COVID-19 continues to have an impact on the payments landscape. On Saturday, February 27, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, and this week, the Senate moves onto its own framework, which will likely differ on points including the federal minimum wage, recovery payments and spending. If a bill is passed, the legislation will help stimulate the U.S. economy and provide additional money for COVID-19 vaccines and medical equipment. This influx of money moving into the economy is likely to have an impact on people’s spending habits.
Also making headlines are President Biden’s plans to rework the U.S. Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to emphasize smaller businesses, those in underserved communities, and those owned by minorities, reported PYMNTS.com. The change went into effect on February 24, and for two weeks, the program will only accept applications from companies meeting these criteria.
Other headlines this month include:
March 2021 At-a-Glance
COVID-19: House passes Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) gets an overhaul.
Emerging Payments: Mastercard to support select cryptocurrencies on its network this year; Amazon exploring digital currencies; and Wishpond launches new payments service.
New Role of Operations Workgroup: Defining Operations Today subgroup nears completion; Challenges of Operations subgroup dives deep; Faster Payments Symposium Planning subgroup hits the ground running, and more.
Faster Payments Strategy: FPC launches two new workgroups: Financial Inclusion and Real-Time Recurring; Nacha’s Expanding Same-Day ACH Rule goes into effect March 19.
RTP® and FedNow(SM): Zelle® transactions can now be cleared and settled over TCH’s RTP® network; FedNow’s to go live in 2023; Federal Reserve’s FedNow Service pilot program is underway.
In a blog post authored by Executive Vice President of Digital Asset and Blockchain Products and Partnerships Raj Dhamodharan, Mastercard announced the company is “preparing right now for the future of crypto and payments.” According to the post, Mastercard will start supporting select cryptocurrencies directly on its network sometime this year.
“Our philosophy on cryptocurrencies is straightforward: It’s about choice. Mastercard isn’t here to recommend you start using cryptocurrencies, writes Dhamodharan. “But we are here to enable customers, merchants, and businesses to move digital value —traditional or crypto – however they want. It should be your choice, it’s your money.”
He points out that the Mastercard network will not support all of today's cryptocurrencies. They must meet the company's requirements.
Speaking of digital currency, Amazon is also on the move. As reported by NFCW, an online source that provides senior executives and technical experts with news and analysis on the latest development in payments and beyond, "Amazon is recruiting a tech team that will be tasked with building 'innovative payment products for customers in emerging markets that will enable customers to convert their cash into digital currency to purchase goods and services like Prime Video.’”
According to NFCW, “Amazon has yet to officially unveil the project or indicate the nature of the digital payments products it will be developing.”
In other news, Wishpond, a digital marketing solutions company, announced recently the launch of Wishpond Payments, “a new service enabling the Company’s 2,000+ customers to sell and collect payments directly through landing pages.”
According to its news release:
Wishpond Payments enables customers to accept instant purchases on their website, unlocking new e-commerce capabilities using the Wishpond platform. With additional features, including built-in check-out, revenue reporting, and subscription management, businesses can allow customers to shop and check out without leaving their landing page or website. Wishpond Payments' launch is a testament to Wishpond's commitment to supporting small businesses challenged with maintaining growth due to the impacts of COVID-19.
Wishpond is one of several companies launching new products and services to meet consumers' and businesses' emerging demands.
NEW ROLE OF OPERATIONS WORKGROUP
The New Role of Operations Workgroup met in late February to further understand the shifting role and emerging needs of operations. Topics of discussion included:
- Updates from group advisors
- Update from Defining What Operations Is Today subgroup
- Update from Challenges Facing Operations Today subgroup
- New subgroup—Disrupting Factors in Banking
- Update from Faster Payments Symposium Planning subgroup
- Updates on RTP® and FedNow(SW) Services presentations
- Keith Gray, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for The Clearing House (TCH), to present and answer questions during the first half of the March 26 meeting.
- Nell Campbell, Vice President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, to present and answer questions during the first half of the April 30 meeting.
Be on the lookout for a detailed post on the conversations that ensued; the group next meets on March 26, 2021.
FASTER PAYMENTS STRATEGY
The U.S. Faster Payments Council (FPC) announced February 18, 2021, the launch of two new FPC Workgroups: Financial Inclusion and Real-Time Recurring. According to FPC’s news release, “The newest workgroups are in addition to the FPC's wide range of workstreams on faster payments topics such as education and awareness, cross border payments, fraud, QR codes, regulatory, and directory models."
More specifically, according to the release:
The Financial Inclusion Work Group will create a blueprint for leveraging faster payments to accelerate access to unbanked and underserved Americans' financial system. The group will examine the current state of issues, concerns, and needs of unbanked and underserved consumers and small businesses to develop and inform the industry on a holistic approach to better serve this segment of the economy.
The Real-Time Recurring Work Group will promote the development and adoption of real-time recurring payment solutions to be used by business end-users and financial institutions. The group plans to develop a real-time recurring workflow for faster payments by identifying current approaches, applicable use cases, best practices, and implementation guidance.
Speaking of real-time payments, Nacha’s Expanding Same-Day ACH Rule goes into effect March 19, 2021. This new rule expands access to Same Day ACH by allowing Same Day ACH transactions to be submitted to the ACH Network for an additional two hours every business day. The new Same Day ACH processing window will go into effect on March 19, 2021.
In addition, Nacha’s rule, Supplementing Fraud Detection Standards for WEB Debits, goes into effect March 19, 2021, as well. The Nacha Board of Directors extended the effective date for an upcoming change in the Nacha Operating Rules. The WEB Debit Account Validation Rule takes effect March 19, 2021, rather than January 1, 2020. Nacha members initially approved the rule in November 2018. The Nacha Board of Directors approved the extension in the effective date to allow additional time, education, and guidance to be provided to the industry.
RTP and FEDNOW
Early Warning Services, LLC and The Clearing House (TCH) announced Zelle® transactions can now be cleared and settled over the RTP® network. According to its news release:
Bank of America and PNC Bank are the first to send Zelle payments over the RTP network, providing consumers and businesses a fully digital payment experience with improved efficiency by leveraging the emerging global ISO 20022 message standard. By sending Zelle payments over the RTP network, financial institutions can enable instant settlement and more straightforward back-office processing, improving efficiency and reducing costs.
Speaking of real-time payments, PYMNTS February 2021 Real-Time Tracker takes a deep dive into how real-time request-for-payment capabilities fight late compensation. PYMNTS reports:
Small vendors and freelancers suffer, especially when clients pay late. Encouraging their customers to adopt quicker payment methods could help reduce those problems, however, because real-time payments deliver money immediately into recipients' accounts. Gig workers and small businesses that send RfPs over these immediate transaction systems can help encourage their customers to use the same systems for delivering back funds.
Download PYMNTS February 2021 Real-Time Payments Tracker here to learn more.
In other real-time payments news, the Federal Reserve confirmed that the industrywide launch timing for its FedNow Service is 2023, narrowing the delivery timeframe by almost a full year from its original 2019 projection dates of 2023 or 2024.
Toward that end, the Federal Reserves’ pilot program is underway, with more than 110 organizations participating in the program for their upcoming instant payments offering, the FedNow Service. As noted in its news release:
The program will support the development, testing, and adoption of the FedNow Service and encourage the development of services and use cases that leverage FedNow functionality. A key objective in selecting participants for the pilot was to ensure diverse representation across financial institutions and service providers, connection types, settlement arrangements, and experience levels.
To participate in the FedNow poll, which inquires about strategy and implementation, click here.
As our Cyber Watch column continues to grow and evolve, you will note that over the last few months, we have been working to provide not only updates on what is happening in the industry but also discuss access to tools being created to help combat the malicious nature of cybersecurity threats.
Our most recent post includes updates on hacks that trended in 2020, federal task forces being created to combat cybersecurity threats, and updates on various attacks and trends, including those related to the increase in Bitcoin value. We have chosen these specific articles because they relate to what is happening in the financial landscape and impact your customer base. Our goal with this post is to provide you access to the information you can use to help your organization plan and combat cyber threats.
We encourage you to read through these updates and further explore the links for additional information related to each topic. As always, please feel free to share this information with other colleagues, and we welcome your feedback and comments on this month's Cyber Watch post.
After signing into the Innovating Payments website, you can read the column in its entirety here.
Also, new on the Innovating Payments website, we examine what Fiserv acquiring Ondot means for digital payments.
First, let’s talk about Ondot. In a nutshell, Ondot provides banks and credit unions with a digital card services platform that drives cardholder engagement and helps financial institutions (FIs) offer in-the-moment convenience, control, and transparency for credit debit cards. They process about a billion transactions a month and provide the consumers who use its payment app with insights on their spending habits.
For example, Ondot organizes and identifies the transaction and merchant data, allowing customers to recognize their purchases and understand their spending patterns, resulting in higher engagement and fewer service calls and disputes more easily. They also design digital ecosystems that enable banking customers to roll out modern payment gateways and processing systems such as card payment apps.
Bottom line, Fiserv's Ondot acquisition is likely to help them continue and extend their digital push, including accelerating digital customer acquisition, driving digital commerce, increasing card activation and usage, and reducing service costs.
We expect to see more partnerships between financial institutions and fintechs focusing on the digitalization of payments as the push for market share continues in a rapidly evolving landscape.
NEACH YOUR STRATEGIC PARTNER
For more on what’s happening in the world of innovating payments, please stop by our Innovating Payments website.
As always, consider NEACH your strategic partner. We are here to support you. For questions, call our payments hotline at 855-NEACHQA.
AUTHOR: Mark J. Dixon, AAP, APRP, NCP
Director, Payments Innovation
As the Director of Payments Innovation for NEACH, Mark focuses on exploring innovative solutions and technologies that will help position members for success, both now and in the future. Connect with Mark to read more of his blogs, articles, and posts.