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2020 Global Challenges for Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency

2020 Global Challenges for Cryptocurrency

Blockchain, Bitcoin, and Cryptocurrency are some of the terms that you must have heard at some point in your life. Especially in the past decade or so, cryptocurrency became the talk of the global economic forums. As many authorities began to question the future of monetary assets, money, and similar resources, cryptocurrency was among the more controversial topics.

In 2019, right before Blockchain could have seen a public acceptance phase, the revolution came to an abrupt halt. According to the Gartner Group, it was called ‘Blockchain fatigue.’ Other experts also jumped on the bandwagon that the fire of Blockchain technology and virtual currency, in general, has fizzled out. People thought maybe it was a phase after all that overstayed its welcome.

Pragmatically, the perspective is incorrect. According to recent statistics, the crypto market has an estimated total market capitalization of over $155 billion as of 15th March 2020. Considering these numbers and based on many financial institutions, powers might tend to disapprove of cryptocurrency, but they are in favor of Blockchain technology. The disruptive nature of decentralized currencies such as Bitcoin and others has led to a corresponding halt to its progress.

Let’s find out what more challenges do cryptocurrency has to face as the year 2020 goes by.

Challenges Hindering Cryptocurrency Growth and Acceptance Worldwide

The following are the challenges hindering cryptocurrency growth and acceptance on a global scale.

1.  Boom Phase for Blockchain

There is no doubt about the fact that where cryptocurrency is facing the challenge of surviving and being accepted by the masses, Blockchain technology has already surpassed it. The masses have widely accepted it, and big names of global trade specialists are now moving towards Blockchain.

The likes of Trade Lens by IBM and Maersk’s joint Blockchain investment in the shipping industry have welcomed the first-ever initiative taken. Many such mind-blowing initiatives are underway that involve Blockchain apart from the cryptocurrency domain. The challenge for crypto-enthusiasts here is that once the Blockchain technology takes off without crypto, it will be the end to it.

2.  Bad Imagery

Cryptocurrency, even after having gone through a boom phase, still has a PR problem. The terms associated are enough to conjure up images of cringe advertisements, low-quality campaigns, bad actors, get rich quick schemes, and criminals alike. For many people, cryptocurrency spells out new technology for age-old scams and frauds, which they don’t want any.

It may seem like a petty issue, given the magnitude that is a cryptocurrency and the Blockchain industry. However, this issue has hindered crypto for years since its inception and will continue to do so if no knowledgeable individuals came forward in favor of it.

3.  Blockchain vs. Authorities and Officials

US constitution is known worldwide for its protection right given to the democratic entity that the country is. Freedom of speech, access to information, and the right to form an opinion is protected by the officials to be open. However, on the flip side, when it comes to assets and financial resources, our system laws, governments, and authorities are designed to keep it limited amongst the powerful.

It is evident why crypto and Blockchain has taken over a decade to adjust in an economy where it had to tackle issue arising from the core of how our economy and society operates.

a. Lack Of Legislation

Digital currencies are decentralized virtual entities. They are purely digital products, and our authorities are not geared to handle this advanced technology. That is why the lack of legislation regulating these digital currencies and providing any sort of user protection has become a huge challenge.

The essential step that needs to be taken to reduce the risk involves educating and informing people about keeping their personal data safe. There is still a gaping void where insurance and dedicated legislation needs to be placed. But until that happens, awareness to safely exercise crypto is crucial.

b. Legal Obstacles

In addition to lack of legislation, the other big obstacle that stands in the way of cryptocurrency holders like Bitcoin traders and users is the challenge to spend their holdings. The untraceable nature of Bitcoin and its bad imagery as a mode of finance for mega criminal activities like terrorist attacks and the drug trade has made it quite scandalous in some countries.

Cryptocurrency is going through a period of abrupt halt where nothing much seems to be happening around the technology. Therefore, one can’t say for sure that what the future holds unless wide acceptability affects these legal obstacles standing in the way of crypto-trading.

4.  The Technology Is Still Immature

Cryptocurrency faces implementation obstacles beyond the lack of regulation and inactive obligations. The technology is an emerging one and is still immature in a system where other options are widely scalable and accepted over it.

One might think how a technology that has been out there for over a decade now can be new and emerging. The reason is that not much has been done to expand it.

a. Interoperability

Interoperability or the ability of computer system software to exchange and utilize information is a challenge faced by Blockchain. The technology has been divided to make multiple uses of it in different industrial domains, separate form cryptocurrency.

The technology needs to be made interoperable for the internet dedicated to Blockchain and crypto exchange. Until then, as long as people continue to go by illegal and wrong means of mining it, the technology is a threat to the economic system that opens its gates to accept virtual currencies.

b. Usability

This point cannot be emphasized enough how difficult it is to buy and sell crypto. We are way in the year 2020, and it is still as difficult as it was back in the day when Bitcoin was first launched. The mere participation in the crypto world requires a nerve-wracking validation that general people find unappealing.

The security procedures are so complex that they have become hurdles in crypto adoption as a mode of exchange. Most students look for personal statement help UK who have a high interest in cryptocurrency markets but unable to compose a compelling profile.

It is still a significant challenge for the industry to create user-friendly processes for buying, selling, storing, and using cryptocurrency securely without being called out for it.

c. Scalability

The generally acceptable country-wise currency exchange and even the banking transactions in different currencies have been made scalable and adaptable to the different rates. Cryptocurrency has years of effort to go until it finally reaches a scalability level that Dollar, Yen, Pounds, or Rupee have gotten to.

While interoperability may be a huge step forward to achieve that, that itself is a challenge to mitigate first, the system is so slow, and many dominant platforms for smart contractual applications are still under development. The processes face numerous delays and would require many scalable solutions to counter this issue of exchange.

d. Data Rights

Data has reached a level of becoming a digital asset at this point. Digital mafia considers data the real deal and a key to all things penetrable for the immense value it can hold for individuals and organizations. That is why one of the biggest lose loop in cryptocurrency is and will always be data rights and privacy.

The solution here is not just government protection of privacy and data for cryptocurrency traders. A dedicated system is required where such identities can capture and control their own data. And where there is a long way to go for an efficient framework, many initiatives have been taken and underway.

e. Security

Blockchain might be immature, but it is so far advanced that it is more secure than a traditional computer system.

However, many financial breaches, data leaks, and huge losses due to the system vulnerabilities have made it challenging for people to be satisfied with their transactions. At one point in time, $250 million were lost in a single transaction through QuadrigaCX exchange due to its deadly centralized business model.

In addition to it being not secure enough, these pieces of news make rounds globally. People have lost faith in cryptocurrency over time.

2.  Difficulties Of Bitcoin Transactions

In 2013, a crypto-enthusiast made a luxury car dealership in Costa Mesa, CA, for a Tesla Model S and paid for it in Bitcoin. Just under 92 bitcoins that were worth over $100,000 at that time, the deal was sealed and legally conceived. Considering this transaction and comparing it with the real-time value of crypto right now, the setback and skepticism surrounding Bitcoin have not done much harm to the growing estimation of it.

However, one cannot move past the real-time losses that have occurred given the Bitcoin transactions over the years. Spending Bitcoin is still a huge deal than hoarding it.

a. Countries Banning Bitcoin

Countries like Vietnam, Bangladesh, Bolivia, and Ecuador have prohibited crypto transactions. The state bank has outlawed it and declared cryptocurrency an illegal form of payment with a heavy fine due to violators. And even where it is legal, there are countless logistical issues.

Even in the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission is having an ongoing debate if it prefers new regulations for the cryptocurrency market. If major countries with relevant economic forums stand against Bitcoin, it will become increasingly difficult for the crypto-type to gain acceptance from the masses as people continue to engage in it illegally.

b. Conversion Issues

Conversion remains a huge hurdle for Bitcoin vendors. As Bitcoin is not a fiat currency and is only limited to monetary value when converted to a cash equivalent, not many vendors go for its conversions for other cryptocurrency types. They are more willing to look for a payment method that delivers in Dollars or any other local currency. So that any exchange made for goods and products is made on consumer rates.

Such an implementation system is difficult even if bigger brands are willing to make it possible. No matter if a business sells cars or academic writing services, there is a lack of appropriate regulations to facilitate this type of exchange.

c. People Losing Money

Though Bitcoin regulatory protocol was not affected and not a single Bitcoin disappeared or got lost, people lost loads of money. The downfall and cases of transactional breakdowns are the major reason why cryptocurrency came to an unannounced halt in the first place.

There is a serious need to regulate and change the trading and mining protocols in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Only then can I expect the general public to safely indulge in Bitcoin mining and trading without feeling it to be illegal or a complete daredevil gambling moves on their part.

d. Volatility Of Prices

The volatility of prices also hangs in the balance of the potential of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency in general. Even though Bitcoin has gained significant community following over the years, there have been disputes among the community member for deciding the path it should take.

The compact user base has made the currency increasingly volatile. The stability expected concerning a centralized authority system to regulate it will increase once people start to accept it. The doubts about Bitcoin’s usage and the resistance by major countries to integrate the system and legalize it will continue to deteriorate the prices further.

Conclusion – The Stakes Are High

All in all, the results of no action being taken by major industrial giants, businesses, and government authorities have never been so altering ever since all these years of crypto trading and mining as it is now. The year 2020 is going to shape the cryptocurrency industry either for better or for worse.

Crypto networks like Bitcoin, corporations like Facebook, and nations like China implementing digital currency by the end of this year will be taking a step towards stumping Dollar as the record currency. It will, in turn, lead to the US Federal Reserve pushing ahead of the digital counterpart.

There is no denying that the stakes are high, and just like everything else, the future is unpredictable for cryptocurrency too.

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Claudia Jeffrey is currently working as a Junior Finance advisor at Crowd Writer, an excellent platform to get assignment help UK. She is a self-proclaimed crypto-influencer. She has gained significant expertise and knowledge in this regard over the years and likes to share it with an interested audience.

payment

The New Business Case for a Powerful Payment Solution

Back in 2009, when my co-founders and I started Nvoicepay, there was very little technology in the market to help companies make supplier payments efficiently. Banks were the only game in town. Companies were still making a very high percentage of their supplier payment with paper checks, using painful manual processes. The fintech revolution was getting underway, and we were starting to see tech companies begin to deliver innovations in consumer payments—think Venmo, Apple Pay, etc.—and these quickly gained mass adoption.

Business payments are far more complex, and we’re still not at mass adoption, but the market is picking up steam. There are now several strong suppliers in the market, and investment continues to flow into B2B payments tech. As a result, the move off of check payments is accelerating. According to the 2019 AFP JP Morgan Electronic Payments Survey Report, organizations on average make 42 percent of their supplier payments by check, down from 50 percent in the prior year. This is the biggest drop we’ve seen in several years.

As all this happens, the business case for B2B payment solutions is becoming stronger and multi-dimensional.

Efficiency at the core

Process efficiency remains a core feature of payment automation. It enables an accounts payable organization, which could be making tens of thousands of supplier payments a year, to automate the workflow of making payments of any type—card, ACH, wire or even print check—using cloud-based software and services.

Software automation provides the customer control over the payment, visibility as the payment clears, and complete traceability if they need to access the payment history. But payment services are critical to creating efficiency in accounts payable.

A large portion of accounts payable’s time is devoted to unwinding payment errors and resolving payment exceptions. A single payment error can take 20-30 minutes or longer to resolve; even with a low error rate, most accounts payable teams are dealing with hundreds of errors every month. Payment service providers take that piece off their plates completely and that’s a huge efficiency boost.

These services also address the historic barrier to electronic payment adoption: the labor of reaching out to each supplier to determine how they want to be paid, where the remittance information should be sent, and—if the supplier wants to receive ACH—to collect their banking data and securely store it. Accounts Payable teams working with thousands, or even tens of thousands of suppliers, just don’t have the headcount to do that level of outreach.

Fraud protection and continuity

As enterprises have shifted toward electronic payments, we’ve seen an uptick in ACH fraud. Organizations have become accustomed to dealing with check fraud, and banks usually offer Positive Pay and Positive Payee services to combat it.

ACH fraud is a whole different animal. It’s cybercrime, and prevention requires sophisticated technology and controls, and ongoing employee training. It’s a lot more than most companies can do on their own, but a payments solution provider has the scale to offer extensive security services to all of its customers, and to assume that risk on their behalf. Fraud protection adds another very significant dimension to the business case.

With the global pandemic, many accounts payable teams are still working from home, where it is almost impossible to produce paper checks in a safe, secure, repeatable way. Paying by check was expensive and time consuming before the pandemic, but now the problem is acute. It’s incredibly difficult to approve invoices and make payments by paper check when your accounting staff is spread across their home offices. You literally have to drive paper from place to place to get approvals and signatures. Payment automation gives accounts payable the visibility and control they need to do remote payment approvals from home, making business continuity another dimension of the business case.

Now we’re heading into a severe global economic downturn. Businesses are pivoting to reducing costs, and checks cost a lot—around ten times more than electronic payments. So, in the near term, reducing costs is going to become a driver that accelerates payment automation adoption.

I think this driver will remain over the long term as well, and could very well change our payment behaviors forever. Short term imperatives will drive greater adoption, but as more organizations get a taste of automated payments, it will change the way they think about payments. They will realize there is a far better way to pay than writing checks, and I can’t see anyone who’s adopted payment automation going back to the old way.

Fintechs really are redefining business payments. Banks provide ways to move money from point A to point B. The business case for that is pretty simple—get the best deal on per transaction costs, but beware of the need to add headcount to use these products.

As awareness of these solutions grows, buyers should dig into the details and ask questions to really understand what they are getting and the differences between solution providers, and bank offerings. Some questions to ask are:

-How are payment issues handled and what are the SLAs (service level agreements) around payment support and resolution?

-What does the provider take responsibility for?

-How is data managed?

-How does the provider treat your suppliers, and what services do they offer them?

-How does the provider protect against fraud?

-How are they protected in the event of a disaster?

-How many payments are really sent electronically with their solution?

Some fintechs offer a surprisingly low number of electronic payments. Anything lower than 20 percent is not a payment solution; it’s a payment hobby, and buyers today can make the case for something a lot better. The best fintechs address the entire payment process with automation and services, which enables organizations to move 100 percent of payments electronically with a fraction of the effort previously required, and, by doing so, dramatically lower overall costs.

cashless

TOWARD A GLOBAL CASHLESS ECONOMY

Going Cashless During COVID-19

When we originally published this article in November 2018 during holiday shopping season, we could not have foreseen that a global health crisis would accelerate cashless payments worldwide. But new precautions in place due to COVID-19 have propelled us faster in the direction of contactless transactions everywhere.

Transmission of the disease from handling banknotes has consumers concerned, but the risk is reported to be low compared with touching credit card terminals and PIN pads. Yet the plexiglass that divides customer from cashier urges less reliance on bills and coins in favor of using point of sale machines to swipe your credit card.

Central banks around the world are taking steps to quarantine and sterilize banknotes to promote retained trust and universal acceptance of cash. Even so, many financial industry analysts are predicting that truly contactless payments through mobile e-wallets may be upon us sooner than previously forecast as consumers and retailers become more accustomed to eschewing cash.

Mobile Payments are the Future

According to Statista, 259 million Americans routinely bought products online in 2018.

That wasn’t the case just a few years ago when many of us were hesitant to punch in our credit card numbers to a website. But as ever more business is transacted online, financial services and “fintech” companies have built and continue to improve a secure payments ecosystem that consumers and businesses can be confident will protect their most vital assets: their private information and money.

Pretty soon we might not need to pull out a physical card as our credit card information gets linked with mobile payment systems. All you need is your finger, your phone, or a watch – items you probably already have on hand, literally. As more consumers adopt this convenience, “e-wallets” will eventually replace cash altogether.

The United States and Emerging Markets Lead

Mobile payments in the United States, China, Russia and India are driving the global trend – the United States by sheer volume of cashless transactions and the big emerging markets by virtue of how fast they are growing. In 2017, non-cash transactions grew 34.6 percent in China, 38.5 percent in Russia, and 38.5 percent in India.

Russia’s surge owes to the Central Bank of Russia’s implementation of a National Payment Card System that boosted growth of cashless transactions by 36.5 percent after it was introduced in 2015-2016. AliPay and WeChat Pay are keeping China on a sustained upward trajectory. Mobile payments in China climbed from $2 trillion in 2015 to $15.4 trillion in 2017, an amount greater than the combined total of the global transactions processed by Visa and Mastercard. India has improved its regulatory environment for digital payments as smartphone penetration expands.

TradeVistas | growth of global cashless transactions, World Payments Report 2019

Growth of global cashless transactions

Leapfrogging in Developing Countries

According to the 2019 World Payments Report, developing markets as a group contributed 35 percent of all non-cash transactions in 2017 and are close to reaching half of all non-cash transactions if they maintain the current rate.

Financial inclusion initiatives in developing countries that are designed to pull citizens into the formal banking system combined with an increase of mobile phone ownership means developing countries are leapfrogging over credit card use, going from cash to mobile payments.

Remittances, which comprise a high percentage of GDP in many developing countries, are being facilitated increasingly through person-to-person mobile money transfers. In one example, Western Union and Safaricom, a mobile provider in Kenya, have teamed to enable 28 million mobile wallet holders to send money to family and others over Western Union’s global network.

The Global Mobile Industry Association predicts the number of smartphones in use in sub-Saharan Africa will nearly double by 2025, enabling previously “unbanked” individuals to send and receive money by phone. For merchants in developing countries, scanning a QR code on a phone is faster and cheaper than installing point-of-service terminals that require a continuous electrical supply for reliability.

TradeVistas | cashless transaction volumes grew 12% during 2016 and 2017

Developing countries will account for half of cashless transactions soon.

Mobile People with Mobile Phones

Chinese tourists are also driving global proliferation of mobile payments as vendors work to accommodate Chinese travelers in airports, restaurants, hotels, and stores. China’s Alipay advertised popular “outbound destinations without wallets” for Golden Week, when millions of Chinese go on vacation. Last year, prior to travel restrictions, there was a boom in Chinese tourists to Japan, with over 9.5 million visitors in 2019. China’s WeChat Pay teamed with Line, Japan’s popular messaging app service to offer mobile payments to Japanese retailers seeking to accommodate the influx of Chinese tourists. WeChat’s rival, Alipay, is also partnering to extend services in Japan.

Global Standards and Interoperability are Needed

Through national financial inclusion programs, a steep increase in the accessibility of mobile phones, and with trade driving more global business transactions online, a cashless global economy could be in our future.

What’s standing in the way of faster integration globally of mobile payments, however, is a lack of international standards and common approaches to security, data privacy, and prevention of cybercrimes.

Companies in this space are continually evolving layers of protections such as the chips on your credit cards, encryption, tokens, and biometrics to stay ahead of cybercriminals, but it’s a constant battle against fraud and hacking of personal account information. For example, tokenization is a technology that safeguards bank details in mobile payment apps. That’s how Apple Pay works – rather than directly using your credit card details, your bank or credit card network generates random numbers that Apple programs into your phone, masking valuable information from hackers.

Differing national regulatory approaches to data authorization and distributed ledger technology (like blockchain) could fragment markets and inhibit adoption of the underlying technologies that permit mobile payments. Industry groups say international standards should be modernized to reflect technological innovations, but also harmonized to avoid developing different payments systems for different markets.

Interoperability is then the cornerstone of expanding trade through global digital payments. Groups like the PCI Security Standards Council advocate for international cooperation not only to set standards for ease of consumer use but because no single private company or government can stay continually ahead of hackers. They say that sharing information and best practices can raise everyone’s game, prevent attacks, and disseminate alerts quickly to stop the spread of damage when an attack occurs.

Mobile Payments Slim My Wallet in More Ways Than One

By 2023, there will be three times as many connected devices in the world as there are people on Earth. (And that prediction was made pre-pandemic.) Young people with new spending power are favorably disposed to cashless transactions and shopping through their devices. Mobile payments help connect poorer and rural citizens to the formal economy just through SMS texts. Even tourism is spreading a culture of mobile payments. And many brick and mortar retailers say online browsing can drive in-store sales and help the bottom line.

Small businesses are making great use of mobile payment readers to take payments anywhere on the go, from selling jam at farmers markets to selling band t-shirts at small music venues. Business executives surveyed in the World Payments Report also cite increasing use of such rapid transfer payments to speed the settlement of business-to-business invoices and for supply chain financing, particularly across borders.

Experts are realistic, however, that cash isn’t dead yet. In most countries, cash payments as a share of total payment volume is declining, but cash in circulation is stable or rising – and that seems to be holding true despite the pandemic.

For a little while anyway, I conserved both cash and mobile spending during the pandemic. I’m back to routinely overspending at Starbucks where my thumb is all it takes to reload the card on the app using a preloaded credit card. If my behavior is any indication, the ease of mobile payments will probably cause many of us to spend more as the cash doesn’t have to physically leave the grip of our hands. The increase in availability and accessibility of cashless, mobile payments will be good for economic recovery and good for global trade.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

_________________________________________________________________

Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught international trade policy and negotiations for the last fifteen years as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.
checks

This is How Rooted Checks are in our History

If your company makes payments, I’m willing to bet you’ve at least Googled cost-effective ways to simplify the process. Perhaps you’re an enterprise making hundreds of payments a day. Or maybe you’re a small- to mid-sized business looking to ease the manual burden on your small-but-plucky AP team.

One of the biggest arguments against checks is that they’re just plain old, invented to support even older banking processes. Of course, the term “old” is relative, so what does it mean when we’re talking about check history? You might be surprised.

Checks used to make a lot of sense

Checks developed alongside banks, with the concept for payment withdrawals based on recorded instruction appearing in history as early as 300 B.C. in India or Rome, depending on who you ask. Paper-based checks made their debut in the Netherlands in the 1500s, and took root in North America about a century before the Declaration of Independence was signed. The oldest surviving checkbook in the U.S. dates back to the late 1700s—and the register even has a notation for a check made out to Alexander Hamilton for legal services.

So, yes, checks are old.

What started as a safe and strategic way to transfer money—one that protected merchants’ safety and livelihoods—ingrained itself in business dealings for hundreds of years. It’s challenging to phase out something like that entirely, even if checks are difficult to adapt to today’s electronic processes.

Hanging onto the past

Each business that holds onto its check process has a reason. Perhaps their AP team’s veteran employees are more comfortable with the familiarity of checks. They may wish to preserve business relationships with suppliers that prefer checks. Some businesses are very likely interested in switching to electronic processes because check payments are expensive—but they hold back due to the perceived process upheaval.

These concerns aren’t unfounded. They’re built upon years—and generations—of business experience. So while plenty of news outlets claim that checks will phase out “soon,” we should more realistically expect that they’ll be incorporated into—not eradicated from—modern business practices. At least for now.

Time for a change

While banks have made efforts to simplify the payee’s ability to cash checks electronically, only a few have attempted to tackle the time-consuming issues that their customers face. They also lack ways to incorporate outdated check processes with the newer ACH and credit card processes their customers are also expected to support.

If checks are here to stay, do companies need to resign themselves to endless signature hunts, letter-stuffing parties, and post office visits? No. Checks have the spectacular ability to evolve as modern needs arise. After all, the first printed checks in the U.S. didn’t have the standardized MICR format that we use today.

Change happens slowly and in easily digestible segments. So although checks aren’t going away any time soon, they’re overdue for another evolution.

A middle ground exists, where business owners can upgrade their processes without causing major supplier or employee upset. Payment automation solutions have been growing in recognition for over a decade. The most successful providers have acknowledged the gray area with checks and incorporated them into their simplified electronic payment workflows. These alternatives reduce AP workloads without forcing suppliers to accept payment types that don’t work for them.

Checks have come a long way since their conceptual days, and their flexibility means we probably won’t see the last of them anytime soon. We are, however, in the midst of their shift into the electronic world, and AP teams are all the happier for it.

Are you interested in the history of wire payments? Check out this article.

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Alyssa Callahan is the Content Strategist at Nvoicepay, a FLEETCOR company. She has five years of experience in the B2B payment industry, specializing in cross-border B2B payment processes.

banks

OUT WITH THE OLD: WHY BANKS MUST ADOPT FINANCE TECHNOLOGY TO REMAIN RELEVANT

The term “FinTech” continues to saturate the news and financial institution reporting in recent years. It’s not surprising that streamlining financial services in the age of automation is something traditional banks struggle with adopting as global markets capitalize on technology. The trade sector on a high level is already purging antiquated, traditional processes involving paper, phone calls, Excel spreadsheets and tedious, unreliable methods of tracking and invoicing.

Now that FinTech is part of the bigger financial picture, it only makes sense that more companies in the global trade market are adopting FinTech as the norm rather than an option. This presents its own set of challenges for banks to overcome as much as it presents opportunities in optimization and risk mitigation. FinTech has its own challenges to overcome as well before it can successfully replace the traditional financial processes currently in place.

To understand exactly how FinTech fits into the bigger picture, we must break it down and evaluate all angles. To start, trends in emerging finance technology include variables from governments and dominating players to emerging acquisitions positioning big tech as a disruptor and solution to trade finance. So, what are some of the top emerging trends currently found in the financial technology space? According to experts at Azlo, a no-fee digital banking platform, government regulation will weed out fly-by-night FinTech while ownership of a self-sovereign identity will become more prevalent for risk modeling. Additionally, FAANG companies are currently positioned to become major players in the FinTech space as they continue to raise the bar for consumers and businesses alike.

Azlo also maintains that banks must adopt FinTech and emerging tech to remain a relevant part of the financial industry, warning that if they don’t, European, African and Asian markets, which possess less regulation and oversight, will own the space very soon. Additionally, optics, trust and inevitable obsolescence will ultimately serve as supporting reasons behind the adoption of emerging tech in the banking space in the near future.

From a safety and risk mitigation point of view, cybersecurity requires a sophisticated and advanced system to combat various strategies hackers utilize to disrupt the financial industry. Cybersecurity goes hand-in-hand with the recent surge in FinTech and will present itself as a challenge for financial companies to mitigate. How will this risk impact banks from a cost perspective? Think of it in terms of compliance and regulation. Circling back to Azlo’s expert point that once the government starts implementing harsher regulations, the days of FinTech will take a different stance in the financial industry. An example of this is found in Mexico’s FinTech law that took full effect this year and in the Latin America markets. As noted in a November Nasdaq article: “The goal of the FinTech law was to help bring more people into the formal economy. Additionally, it would help to reduce the amount of cash in circulation, which would cut down on money laundering and corruption as well.”

Nasdaq experts also point out the significant progress FinTech has made within the Mexico and Latin America markets. “In January 2019, Albo raised $7.4 million, sparking a surge in investor interest in Mexican neobanks,” states the article. “In March 2019, Mexican neobank, Fondeadora, announced a $1.5 million round of investment, and in May 2019, Nubank, Brazil’s largest neobank with over 15 million users, announced its plans to expand into Mexico.”

Considering the reputation for cash dependency in Mexico paired with the more than 273 FinTech ventures operating in the country, it’s no surprise that FinTech is disrupting and recreating opportunities for global markets while changing the way cash flow is approached.

FinTech will not necessarily hurt the traditional banking model, as it does offer an automated and sustainable approach for customers while keeping up with what is expected of companies on a cultural scale. To remain relevant, banks should consider what customer generations are emerging while maintaining the changing ecosystem supporting efficiency, sustainability and cost-savings.

Furthermore, FinTech is changing the way investments and lending are assessed. FinTech allows for much larger sets of data, providing a new level of visibility. Possessing the ability to manage multiple information streams that reflect the health of a company is found as an unmatched solution provided by FinTech, according to Azlo. With this information, companies can further evaluate next-step approaches and what actions in place need to be revisited, revamped or completely eliminated. The name of the game is data visibility, folks, and that is exactly what FinTech is doing to redefine how finances are approached.

“FinTechs are relying on different information when underwriting consumers, looking at things traditional banks have never considered and providing more people with access to personal and business capital,” explains Donna Fuscaldo in her blog, “The Rise of Fintech: What You Need to Know & Financial Services Now Offered.”

“Traditional financial institutions may be late to the FinTech party, but they haven’t missed it altogether,” Fuscaldo writes. “Many of them are creating their own services or partnering with established FinTechs to bring services to their clients. It’s happening in every aspect of FinTech from robo advisors with Charles Schwab’s Schwab Intelligent Portfolios to digital payments with Visa’s Visa Pay digital payment service. Even heavy hitters like JPMorgan are turning to FinTech’s data to evaluate applications for loans, and Quicken Loans, the online mortgage lender, launched its Rocket Mortgage app that can churn out mortgage approvals and rejections in minutes. All of this action on the part of the traditional financial services industry make for more choices beyond just the startups.”

With cybersecurity and automation consistently creating new ways for companies to optimize their payments while maximizing data and integration, only time will tell how much regulation global governments will impose and whether that reshapes the FinTech marketplace. One thing is certain: Traditional banking will continue to be challenged to redefine how customers are served, transactions are protected and how the investment and lending sectors approach opportunities throughout the international and domestic markets.

AR

How to Create an Enduring Workflow for AR

Please note: Vocabulary in the payment automation world varies. While customers (i.e., clients, buyers) and their suppliers (i.e., vendors, beneficiaries, sellers) are both considered customers to payment automation companies like Nvoicepay, this article will use the terms “customer” and “supplier” to distinguish between them.

Imagine having to switch out old railroad tracks while a rusted steam engine thunders across. Adopting modern electronic payments runs about as smoothly for banks.

When you think about how old banks are in the U.S., it’s an understandable plight. They’ve been running on the same tracks since the first bank’s founding. Additional features, like wire payments and credit cards, were added over time as a complement to the old system. But the rise of nimbler financial technology (fintech) companies has lit a fire under them. Now they face the challenge of converting their processes to electronic means without disturbing their clients’ day-to-day business.

In a way, fintechs have it easy. Their very nature makes competing against banks a breeze, primarily because banks were built to last, and fintechs were built to adapt. They can easily shift gears to meet demand and immediate needs. Meanwhile, banks are frequently caught up in bureaucratic processes that make it virtually impossible to react quickly to problems.

Financial and fintech industries feel the contrast most often when tackling payment security—specifically when it comes to cards. Even though check payments incur 25% more fraud instances than card payments, according to the 2019 AFP Payment Fraud and Control Survey, many companies hesitate to make the switch to more electronic means.

Kim Lockett—the Director of Supplier Services at Nvoicepay, a FLEETCOR company—offers a glimpse into why companies are hesitating to shift gears: “Fraud is not a new issue to companies,” she states. “But what we’ve learned is that fear of change overrides the fear of potential fraud loss, even among companies who have already incurred those losses.”

With almost 30 years of experience in payments and financial services, Lockett possesses a holistic perspective on supplier expectations for seamlessly receiving payments, with payment fraud protection listed as one of the highest priorities. She’s heard all the horror stories, from a small business whose checks were stolen out of their mailbox and cashed, to a company whose employee tried to use business deposit information to clear her personal checks.

That’s not to say that errors and fraud don’t occur for card payments as well. But they occur significantly less and are much easier and faster to resolve than check, ACH, and wire payment issues.

What’s the Holdup?

In the last decade, fintech companies have improved the tracks on which many accounts receivable (AR) teams function. From providing lower processing costs for card payments to offering user-friendly portals for reliable payment retrieval, fintechs transform painful AR workflows into a functional process.

Meanwhile, banks have just begun to offer pseudo-solutions that appear to be tech-friendly but still run on old tracks. An excellent example of this is lockbox technology, where banks mitigate the processing of check payments and their data for their larger customers by taking on the work themselves. This sort of offering likely extended the life of check payments. Still, it didn’t eradicate the underlying problem: that even though work has been lifted directly from their customer’s shoulders, someone at the bank still has to process checks and submit data for manual reconciliation. The process is hardly automated, and the advent of payment processing technology has all but made the entire process impractical.

Embracing the Future

Of course, the best way to avoid check issues is to avoid checks. These days, electronic payment methods offer higher levels of security. But if electronic options like virtual card numbers are such a fantastic option, why are so many companies avoiding them?

Lockett states: “In general, I think companies are afraid of handling credit card numbers because they feel there is risk involved.”

It’s not the dangers of check payments, but misconceptions about electronic payments that cause companies to refrain from accepting them. Many AR teams rationalize that they’d rather respond to the inevitable check fraud cases they understand than walk unprepared into the relatively unknown territory of card fraud.

When checks are stolen and cashed, there’s very little that can be done. At the end of the day, someone will be out that money. Other electronic payment types like ACH and wire are significantly safer, but can still experience fraud, especially internal instances, such as when a company’s employee submits their personal bank account information to receive company payments. Whether these issues are reversible is dependent on each unique scenario.

Card payments, particularly the virtual card numbers provided by fintech companies, are typically protected by two-factor authentication. Whether this means that AR is supplied with a login to access secure details or a portion of a card number, the information is much more difficult for bad actors to access, securing the payment process and reducing the risk of fraud.

In the end, not every company will have the capacity to accept card payments, so leaving alternate options open like check and ACH truly boils down to how much individual payment providers value customer service.

Taking Suppliers Along for the Automation Journey

In many cases, banks have rushed to cater to customer’s needs, leaving suppliers in the dust when it comes to follow-through on electronic payments. Despite these efforts to change, most larger banks still follow their old tracks, and their customers and suppliers experience the same lack of customer service they always did.

With over 10 years of support development behind them, fintechs have expanded their offerings to suppliers, catering to their specific needs, whether they require something as simple as customizable file formats or a more significant request like payment aggregation. Fintechs that follow through with supplier support are truly delivering on their promise of offering an end-to-end solution. They are building tracks that support the advanced bullet trains that companies have become.

“Ten years ago, companies were reluctant to add virtual card payments to their list of accepted payment types,” says Lockett. “Education, experience, and word-of-mouth have established virtual card payments as a mainstream and relevant way to conduct business.”

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Alyssa Callahan is the Content Strategist at Nvoicepay, a FLEETCOR company. She has five years of experience in the B2B payment industry, specializing in cross-border B2B payment processes.

AI

9 Spend Duplicates Only AI Can Catch

What prevention methods does your company have in place to prevent duplicate spend? Most modern invoice automation systems can look out for two invoices with the same invoice number, or the same amount, and stop a payment that appears to be a duplicate. But this doesn’t find typos in invoice numbers, duplicates across expense and AP systems, or a number of other scenarios you may not even be considered.

AI can help. When it comes to duplicate spend, AI takes an expansive view, looking across all back-office systems, identifying duplicate spend across multiple payments, and more.

By taking advantage of the structured data in your spend systems as well as the unstructured data in your invoices and receipts, you can identify duplicates with ease.

Below are nine types of duplicates that only AI can catch.

1. Manual keying errors

Invoice processes often rely on manual data entry, which is error-prone. An employee might mistype the letter “O” as the number “0”, or “SEPT” as “SEP.” These types of duplicates are preventable and common, but wouldn’t be caught by a traditional invoice system. AI can find manual entry errors in invoice numbers or dates that typically fly under the radar in invoice automation systems and flag them for review.

2. Different supplier divisions

Your company might do business with multiple supplier divisions. These names may be listed separately in your supplier master list, so if you receive the same invoice from these entities, your AP automation system may not detect it. AI can flag duplicate invoices for the same deliverables sent from a supplier’s headquarters and international divisions.

3. Different company divisions

Similar to the example above, your own company’s internal divisions can create confusion. Each division within your company may have its own AP organization and approvals process, and wouldn’t know if an invoice was already received and paid by a separate department. AI can flag duplicate invoices for the same deliverables that are sent to different divisions.

4. Overlapping or cumulative

A supplier may send several invoices and then a quarter-end cumulative invoice, for example, three separate invoices at different amounts (one for $8,500, one for $4,000, and one for $13,200) and then a quarter-end invoice for $25,700. Traditional invoice systems may not catch this, but AI will flag these invoices for review.

5. Line-level

AP automation systems may not extract line details from an invoice. AI will check for duplicates at the line level and discover that, for example, the same services were included in two separate invoices.

6. Different AP systems

Maybe you have several back-office systems because of company mergers. When duplicate invoices hit different systems, your company may never know it. AI integrates with multiple invoice automation systems and flags duplicates regardless of which system they’re in.

7. Duplicate crossover spend

Your company likely doesn’t have visibility across its invoice automation and expense systems, causing you to pay twice for the same service if it’s submitted via T&E reimbursement and again via accounts payable. AI flags this so payments aren’t sent twice.

8. Duplicate expense claim submitted by two different employees

Maybe this is a mistake, or maybe the employees know that expense reports aren’t cross-referenced (especially if they have two different managers, or are in two different departments). Whatever the reason, AI can cross-reference expense reports from any department and flag when the same receipt is found on two different reports.

9. Duplicate expense claim in the same report

After a long business trip, all the receipts may begin to look the same, and an employee might accidentally submit the same expense twice in the same expense report. AI looks at individual line items and flags any duplicates.

How AI can help

Duplicates can take many different forms and can be difficult to find in a manual review process. To gain visibility into their business spend, many companies have embraced AI to achieve 100% visibility into expenses and invoices. Companies that automate their audit process are able to find errors, fraud, and non-compliant spend before payment.

To learn more about how 100% visibility into business spend means to you and gain additional insights on auditing business spend with AI, download our latest research report, The State of Business Spend. The findings focus on the impact of auditing with AI, the risk hiding in expenses and invoices, risky spend, and more.

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Josephine McCann is a Senior Marketing Associate at AppZen, the world’s leading solution for automated expense report audits that leverages artificial intelligence to audit 100% of expense reports, invoices and contacts in seconds.

technology

The Surprisingly Long Life of Wire Technology

Those of us in dynamic, fast-paced industries have gotten used to keeping our eyes trained forward. We’re always exploring innovations—ways to evolve our processes and make them as efficient as possible. Technology grows at such break-neck speed that adults of any age can look back and marvel at the changes they’ve witnessed in their lifetimes. But surprisingly, many of these technologies aren’t actually new. In fact, most of our modern financial workflows have evolved from processes that are older than living memory. Cool, right?

As we ring in the new year, let’s take a step back and reflect on the origins of a very familiar process to many of us: wire payments, and the subsequent introduction of electronic funds transfers.

Humble Beginnings

Wires, direct deposits, and electronic funds transfers (EFT) have roots in the invention of the telegraph; a tool used in the United States from 1844 until 2013 (some areas of the world still communicate by telegram today).

The telegraph is the catalyst for all modern means of communication. It’s arguably one of the most pivotal inventions of Anno Domini, and it forever changed the speed at which critical information could circulate in and among developed countries. Instead of waiting weeks for mail to arrive by ship, train, and pony express, messages would take only hours to arrive. It was as pivotal to its contemporaries as the Internet is to us.

The invention of the telegraph came just after the first Industrial Revolution, in 1844, when Samuel Morse sent the first telegram from Washington, D.C. to his partner, Alfred Vail, in Baltimore, Maryland. The message: “What hath God wrought?”

Just over a decade later, preparations began to lay the Transatlantic Telegraph Cable across the seafloor—but the project took several years to complete. The first two attempts failed after the cable—made of copper wire wrapped in tar, hemp, and steel—snapped and was lost irretrievably lost at sea. The third attempt, completed in 1858, finally connected the two continents from Newfoundland, Canada, to Valentia Island in Ireland.

After a test message (“Glory to God in the highest; on earth peace, good-will towards men!”) successfully transmitted between the engineers, Queen Victoria and President Buchanan exchanged lengthy congratulations. The Queen’s message—the less flowery of the two, comprised of 99 words with 509 letters—took an exhausting 17 hours and 40 minutes to transmit by Morse code. This may seem lengthy by today’s standards, but at the time, the fastest means of overseas communication was by ship. Eighteen hours was staggeringly fast.

Success was short-lived. The power used to send the first messages was too much for the cable to withstand, and it corroded and fell silent within the first three months. Intercontinental silence ensued until 1866—two years after the American Civil War ended—when efforts to replace the cable began.

Despite the many initial setbacks, the telegraph became a beacon for human invention. It transformed not only the means but also how we spoke to each other. Telegrams were very expensive and usually reserved for affluent patrons and emergencies. Because of the high cost, telegraph companies encouraged senders to ditch the elaborate salutations of the day for succinct (cheap) messages.

For example:

-Sending a ten-word message in 1860 from New York to New Orleans cost $2.70—about $76 in 2018.

-Sending a ten-word message to England around the opening of the Transatlantic Telegraphic Cable would have cost around $100—just over $2,930 in 2018.

Because the prices were out of reach for most middle- and lower-class families of the day, physical mail remained the primary means of communication. This resonates with today’s concerns about the potential expense of newer technologies. The inventions of the telephone and the radio also likely contributed to the telegraph never becoming a common household item. Even so, it still had more to give to society—businesses found another use for this groundbreaking technology.

Incorporating the Telegraph into Bank Processes

The first funds moved via wire in 1872 when the Western Union opened a system to transfer up to $100 (about $2,120 in 2018) at a time. According to Tom Standage in his book The Victorian Internet: “The system worked by dividing the company’s network into twenty districts […]. A telegram from the sender’s office […] confirmed that the money had been deposited; the superintendent would then send another telegram to the recipient’s office authorizing the payment.”

This was a rudimentary, time-consuming process, but still similar to modern operations. It took a while for the concept of non-physical fund exchanges to catch on. Standage writes: “One [person] went into a telegraph office to wire the sum of $11.76 to someone and then changed the amount to $12 because [they] said [they were] afraid that the loose change ‘might get lost traveling over the wire.’”

Stepping into the Modern Age

The transition from telegraphic methods to EFT is somewhat obscured. The first mentions of direct deposit appeared in 1974, just over 100 years after the first wire payments transmitted via telegraph. Newspaper ads like this one in Florida’s Ocala Star-Banner promoted services for “Direct Deposit for Social Security,” which deposited Social Security checks from the government to individuals.

Even EFT payments initially met with some trepidation. In a 1976 article in the Ocala Star-Banner entitled “Computer Money System… Would You Bank On It?”, Louise Cook writes that the banks favored electronic means in order to limit the expensive manual paperwork they had to maintain.

Sound familiar?

When reading through old articles about initial EFT processes, I was struck by how many of the same arguments exist today against switching entirely to electronic procedures.

In Cook’s article, she broke down the cost for banks to maintain physical processes at the time. Banks were processing around 27 billion checks annually for 32 cents a check ($1.45 in 2019). They stressed that EFT was crucial to sustaining their businesses.

A separate 1977 article by Sylvia Porter in The Southeast Missourian entitled “Checkless society,” discussed her concerns about EFT payments. Some of the concerns are very dated. For example, Porter argued that disputes over electronic transactions at restaurants would require lawsuits to resolve. These days, banks frequently handle disputes on behalf of their clients and refund them up front. Other arguments, such as the value of float for companies, remain valid today and are resolved by fintechs.

Same Song, Different Decade

It’s the 21st century, and electronic payment options are already aging—wire transfers are almost 150 years old! Yet companies still struggle to get fully automated processes off the ground. Where is the disconnect?

There are several possible contributors, which include:

Perceived cost. Sending funds electronically is cheaper than ever, but checks now cost around $3.00 each. This equates to roughly 65 cents in 1976—a 106% increase from the original 32 cents (without even accounting for inflation). Despite the reduced cost of electronic payments, the transition, training, and scaling concerns are enough to make most companies too nervous to act. Payment solution providers ease this concern by offering fast implementation, logical user interfaces, andskilled support teams.

Smaller vendors still ask for checks. Checks won’t become obsolete until companies stop requesting them, which is unlikely—at least for now. Many smaller companies typically run their businesses on familiar, outdated processes. Vendors know everyone at their bank, and frequently pay their employees through paper processes. Even so, their business choices don’t need to affect the way your company handles AP. Fintechs like Nvoicepay offer pay file submissions, which enable AP teams to issue payments electronically. Then Nvoicepay disburses the funds in the vendor’s preferred format (credit card, ACH, or print check) without you having to chase down a single check-signer.

Security concerns. Payment fraud instances are more common than ever. Handing some control to a payment partner can be intimidating, especially if you’re not sure that partner is taking fully protective measures for your company. During the research process, be sure to ask prospective payment solution providers whether they will cover you for any issues that occur.

Looking Forward

What can we learn by looking back? Aside from gaining a healthy appreciation for our roots, reflection offers a great perspective on the future of modern AP processes. It highlights the fact that we haven’t changed all that much. Rather than introduce new concepts these past 150 years, we have refined and modernized existing operations.

If you’re researching ways to economize your back-office processes, but all the new-fangled technology sets you on edge, take heart! You may be surprised at how familiar this new technology feels because it isn’t really new at all—it’s evolved.

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 Alyssa Callahan is a Technical Marketing Writer at Nvoicepay. She has four years of experience in the B2B payment industry, specializing in cross-border B2B payment processes.