver. In the case of Direct Deposit, the Originator would be the employer that is transferring payroll funds to an employee. In the case of a bill payment, the Originator would be the biller that is requesting funds from their customer.

Originating Depository Financial Institution (ODFI)

The ODFI is the financial institution that receives payment instructions from the Originator and forwards the entries to the ACH Operator.

ACH Operator

The ACH Operator acts as a central clearing facility that works on behalf of the DFIs, both Originating and Receiving. It receives batches of ACH entries from the ODFI and then sorts and distributes those entries to the appropriate RDFIs. There are currently two ACH Operators, The Federal Reserve, and The Clearing House.

Receiving Depository Financial Institution (RDFI)

The RDFI is the financial institution that receives ACH entries from the ACH Operator and posts the entries to the accounts of its Receivers.

Receiver

A Receiver is a company or consumer that authorized an Originator to initiate an ACH entry (credit or debit) into their account via the RDFI.

How does an ACH transaction work?

The workflow below illustrates the progression of an ACH transaction for a customer bill payment.

The Bottom Line: The ACH network is an integral player in money movement throughout the U.S. ACH is often chosen for bill payments because customers can authorize direct debits of their bank accounts and automate future transactions, reducing the likelihood of missed bill payments.

Learn statistics about ACH usage in our 2020 Trends Report

*This is an update on an original post published April 2019


Today’s legacy and siloed banking technology infrastructure limit financial institutions’ ability to rapidly innovate. It’s time to look at money movement in a new way. Alacriti’s Orbipay Unified Money Movement Services does just that. Whether it’s real-time paymentsdigital disbursements, or bill pay, our cloud-based platform enables banks and credit unions to quickly and seamlessly deliver modern digital payments and money movement experiences. To speak to an Alacriti payments expert, please call us at (908) 791-2916 or email info@alacriti.com.

Ditching Paper Checks for Digital Disbursements: 5 Use Cases

Paper checks still show up regularly in people’s mailboxes. They’re a go-to not only for personal debts but also for businesses that need to pay their employees, vendors, and customers. Mobile banking apps have streamlined the check cashing process, allowing customers to deposit checks with the snap of a smartphone camera. But many people are still willing to sign their checks, physically visit a branch location or ATM, and deposit them in person.

With so many advancements in FinTech, it’s hard to believe that paper checks are still issued to the extent that they are. Although not as popular as they used to be, pre-COVID, Americans did write out 14.5 billion checks in 2018, and as of 2019,  42% of B2B payments were still made by check. But the global pandemic may finally accelerate the demise of paper checks. In its aftermath, some 31 percent of surveyed consumers indicated they are ditching paper checks in favor of digital payments. Solutions like Zelle® have emerged to facilitate person-to-person payments without the need to write physical checks. And businesses are increasingly interested in adopting solutions that can reduce, or eliminate, their dependence on paper checks.

For businesses, this ongoing dependence on paper checks can be time-consuming, costly, and not to mention consumer-unfriendly. The costs of writing a paper check can vary anywhere from $1 to $10, depending on the nature of the business and the transaction. These costs not only include the physical components of paper checks – the printing, fulfillment, and postage – but also the employee hours spent managing the check issuing process. Add to that the financial and operational headaches of managing who has cashed outstanding checks and when, and it becomes clear that moving toward digital payouts can have a significant positive impact on business operations.

Digital Disbursements are a solution that can help businesses move away from paper checks and toward electronic payouts. With Digital Disbursements, payouts can be issued directly to payees’ bank accounts without the need for a paper check. In doing so, businesses can better manage their cash flow and operations while also providing a more streamlined experience for payees.

The need for Digital Disbursements is becoming greater as people increasingly expect on-demand payment experiences. In addition, the changing nature of our economy makes quick, payee-focused payouts more important than ever. Here are five use cases where Digital Disbursements can eliminate paper checks and streamline payouts.

Insurance Claims

Perhaps the most critical component of any insurance policy is the policyholder knowing that funds will be available when they need them. Filing an insurance claim often coincides with disruptive life events like auto accidents, severe weather, medical emergencies, or catastrophic events like fires. At these times, policyholders might need funds immediately to cover basic human needs like food, water, and shelter. The ability to issue payouts digitally to policyholders can lessen the disruption of these events and help them return to their normal lives sooner.

Healthcare

Navigating healthcare payments can be a dizzying experience involving insurance, co-insurance, deductibles, co-payments – the list goes on. Patients are often unsure of what they owe in conjunction with their insurance, which can lead to overpayment of their accounts. For healthcare providers, there can be delays in payments from their patients’ insurance companies. This can also lead to inaccurate calculations of balances owed. When a patient overpays on their account, they want the funds returned to them as quickly as possible. In these cases, Digital Disbursements can facilitate the return of funds to patients quickly and easily, without the need for a paper check.

Contract Employees and Freelance Staffing

Freelancers and contract workers are an undeniable employment force in America—and growing rapidly in light of the global pandemic. Upwork’s Freelance Forward Economics Report estimates that over one-third (36%) of Americans are freelancers and that 53% of Gen Z workers are freelancers, more than any other generation.

As more and more people flock to contract and freelance work, the need for digital payouts is increasing as well. Digital Disbursements can help mirror the experience of direct deposited paychecks while also ensuring that contractors and freelancers get their payments without any delay. This can help sustain their continued engagement and potentially reduce the risk of losing them to other short-term gigs.

The Sharing Economy and Online Marketplaces

The sharing economy has revolutionized everything from personal transportation to selling goods and services online. This decentralization means that payouts are often issued directly to individuals instead of businesses. Digital Disbursements can mean quick payouts to the underlying providers without the hassle of issuing paper checks. These electronic payouts can help keep the sharing economy and online marketplaces humming along. Supporting the streamlined experiences that customers have come to expect.

Rentals

Most rentals – whether an apartment, house, vacation property, or storage unit – require an upfront payment of a security deposit to cover any damage that might be caused by the renter. The underlying owner must maintain these funds and ultimately pay them back if the terms of the rental agreement have been met. This process can be time-consuming and even lengthier when paper checks are involved. Digital Disbursements can speed up the return of a security deposit without the renter needing to cash a physical check. For property management companies, Digital Disbursements can also be an easy, low-cost way to disburse rental payouts to underlying property owners. 

The Bottom Line: As the economy changes, so do consumers’ expectations for quick and easy payouts. Digital Disbursements can help businesses modernize the payout process, eliminating the need for paper checks.

Learn about what faster payments, in general, can do for your industry in our blog

*This is an update on an original post published January 2019 


Today’s legacy and siloed banking technology infrastructure limit financial institutions’ ability to rapidly innovate. It’s time to look at money movement in a new way. Alacriti’s Orbipay Unified Money Movement Services does just that. Whether it’s real-time payments digital disbursements, or bill pay, our cloud-based platform enables banks and credit unions to quickly and seamlessly deliver modern digital payments and money movement experiences. To speak to an Alacriti payments expert, please call us at (908) 791-2916 or email info@alacriti.com.

Fintech Disruption: Creating Opportunities for Financial Institutions

Consumers demand more from their relationships with financial institutions than ever before. They expect these organizations to know them, understand their needs and wants, take a vested interest in their well-being, and provide choices that are personalized just for them.

In recent years, financial institutions have struggled with their ability to adapt to the expectations of today’s customers. Older technologies are being pushed to the max to compensate for the lack of ongoing investment. Add to this the increasing pressure from competitors and regulators, and these factors may leave financial institutions unwilling to explore advanced technologies, emerging payments, and/or open banking solutions.

Digital commerce and payments have been exploding exponentially for some time—and the need to accelerate digitalization has only been exacerbated by the global pandemic. Simultaneously, consumers’ expectations are heightening as they grow accustomed to hyper-personalized commerce experiences and the need for contactless service options. Leveraging the right technology at the right time can help financial institutions meet customers exactly where they are, delivering a better payment experience while encouraging long-term loyalty.

Conversational Touch Points

Consumers now exist in a digitized world as hyper-connected beings, craving technology and the choices it creates. 85 percent of Americans own a smartphone, and 15 percent of Americans use smartphones as their primary means of accessing the Internet. And the amount of screen time Americans spend on their mobile devices has been increasing steadily in recent years—to 5.4 hours daily on average, up from 3.33 hours just three years ago.

Consider, too, that Amazon’s Alexa, along with other virtual assistants, is a relatively new technology. In 2016, there were 130 skills for Alexa; in 2019, there were already over 100,000. And it’s expected that in 2021 the number of smart speaker users in the U.S. will grow by 13.7 percent to 83.1 million. Voice-activated payments are an important part of this skill set. It’s estimated that by 2022, 31% of all payments will be made via voice-response technology.

These statistics show that the way consumers make payments and interact with businesses is evolving at an expeditious rate. Voice-response and conversational commerce further the dimensions of choice and personal preference, elevating the overall level of satisfaction that consumers now expect. This high level of device ownership and mobile engagement presents a powerful opportunity for financial institutions to reframe the impression that “all banks are the same” by leveraging these channels to revolutionize the customer journey.

GAFA Disruption

The “Big Four” tech companies (Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon) are also disrupting payments and becoming a threat to traditional financial institutions. These companies drive loyalty by creating real connections to people and their daily lives, meeting their needs with seemingly limitless options. Their huge customer bases supply the data needed to study and understand what motivates consumers. Add to this the economies of scale they create through forward-thinking technology, customer engagement, and lower prices, and financial services are the next natural step in their journey. Done right, the Big Four could have an impact on traditional financial institutions by connecting a single customer’s personal experience to an integrated global payment and financial services ecosystem.

How to Turn the Tide

Start by answering, what has your financial institution done lately to invest in your customers’ expectations? If you’re only offering traditional payment options, are they enough? Are you invested in, or considering investments in, enhancements like digital channels, APIs, open banking, and artificial intelligence (AI) technology? Traditional financial institutions need to start thinking like fintechs, taking risks, and challenging the status quo. This can be done both internally and through partnerships with industry disruptors.

Making payments easier, faster, and with less friction is a key way to simplify the customer journey.  For example, faster payments are a ripe opportunity to get ahead of the curve. Faster payments coupled with real-time data are game-changers for both the customer experience and financial institutions seeking a competitive edge. Customers want instant gratification, so taking hours, or even days, to settle a payment is simply too long. With so much data and information available in seconds, there is no reason for the speed of payments to remain outdated.

Data and analytics are also at the heart of this transformation. By analyzing internal metrics of payments and customer interactions, financial institutions can gain better insight into customers’ likes/dislikes, wants, and needs. This data can extend to AI, machine learning, and other advanced analytical tools. Which can provide opportunities for greater personalization and channel optimization in the future.

The first step in this journey is to evaluate existing digital solutions to determine if upgrades are required. Viable fintech partners can help financial institutions transform legacy systems and create advantages including, scale, stability, and trust. They can also provide deep expertise in navigating compliance and regulatory requirements.

Now more than ever, a personalized customer experience is a MUST. Now is the time for financial institutions to move from a product-focus to a customer-focus by providing cutting-edge technology, building trust, and embracing the power of choice. 

For more on disruption, read the article, Turn and Face the Strange Changes in the Payments Industry

*This is an update on an original post published April 2019


Today’s legacy and siloed banking technology infrastructure limit financial institutions’ ability to rapidly innovate. It’s time to look at money movement in a new way. Alacriti’s Orbipay Unified Money Movement Services does just that. Whether it’s real-time paymentsdigital disbursements, or bill pay, our cloud-based platform enables banks and credit unions to quickly and seamlessly deliver modern digital payments and money movement experiences.  To speak to an Alacriti payments expert, please call us at (908) 791-2916 or email info@alacriti.com

Busting 5 Common EBPP Myths

Electronic bill presentment and payments (EBPP) is a wide-reaching discipline that encompasses everything from mobile-enabled bill payments to funding methods like debit cards, credit cards, and ACH. With so many moving parts, it’s easy for myths to develop about the basics of EBPP.

Here we’ll bust five common EBPP myths to help create a better understanding of how it all works.

Myth 1: Mobile devices are the go-to way to make electronic bill payments

There’s no denying that Americans love their smartphones, with almost 73% of the population owning one. And tablets aren’t far behind, with an ownership rate of 57%. But an analysis of bill payments made via Alacriti’s EBPP solution, Orbipay EBPP, shows that most users are still making their bill payments on desktop computers.

While mobile bill payment made its biggest jump ever in 2020 (mobile payments now represent 32% of Orbipay payments—up from 26% in 2019), desktops were still used for 66% of total transactions in 2020.

Myth 2: Electronic bill payments must be made on desktop computers and mobile devices

Despite the heavy use of desktop computers and mobile devices, they’re no longer the only way to make electronic bill payments. The explosion of chatbots powered by artificial intelligence is making voice payments easy and more accessible than ever. EBPP solutions can now empower users to make payments using smart home speakers like Amazon Alexa and Google Home. A simple spoken command like, “Alexa, pay my auto loan bill,” can trigger an on-demand, user-friendly payment experience that requires no screen time at all.

Myth 3: Mobile bill payments must be made in browsers or dedicated apps

Mobile bill payments no longer require visiting the biller’s website or downloading the biller’s app. EBPP solutions can now enable users to make payments directly through the text messaging platforms they use most. In addition, some EBPP solutions can accept bill payments by leveraging chatbot technology in commonly used apps like Facebook Messenger. Pay-by-Text and Facebook Messenger can deliver bill payments to interfaces that customers are using anyway, eliminating yet another barrier to making on-time bill payments.

Myth 4: People prefer using plastic for electronic bill payments

Considering that 70% of Americans own a credit card—34% own 3 or more—it’s natural to assume that cards are used most frequently for electronic bill payments. Despite their popularity, our Orbipay EBPP data shows that bill payments made via bank accounts (ACH) are still king, with ACH funding 90% of total transactions in 2020. However, debit cards have a strong foothold as well, representing 64% of total transaction volume for the year.

Myth 5: Electronic bill payments are made most often on nights and weekends

Our 2020 analysis shows that users like to make their bill payments on weekdays, with Monday and Tuesday being the most popular days of all. One Time payments (payments that did not use pre-configured AutoPay or Recurring schedules) were made most often on Mondays between 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm ET. 

The Bottom Line: There are common myths around EBPP that can prevent businesses from providing the most user-friendly experience to their customers. Get the facts by working with an EBPP solution provider that can help bust these myths and deliver the experience that your customers are looking for.

Read the full report: Consumer Bill Payments in 2020: Trends Report.

*This is an update on an original post published December 2018


Today’s legacy and siloed banking technology infrastructure limit financial institutions’ ability to rapidly innovate. It’s time to look at money movement in a new way. Alacriti’s Orbipay Unified Money Movement Services does just that. Whether it’s real-time payments, digital disbursements, or bill pay, our cloud-based platform enables banks and credit unions to quickly and seamlessly deliver modern digital payments and money movement experiences. To speak to an Alacriti payments expert, please call us at (908) 791-2916 or email info@alacriti.com.

The SWIFT Approach to Payments Security

Ensuring the security of Alacriti’s payments environment is an ongoing process. It demands collaboration and cooperation across the entire organization. Our role in facilitating electronic bill payments means we are subject to the strenuous requirements set forth by HIPAA, HiTech, and PCI DSS compliance. As more threats and bad actors emerge, we too must evolve to provide a safe electronic solution that our clients and end-users can trust. 

Our security discipline also demands that we stay aware of and communicate other security approaches to our community. Another development within the last couple of years is SWIFT’s Customer Security Programme (CSP). It is another way to help protect the health of the financial system and the counterparties within it.

Here’s an introduction to SWIFT, its CSP, and information on its Customer Security Controls Framework, which lays the foundation of the program.

What is SWIFT?

SWIFT is an acronym for the Society for the Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. SWIFT provides a platform for standard messaging and communication that connects to over 11,000 banking and securities organizations, market infrastructures, and corporate customers across the globe. The platform supports money movement worldwide by facilitating secure, standardized financial messages between organizations.

What is SWIFT’s Customer Security Programme (CSP)?

SWIFT developed its CSP to help thwart cyberattacks and the negative consequences they can have on businesses, consumers, and organizations around the world. The global ubiquity of SWIFT’s platform makes it a natural place to implement security protocol to help organizations better protect their transactions from fraud. The CSP is built around three core steps:

  1. Organizations should understand SWIFT’s Customer Security Controls Framework
  2. Organizations should close any gaps they identify against the controls
  3. Organizations should self-attest their level of compliance

 

In 2017, SWIFT introduced CSP in self-attestation mode. Which allowed participants to familiarize themselves with the goals, framework, lifecycle steps, and threat mitigation principles of the program. In 2018, SWIFT allowed participants to build on their experience and improve their security posture with additional mandatory controls.

What is the Customer Security Controls Framework (CSCF) v2021?

The CSCF v2021 provides information on changes to controls, additional guidance, and many clarifications to existing controls and their associated implementation guidelines. 

Mandatory controls include restricting internet access, segregating critical systems, preventing compromise of credentials, and detecting anomalies. Read the full framework here.

Image Source: https://www.swift.com/news-events/webinars/customer-security-controls-framework

How does SWIFT’s CSP help an organization’s overall security?

When a participating organization attests its level of compliance, that attestation can then be shared easily, in a standard manner, with counterparties. This streamlined communication can help mitigate risk and let organizations decide if certain counterparties they’re dealing with require additional controls.

How does SWIFT’s CSP help with payments?

SWIFT’s CSP also has a Payment Controls service that sends alerts for suspicious or out-of-policy messages. The Payment Controls leverage real-time payments monitoring, behavioral patterns, and independent daily reporting to help mitigate the risk of fraud.

The Bottom Line: The CSP helps SWIFT customers secure their own environments, detect fraud among their counterparties, and share information that can protect against future threats. This approach promotes both individual responsibility and shared responsibility by improving information sharing throughout the community. 

Related: Alacriti Now a SWIFT Customer Security Program Consulting Provider

 * This is an update on an original post published February 2019


Alacriti tackles the complexity of managing SWIFT security and compliance head-on so SWIFT members can focus on core business activities. As a SWIFT CSP consulting provider, we have in-depth skills and expertise to plan, execute and report on security status and recommend critical improvements to meet and maintain CSP security standards. To contact a SWIFT CSP Consultant, please email swiftcsp@alacriti.com.

Conversational AI for the Customer Experience

Experts predict the proliferation of artificial intelligence will be more impactful than the Internet. Here’s how artificial intelligence can help your business streamline operations and deliver a better customer experience.

Data-Driven Digital Experiences

Technology is making it easier than ever to transact and interact with businesses. From ordering lattes to requesting maintenance service, there is a website, app, or voice command to help consumers complete the task in seconds.

Your customers are becoming more and more accustomed to performing these everyday tasks with the assistance of technology. At the heart of popular consumer brands like Starbucks, Uber, and Spotify are robust technology platforms that constantly churn data to deliver seamless and highly personalized customer experiences. Customers are coming to expect a custom-tailored, data-driven digital experience all the time, whether they’re looking for a movie to stream or paying their bills.

Conversational AI Says “Hi”

Much of this technology is powered by artificial intelligence (AI). A long way from the glitchy concepts of the past, today’s intelligent computer systems enable businesses to enhance the customer experience and drive greater organizational efficiency. AI helps businesses automate operations, increase productivity, and better analyze data to inform strategic decisions across every sector. A recent survey by Wipro Limited showed 98% of businesses believe being an “intelligent enterprise” is beneficial.

Advancements in a specific type of AI called natural language processing (NLP) have allowed for the development of highly sophisticated voice recognition engines that further elevate the technology’s potential. Commonly known as “conversational AI,” these engines utilize techniques like intent classification and contextual understanding to learn more about customers and improve conversational ability over time.

Conversational AI is the force behind a growing $7.1 billion (2020) industry that’s projected to reach over $15.6 billion by 2025. Almost one in four Americans already own a smart speaker, making it one of the most rapidly adopted consumer electronics of all time. And as more consumers adopt these devices, the technology is influencing important shifts in consumer behavior.

Voice as the Next Interface

Voice is the next interface for commerce and communication, and it’s creating new markets ripe with opportunity by revolutionizing how your customers shop, find information, and engage with your business. The shift makes sense—talking is simply much more convenient than typing, and currently, 54% of Americans have used voice commands with 24% doing so daily. Choppy conversations with IVR systems are being replaced with chatbots and other digital assistants that can more naturally converse with your customers.

Modern voice recognition engines are savvy enough to remove much of the friction that riddles customer service today, if not all of it, and the technology is only getting better. Recent studies show that consumers even prefer AI-powered chatbots for self-service answers to simple questions over traditional engagement channels, especially as they become more comfortable using voice technology in everyday contexts. Conversational AI doesn’t only make for a better experience for your customers—it also frees employees from tedious customer service tasks that can be easily automated with the help of AI. In billing and payments, chatbots and voice assistants can help customers resolve many common issues like checking their balances or scheduling a payment without having to contact a live agent.

The Bottom Line: Things move fast in the digital age. It is predicted that by 2025, over 95% of customer interactions will be managed by AI. The way customers find, engage, and transact with your business will continue to change along with the evolution of technology itself. AI can help businesses harness the power of these new channels to optimize the customer experience while driving digital transformation.

For more on AI, see our AI and Customer Service by the Numbers infographic.

 *This is an update on an original post published July 2018


Alacriti created Ella, an AI-powered chatbot that facilitates seamless, personalized, and context-aware interactions between you and your customers through messaging apps, intelligent personal assistants, and directly on your website. To find out how Ella can transform how you engage with your customers, contact us at (908) 791-2916 or info@alacriti.com.

What Are Digital Disbursements?

The relationships that consumers have with retailers and service providers are increasingly digital, from how they communicate to how customers pay these businesses. But funds don’t strictly flow in one direction from consumers to businesses. There are times when businesses must issue payouts to their customers for reasons including rebates, refunds, account overpayments, and claims payouts.

The B2C payout process is largely built around issuing paper checks to recipients. But, forward-thinking companies are reevaluating this workflow in light of digital solutions that streamline so many other aspects of their operations—and the global pandemic is only increasing the need for accelerated digitalization. If customers can make payments on their mobile devices, for example, why can’t they receive digital payouts directly to their bank accounts or debit cards? Do businesses need to continue investing time and money in issuing paper checks when so many transactions are now digital? Isn’t there a better way?

The overall value of Digital Disbursements as a user-friendly alternative to paper checks for delivering B2C payouts and consumer demand for contactless and speedier payments is driving increased adoption. And research indicates that faster payments are something consumers are willing to pay a premium for. One study shows 20 percent of consumers are now willing to pay fees to receive disbursements such as refunds, rebates, and insurance payouts instantly.

Here are four things to know about digital disbursements:

  1. Digital disbursements use existing payment “rails” to deliver faster payouts.

Digital disbursements can replace paper checks by delivering funds through payment rails that customers already use. For example, one of the most popular alternatives to paper checks is delivering funds via the ACH network. Customers simply provide their account information and their financial institution’s routing number to sign up for ACH disbursements. Other options such as PayPal, Zelle®, and push-to-card (Mastercard SendTM and Visa Direct) are becoming more widely offered and adopted as well.

  1. Faster payouts can reduce your business’s dependence on paper checks.

How many checks does your business issue to customers on a monthly basis? If it’s a high number, you’re probably spending significant time and money managing the process. Digital disbursements can help your business move away from the onerous process of issuing paper checks and replace it with a more efficient digital workflow.

  1. Customers get their money faster.

When a customer is owed money, they want it in their accounts as soon as possible. This is especially true in circumstances like insurance claims payouts where the need might be urgent. Regardless of the situation, faster money means a better customer experience. Digital disbursements can reduce the lag time associated with paper checks and deliver B2C payouts faster than ever before.  

  1. There are experts that can help.

The thought of switching from paper checks to digital disbursements might seem overwhelming in the face of other priorities on your list. This transition can have deep impacts on existing technology, workflows, and security/compliance considerations. But time is of the essence in keeping up with the changing needs, demands, and expectations of your customers. Leveraging solutions developed by established providers that know the ins and outs of disbursement services can get your business up and running quickly, delivering the best possible experience to your customers in the fastest time possible.

The Bottom Line: Digital disbursements are poised to displace paper checks as the go-to for customer payouts. Invest in technology that streamlines the transition for your business while delivering the best possible experience to your customers. 

Stimulus checks made a strong case for digital disbursements. Read more in Poky Stimulus Checks— An Argument for Payment Modernization

*This is an update on an original post published June 2019


Today’s legacy and siloed banking technology infrastructure limit financial institutions’ ability to rapidly innovate. It’s time to look at money movement in a new way. Alacriti’s Orbipay Unified Money Movement Services does just that. Whether it’s real-time payments digital disbursements, or bill pay, our cloud-based platform enables banks and credit unions to quickly and seamlessly deliver modern digital payments and money movement experiences.  To speak to an Alacriti payments expert, please call us at (908) 791-2916 or email info@alacriti.com.

The Rules and Regulations of Online Payments

Accepting online payments from your customers isn’t just about having a sleek and easy checkout process. Handling sensitive payment data means that businesses are subject to rules and regulations from various entities. In my role as Manager of Operations, I often help our clients navigate the assorted requirements that affect their online payments acceptance programs.

The following is a high-level overview of some key regulations that businesses should have on their radar when it comes to accepting electronic payments, including Nacha’s Operating Rules, the card networks’ best practices for card-not-present transactions, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and an overview of FinCEN’s new CDD rule.

Nacha Operating Rules

Transactions made via the Automated Clearing House (ACH) are a popular way for customers to make insurance, utility, and mortgage payments. Businesses that accept ACH payments are subject to Nacha’s Operating Rules, which provide clear guidelines that govern all transactions over the network. Here is some high-level information regarding ACH return thresholds, which are based on both volume and dollar amounts:

  • There is a 15.0% threshold for all returns across the board
  • The threshold for returns for administrative reasons (no account, unable to locate, etc.) is set at 3.0%
  • There is a threshold of 0.5% for returns for unauthorized transactions

What happens if your business exceeds these thresholds? Nacha will initiate an inquiry into whether the Operating Rules have been violated, which may then determine any associated fines or penalties.

Alacriti works closely with its customers to monitor their returns and help them  lower these rates when they start approaching the thresholds. We recommend that all merchants who accept ACH payments perform a thorough review of Nacha’s Operating Rules and stay up to date on changes as they are published.

Card Networks

The major card networks – American Express, Discover, Mastercard, and Visa—have established guidelines for best practices when accepting card-not-present (CNP) payments. Here’s a brief overview of some key guidelines for accepting CNP payments from your customers.

  • Collect the card number, cardholder name (as it appears on the card), the expiration date of the card, and cardholder’s mailing address where they receive the card’s statement
  • Use tools such as Address Verification Service (AVS) and Card Verification Value (CVV) to further verify electronic transactions
  • Use internal or third-party tools to help identify suspicious or fraudulent transactions
  • Provide a record of the transaction via email that outlines order details, return policies, and customer support contact information

Failure to implement these best practices can lead to high levels of returns and chargebacks, resulting in fines and even expulsion from the card networks. We collaborate with our customers to ensure that they understand these best practices to help avoid excessive returns and chargebacks.

PCI DSS Compliance

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) applies to all organizations that store, process, or transmit cardholder data. It was developed to help keep customers and their sensitive payment data safe. While PCI DSS is overseen and managed by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC), the council does NOT enforce PCI DSS. Instead, the card networks are responsible for making sure that the underlying merchants adhere to PCI DSS. Failure to do so could result in fines and possible cancellation of merchant accounts via the associated merchant’s acquiring bank.

PCI DSS compliance requirements will vary from business to business. For more information on PCI DSS, please click here.

Know Your Customer (KYC)

KYC is an inclusive term used for the processes that businesses undertake to ensure that their customers are who they say they are. KYC is not just one initiative or discipline—it often encompasses different rules and regulations from industry bodies, government agencies, and internal controls. Businesses of all sizes are required to have controls in place that verify the identities of their underlying customers. In addition, U.S. financial institutions are subject to further mandatory KYC regulations.

One of the KYC requirements that affect U.S. financial institutions was rolled out by The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in 2018. FinCEN’s Customer Due Diligence Requirements for Financial Institutions (CDD) rule was introduced to improve financial transparency. This is in addition to existing Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) rules regarding Anti-Money Laundering, plus OFAC compliance and the USA PATRIOT Act.

The CDD rule is an amendment to the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) that helps prevent bad actors from misusing companies to disguise illegal activity and money laundering. U.S. banks are affected by the CDD rule because it heightens the requirements for customers’ due diligence. It added a requirement for covered financial institutions to, “Identify and verify the identity of the natural persons (known as beneficial owners) of legal entity customers who own, control, and profit from companies when those companies open accounts.”

The Bottom Line: Accepting online payments from your customers requires adherence to a variety of rules and regulations. Partnering with a seasoned electronic bill presentment and payment (EBPP) provider can help guide you through this process and keep your online payments program running smoothly.

 Speaking of rules, learn more about Nacha’s latest rule extensions in our blog.

*This is an update on an original post published July 2018


Alacriti’s Orbipay EBPP is a customizable electronic billing and payments solution for businesses and financial institutions of all sizes. For more information, please contact us at info@alacriti.com.

Bill Payments: Helping Small Businesses Think Big

Small businesses are a driving force in the U.S. economy. They employ 47.1% of private workers and, despite the pandemic, created 1.6 million new jobs in 2020. But failure rates for small businesses can be high, and lack of cash flow is often a contributing factor. For small businesses that rely on a steady stream of income from bill payments, an electronic bill presentment and payment (EBPP) solution can be a powerful tool to help keep this revenue flowing. And, in the face of the “new normal” and increasing consumer demand for contactless everything, it can be a competitive differentiator.

Despite smaller staff and budgets, small businesses can benefit from big-minded solutions – including EBPP solutions – that serve some of the largest enterprises in the country. How can an EBPP solution help small businesses collect on-time payments and streamline operations? Here are five ways EBPP can help small businesses think big.

  1. Relieve the headache of dealing with bad checks.

Issuing paper bills and accepting payments via cash or check might seem like the least expensive options for collecting bill payments. But the reality is that recording cash payments can be time-consuming and prone to error. And, as stated earlier, there is an increasing demand for contactless billing and payments. Additionally, bounced checks can create collection time lags and other operational challenges that might be difficult for small businesses to control.

Accepting a wide variety of payment methods can help small businesses encourage on-time payments by giving customers the choices they’re looking for. While card payments do have fees associated with them, small businesses can work with their payments providers to establish pricing models that help make these expenses more predictable.

  1. Bring bill payments to mobile devices.

Fueled by increased consumer comfort, demand for contactless payments, better technology, and other factors, mobile payments adoption has been increasing exponentially in recent years and is predicted to grow to in excess of $130 billion in 2020—up from $69.8 billion in 2018.  The good news is mobile payment offerings aren’t just something that large organizations can offer. An EBPP solution can empower small businesses to accept bill payments on the mobile devices that customers use most, making these transactions quicker and more seamless than ever.

  1. Get electronic bill payments up and running quickly.

Small businesses might balk at the idea of a long and cumbersome implementation process for an EBPP solution. Forward-thinking EBPP providers can offer an out-of-the-box solution that’s designed specifically for small businesses. This means shorter implementation times that enable small businesses to begin accepting electronic bill payments in no time flat.

  1. Keep bill payments top-of-mind for small business customers.

Reminding customers about account balances and upcoming due dates might not be possible without the help of technology. An EBPP solution can automate these processes by sending reminders via email and text messages on the business’s behalf. Doing so can prompt customers to make on-time payments and keep revenue arriving on time.

  1. Offer cutting-edge payments experiences.

Payments are evolving rapidly, and customers want to take advantage of the latest technology. Chatbots powered by artificial intelligence (AI) are facilitating text-based payments (via messaging apps) and voice payments (via intelligent personal assistants). Considering that 29% of small and medium-sized businesses have implemented AI, the right EBPP solution can offer small businesses the latest technology of today and help them quickly adapt to the emerging trends of tomorrow to remain relevant.

The Bottom Line: Easy, flexible, and forward-thinking bill payment experiences aren’t just for large enterprises. Small businesses can also take advantage of these benefits by partnering with an EBPP provider built to serve the needs of today and position them for success in the future.

Learn how businesses are using real-time payments to access cash faster and increase employee satisfaction in Realizing the Value of Real-Time Payments for Credit Unions.

*This is an update on an original post published August 2018


Alacriti’s Orbipay EBPP is a customizable electronic billing and payments solution for businesses and financial institutions of all sizes. Ella is an AI-powered chatbot that facilitates seamless, personalized, and context-aware interactions between you and your customers through messaging apps, intelligent personal assistants, and directly on your website. For more information, please contact us at info@alacriti.com.