A year has passed since the UK’s first covid lockdown and so much has changed in the world of fintech, particularly the global payments landscape.
The coronavirus has transformed consumers’ shopping behaviour, accelerated the need for a cashless society and forced merchants to harness the power of digital technology to process transactions. Cryptocurrency has edged closer to mass adoption and e-commerce sales continue to soar – leaving many bricks and mortar stores teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
There’s little doubt that this ‘new reality’ is here to stay and will continue to evolve, presenting new challenges for merchants and creating new opportunities for the fast-moving payments industry.
But what can we expect over the next twelve months?
Finance digitalisation boom
“Digitisation will continue to accelerate, as we get more comfortable with concepts such as digital assets, an ‘Internet of Value’, and doing more of our day to day transactions digitally,” said Kristy Duncan, founder of Women in Payments. “Factors such as inclusivity and sustainability will also play a bigger role in how and why players across the payments ecosystem serve our global community. I am pleased to see more focus on digital financial inclusion, which is especially important during this time of unprecedented change, and we want to embrace the new, while not leaving any members of our society behind.”
According to Dora Ziambra, COO of digital money transfer firm Azimo, around 15% of the UK population was living a cashless life before COVID struck. “With digital transactions booming and even the elderly adapting to contactless payments, that figure will be significantly higher now. Even as lockdowns end, it’s the beginning of the end for cash. As digital payments become the norm, consumers will demand instant payments as standard, even when sending money across borders. We’re used to digital services like Uber and Amazon providing light speed gratification – financial services will have to meet the same mark. Consequently, expect to see startling improvements in automated identity verification and compliance technology. This is the area that slows most financial transactions down, so it’s attracting huge investment and innovation.”
Fintech 2.0 and 5G
Jane Loginova, co- CEO and co-founder of Radar Payments believes better broadband speeds and Internet connectivity will accelerate the pace of adoption for digital transactions, creating an urgent need for advanced payments processing technology and cyber protection. “The rollout of 5G networks and compatible devices will enhance the speed of websites and apps and accelerate the use of mobile phones as a simplified payments tool. It will also enable better, proactive fraud detection. This, along with the ongoing concerns about the spread of Covid through cash, will make mobile and digital payments even more appealing to the masses and merchants alike, further boosting usage.”
The massive acceleration towards online retail sales driven by Covid-19 will also continue to present big challenges around theft and fraud. “This will lead to greater investment in online fraud platforms by banks and payment processors to help mitigate any risks that are detrimental to the adoption of mobile transactions,” she added.
Fraud in fintech
Veronica Melendez, Head of Payments at Recharge.com, is also concerned about the threat of fraud and its impact on consumers, businesses and the financial services sector. “COVID-19 has changed the habits of people paying attention to the measures taken to keep them safe. But safety does not only mean keeping a 1.5m distance or limiting visits to brick-and-mortar shops; people are also looking to be safe online. This is a trend we will see continue across the next 12 months and beyond as e-commerce companies strive to create a continued sense of security for the shopper while buying online. Protecting their identity, personal information and payment credentials while they pay for online purchases in a fast, simple and safe way — this is an element of the online shopping experience we truly believe is here to stay.”
The new habits formed during our’ stay at home’ existence during lockdown, will further shape the payments landscape. “People have never spent as much time behind the screens as they have during this pandemic. Date night at the movies is now on the sofa with Netflix; you work from home to the soundtrack of your Spotify playlist; your birthday gifts are digital credit in the shape of gift cards and codes; your window shopping is now endless scrolling through Amazon. These are a handful of examples — all these branded payments are becoming part of our daily lives as they are accessible, convenient and also provide a sense of safety. They are here to stay and be our companions in these tough times… and beyond.”
The crypto generation
Radical changes have also taken place in the burgeoning crypto sector, which will have far-reaching implications for the payments landscape. “There’s now more than 70 million crypto wallet holders around the world- hardly surprising when Bitcoin’s become one of the most talked-about topics in mainstream financial media,” said Lottie Wells, Head of Community Engagement and the Women in Crypto Powerlist at Wirex, creator of the world’s first crypto-enabled payment card. “With the mass adoption of crypto edging closer, both regulators and global industry players are taking notice. Until recently, given its decentralised nature, governments had little control over crypto. However, its growing popularity and potential to compete with the traditional economy have accelerated the need to put in place regulatory frameworks. For example, the UK’s FCA have recently introduced 5AMLD, where all crypto companies operating in the UK must be registered to operate in the country. Although it’s a fairly long and arduous process, it’s an important move in separating legitimate crypto companies from those that are not, thus improving consumer trust in the currency. This will significantly shape what the future of crypto might look like over the next 12 months and in the coming years.”
A series of renowned payments players have also entered the crypto space during the Covid crisis, adding further legitimacy to digital currencies as a new form of payment. “Visa and Mastercard are attempting to stay on top of the evolving landscape by showing their acceptance of crypto, and Facebook and Paypal have also entered the crypto space in recent months,” explained Lottie.
This interest from well-known brands along with increased government recognition for the benefits of crypto and an explosion of innovation in the DeFi sector, enables digital currencies to finally join the ranks of other influential innovations in shaping a global payments sector. Hopefully this will lead to improved financial service offerings from banks and ultimately better outcomes for consumers.
“It’s an exciting time to be in payments,” added Kristy Duncan. “I look forward to new opportunities to enable, be inclusive, and serve the users of our global payments ecosystem in ways that are sustainable for all.”