The payments industry has seen huge disruption and innovation due in part to the effects of the global pandemic. With a huge push to digital and making payments seamless, frictionless and all-around better for consumers and businesses alike, the world’s industries are pushing to accept this new payments landscape.
Someone with great insight into this is Stoyan Kenderov, the Chief Product and Technology Officer at Plastiq. Plastiq is a smart payments platform designed to help businesses better manage their finances and cash flow, so they can succeed and grow. The platform lets companies pay and get paid in whatever way is best for their business, regardless of the payment methods their recipients accept. Enabling more than 150,000 small and mid-size businesses to leverage faster digital payments and automate accounts payable and receivable processes, Businesses can pay globally in more than 50 countries, and use all major credit card providers, including Mastercard, Visa, American Express, and Discover.
To understand more about the ever-changing payments industry, The Fintech Times sat down with Stoyan to learn more about the effects of the pandemic and how small businesses are handling the change.
What are the current trends you’re seeing in the payment landscape?
The payment industry is experiencing a rebirth. We have seen unprecedented activity across the payments industry – from card issuance and acceptance to payments modernisation and the faster money movement. It’s largely driven by the intense re-platforming of commerce, which was accelerated by the pandemic.
Credit cards have existed for 70 years, but this is a pivotal moment in the existence of the payments industry. Everything is faster and moving to the cloud. More and more businesses are finding ways to attach themselves to this faster movement of money and goods. One major trend driving the faster money movement and modernisation is the increased adoption of embedded payments, enabling smaller businesses to pay and get paid with tools just as simple as B2C payment services.
Does this differ between regions?
These trends are permeating various regions. While the supplier industry around the world is drastically embracing modernisation and the faster money movement, overseas exporters experience challenges due to the nature of supplier businesses – it’s a risk for them to accept credit cards for larger bulk product payments because a payment can always cancel while the shipment is in transit – this is especially a risk for overseas vendors, as the cancelled product is very difficult for them to recover once it’s shipped out. Despite these industry challenges, regions around the world are speedily adopting faster payment options and utilising embedded payments.
How has the pandemic affected the industry?
Many companies in the payment sector have experienced a sharp increase, as thousands of small businesses who hadn’t done e-commerce before suddenly had to become e-commerce businesses – almost overnight. This accelerated the need for faster payment options and paved the way for embedded payments.
Additionally, the number of new small businesses has skyrocketed, with data from the US Census reporting that small business applications doubled in just the early months of the pandemic. These new small businesses are starting out with very little cash flow, and getting a customer product off the ground is especially tough. This further drives the need for embedded payment and faster payment solutions, which is a drastic payment shift that previously could only happen from bank to bank through wire ACH or check, but the increased need is driving innovation in the industry.
What do you anticipate the payment industry will look like in the next few years?
This space is booming. Goldman Sachs predicts that $1 trillion in global value will be unlocked in the next decade through the modernisation of B2B payments and financial systems. Additionally, a study by PWC predicts that global cashless payment volumes will double from 2020 to 2025, to almost 1.9 trillion transactions, and will almost triple by 2030, due to the changes brought by the pandemic. We’re going to continue to see these effects from the pandemic ripple throughout the next few years.
With embedded payments and embedded finance, every company can be a fintech company – and we’re going to continue to see that adoption intensify in the next few years, as businesses embrace these payment solutions.
Has cash had its day – are we moving to a completely digital payment landscape?
The old “cash is king” motto is changing drastically, as businesses move toward embracing digital payments. However, many small businesses will continue to use legacy systems for some time to come. In fact, 60% of businesses are still using checks despite the high cost of check payments ($22/check per Goldman Sachs).
How will this affect small businesses?
Cash flow is still the number one problem for small businesses. In fact, a study by US Bank revealed that small businesses and startups fail 82% of the time due to low cash flow. While there is a rapid adoption of faster payment options, a vast majority of small businesses are not able to keep up, as a majority of suppliers still don’t accept credit cards. This means small business cash flow reserves remain tighter. Small businesses need all the help they can get to be able to reduce payment friction, and luckily that trend toward faster payment processes offers them solutions.
Payments are slowly becoming a feature everywhere. It used to be just a checkout experience, but we’re seeing payments become embedded into everything from gaming to ride-hailing, food delivery, fitness and travel. Embedded payments enable businesses to seamlessly offer customers new payment options, which in turn opens up their own customer base. Traditionally lower-tech, less financially savvy industries such as construction and manufacturing can benefit from simple embedded payment solutions.
Do you have any tips for small businesses and how they can grow?
It’s critical to improve your cash flow to jump-start the next level of growth. You can do this a few ways:
Firstly, expand your payment options and be strategic. You can stretch cash flow with a float time of 30-50 days or more when you use a business credit card. Businesses can also take advantage of cashback and reward programs that reduce the spend or provide extra advantages. However, the challenge here is that most manufacturers and vendors don’t accept credit cards. This is where Plastiq comes in – it allows small businesses to use their credit card, while also paying the recipient how they prefer to be paid.
Secondly, cut costs and expenses where you can. Get the most out of every dollar your business spends, and be mindful of how to spend effectively. While you may not be able to cut marketing budgets, revisiting who your campaign is reaching, and who you want to be reaching, is an important way to ensure money is spent wisely.
I’m also a big advocate for automation. As with syncing expenses with your accounting software, automation effectively handles repetitive tasks and reduces human error for things that don’t require human expertise or creativity. Additionally, automating certain tasks allows small businesses to get more done with the staff on hand, while also freeing them up to focus on the business. Some examples are marketing automation which eliminates manual outreach and responses, sales process automation which reduces manual entry and lets you process a higher volume of leads, and financial automation for invoicing and scheduling payments.
Finally, improve your reporting. Automatically syncing your payment details with your accounting software not only ensures you have the cash flow information you need, but it also eliminates human input errors so you know the data is clean.
Take the time to make sure your reporting reflects what you need to see. Even an out-of-the-box cash flow report will show you details of the money you’ve brought in and what you’re spending. But is the report easy to understand? How hard is it to figure out your working capital? If you can’t tell quickly what your cash position is, it’s time to ask your financial team to adjust the report or hire a hands-on consultant who can quickly update the reporting input and template for you.