Looking Back at AFP 2021

Posted by Mark Ranta on 09 Dec 2021

After what felt like an eternity without business travel, the last few months have seen the beginning of a return to normalcy (or at least a normal with social distancing and better hygiene practices than we saw in the pre-pandemic world). Normal for us is setting up booths and seeing our customers and prospective customers out in the market at conferences, shows, and seminars discussing and sharing insights on the payments market. To steal a cliché, we didn’t know what we had until we lost it, and getting back to a face-to-face in person reality was for me at least, the biggest piece of the normalcy puzzle we have been missing. Getting to see friendly faces in Washington D.C. at the first AFP conference in this new era, was a welcome return to convention. The show itself didn’t disappoint from the acceleration of real-time payments, to the market’s “new oil” data, they hit the right high notes, and gave us a few key takeaways. 

Takeaway Number 1: The business payments market is HOT right now. This is sort of a cross over trend from Money20/20 but the business payments market is starting to heat up, and is getting faster… one could say, it’s going real-time. As a certified payments nerd, I tend to get really excited about small changes, which usually takes YEARS to actually take hold in the market. When we first started talking about real-time payments almost a decade ago, the point that often went unsaid is that the environment and systems that were built around the payments in the business market are going to change slowly, way slower than the consumer market (which went bonkers for real-time with Venmo and Zelle in the P2P market about 5 years ago). However, I am here to report, the time is officially here for real-time payments in the business space. The AFP conference had session after session covering all aspects of faster payments. FinTech has turned its focus on this space, and banks have accelerated their roadmaps, and 2022 is going to be THE YEAR for real-time business payments. 

Takeaway Number 2: Usage of Data. With faster payments, comes better data. When you move from systems that were cutting edge when the original Star Wars premiered, to systems that were born in the age of supercomputers, needless to say, there’s going to be A LOT more information coming along with the payment. As an industry, we did a really good job in building work-arounds to this problem with ERP solutions and EDI files to go with PDFs sent via email. However, with the new payment rails, data capabilities you could only dream of 10 years ago and the ability to apply that data is now at our fingertips: cash flow forecasting, working capital management tools, eInvoicing and simple reconciliation processes are all areas where the new data capabilities will pay dividends. 

Takeaway Number 3: Collaboration and Partnerships. I have been somewhat in awe of this trend, but it was on full display last week in Washington D.C.. The question of FinTech, friend or foe, has shifted into “Big Tech, Friend or Foe” and has cleared the way for the clean answer to the first which is a resounding FRIEND. Bank and FinTech partnerships, as well as FinTech and FinTech partnerships, were front and center (at least in the exhibit hall and in the press). The rapidly expanding market, and the speed of change in the market, has created an environment where partnerships will dominate the next evolution of payments. As we moved from on prem, to data center, to cloud deployment models— the technology underpinning the engines and services also changed from proprietary code, to standardized messaging, to open APIs. We went from an extremely difficult partnership environment to one where partnerships can flourish! From solving individual niche use cases, to connecting banks to central payments infrastructure, every aspect of the payment flow is now ripe for partnership(s). Nothing is off the table (and it shouldn’t be)!

Bonus Takeaway: 2022 is going to be the year of in-person events. We got a small taste of this over the past few months, with two major shows returning to their normal calendar positions. Next year, it all indicates that we are going for more in-person events. I for one won’t miss the Zoom cocktail hours of 2020 and 2021. Nothing can replace a good meetup amongst friends and colleagues, and we can’t wait to share one with you all in 2022! 

 Read about Money20/20 in Looking Back at Money20/20

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

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Mark Ranta Payments Practice Lead Mark is responsible for working with our market partners and financial institution customers discussing, exploring, and examining market trends and key drivers in the evolving digital payment space. Prior to joining Alacriti, Mark's nearly 15 year career has been focused entirely on the banking and payments space, working for solution providers and research firms supporting both the corporate and consumer banking markets. Mark is a Certified Treasury Professional and holds a Bachelor of Arts from Lafayette College.

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