Drawing on nearly 30 years of experience in payments and banking, Marc explores the key trends playing out in commercial payments:
With nearly 30 years of experience in a variety of roles in payments and banking at Barclays, I’ve seen significant development in technology and innovation across the industry, and it’s been great to get a view of the entire ecosystem. I’m really enjoying heading up Barclaycard Commercial Payments (BCP) which I have done for just over two years now. Working with the largest multinational brands to small and medium business players, BCP helps businesses make payments and drive efficiencies for buyers and suppliers.
It’s an exciting time to be in commercial payments – there is a wealth of innovation taking place, and it’s all for the benefit of the users. Similar to the disruption we are seeing in consumer payments, commercial payments is also changing. Our customers are key to our success and as we look to meet their changing needs, three key things we think about are: the need to prioritise regulation, how to harness the latest technology and prioritising partnerships to help us to be more successful.
On the front foot of regulation
Rules and regulations are fundamental to ensuring the smooth running of all industries. In banking and payments, they are absolutely essential. The European Payment Services Directive (PSD2) represents the biggest change for us since Chip and PIN was introduced and two of the key areas of focus for us are Open Banking and Secure Card Authentication (SCA).
The purpose of Open Banking is to increase competition and support the penetration of new products. To get ready for this change, we have built a bespoke series of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for our small business accounts. This enables customers to consent to regulated third parties accessing some of their data held by us enabling them to see their online payment accounts – all in one place. SCA adds another layer of authentication when shopping online and logging in to any banking portal. PSD2 will touch every process and platform and Open APIs have been a key build for us. As well as meeting the regulatory requirements, we are keen to ensure we are making a positive difference for our clients. Some of this comes from now having the ability to extract data from other financial services providers and aggregating that data for our customers which is a strong value proposition.
Harnessing the power of technology
Digitisation is a game-changer in almost every industry so it’s unsurprising to see the massive impact it’s having on payments. To take one example, invisible payments take the friction out of the transaction so the payment happens in the background. In the commercial cards arena, we are also looking to help our customers embed virtual cards or broader virtual payment capabilities into the back end of the solutions they operate day-in, day out. The payment becomes part of the procurement process rather than being a separate process with added friction.
Our virtual card solution Precisionpay creates a virtual card for each payment so the reconciliation of payments to statements is simple and automated. It’s a great example of innovation in service to meet customer needs. The solution had been around for four years but the more recent addition of the prepaid element in the past couple of years a strong example of how we’re constantly evolving to stay at the forefront of technology. In April 2018, we further developed our virtual payments proposition through the addition of Precisionpay Bank Transfer. This is an exciting development which enables our clients to pay suppliers which don’t currently accept Visa or Mastercard but with all the data, reconciliation and working capital benefits of virtual card programme – something that is a competitive advantage to discuss with our clients.
In the business travel space, we are using virtual cards to give our customers control over company travel expenses. To take one example, we are looking at the opportunity to add virtual cards into a form of mobile wallet that you can use for the duration of one trip and then it expires. Payments for corporates need to be as flexible and seamless as they are for the consumer. For the 11th year running, BCP was one of the exhibitors at The Business Travel Show, the international event for business travel, earlier this year. We were able to demonstrate the power of Precisionpay alongside Amadeus, one of our key travel partners. BCP integrated Precisionpay into Amadeus’s business to business wallet payment solution. Virtual cards are a fast, secure and convenient way to manage supplier payments, offering businesses greater control and oversight of spend, and Precisionpay also enables businesses to pay suppliers upfront without affecting cash-flow or tying up important capital.
Partnerships and collaboration
In BCP, focusing on partnerships for growth, connectivity and capability are key to offering a fully integrated end-to-end proposition for our clients. One of the companies we are collaborating with for capability is Conferma, a UK FinTech specialising in Virtual Card Numbers operating in nearly 200 countries worldwide. Conferma provides the backbone for Precisionpay, our virtual card capability.
Our connectivity partnerships involve integrating our assets into another organisation’s ecosystem and we work with leading names such as Coupa, Amadeus and SAP Ariba to provide our clients with enhanced payment functionality and process efficiencies. In global procurement, payments have always been the part of the process that has created the most friction, so we’re really excited about making business to business payments as simple and seamless as possible.
For growth, we are working with clients such as the Travis Perkins Group, the UK’s largest builders’ merchant, to open up new untapped segments to grow our card business. The five-year co-brand trade credit card deal with Travis Perkins gave us the opportunity to issue the UK’s first dual branded MasterCard aimed at their sole traders and small business customers.
In the collaboration space, by having its own card acquirer and issuer, Barclays is in a very strong position to serve the full breadth of our clients’ payments needs – which is something I’m very passionate about. Our Joint Payment Proposition (JPP) brings together capabilities from Corporate Banking and Cards and Payments, encouraging colleague collaboration to bring best-in-class payment solutions to our clients.
Looking to the future
When looking to the future, our vision and planning starts and ends with the customer need – after all, they’re ones who will decide if it’s going to be successful or not. Just last month, we were delighted to win ‘Best Business Card Provider’ at the 2019 Business Moneyfacts Awards for the sixth year in a row and I am really proud of our team.
We are passionate about making paying anywhere simple, effortless and more rewarding. I am really excited about the potential for growing our business by continuing to innovate with integrated, digital solutions that make existing processes fast, secure and convenient. Watch this space.