US Payments: Smart Pension, Episode Six, PAAY and Paya in View from the Top

There are plenty of defining years in the history books, and as
2020 draws to a close, it’s almost certain that the global
pandemic will ensure that this year is featured prominently. With
events cancelled, launches delayed, and country-wide lockdowns, the
way we work has changed forever. Still, for financial technology
and surrounding industries, this was also a year of challenge and

This December, The Fintech Times is asking
industry leaders for their ‘View from the Top’ to gain an
insight into the decisions behind the last 12-months. Today,
we’re looking at the issue of US Payments, hearing from
Jodan Ledford, John Mitchell, Yitz Mendlowitz and
Andrea Kando on their 2020 thoughts, plus a look
ahead to 2021. Will there be a Happy New Year? Read on…

Payments have been a hot topic this year as they have had to
evolve to meet the demands of consumers in light of the Covid-19
pandemic. This has been no different in the US, which has seen its
own transformation throughout 2020, shifting to alternative payment
methods other than just cash. In this View from the Top, companies
Smart Pension, Episode Six, PAAY and
Paya outline their own 2020 experience.

Jodan Ledford, US CEO,
Smart Pension

Jodan Ledford is the US CEO of Smart Pension, a pensions and
retirement technology business. He advises that, despite the
challenging global environment, 2020 was “an outstanding year for

“We launched our US business off the back of a foundational
win with a fantastic partner. The recent passage of a seminal piece
of legislation, the SECURE Act, enabled the creation of Pooled
Employer Plans (PEPs), the US equivalent of a UK Master Trust.
Building on its extensive UK and global experience, Smart has been
selected as the technology partner to a large financial services
organisation that is launching a PEP in Q1 2021.

“Turning to 2021, Smart USA will focus on delivering the full
PEP operating system to our partner in the first half of the year.
Beyond our initial mandate, Smart is focused on delivering PEP
solutions to the broader marketplace, as well as forming new
partnerships in the retirement technology space. We will also be
launching our retirement income solution, Smart Retire, which is
designed to offer a user-friendly, guided retirement journey that
will allow participants to plan for retirement and flexibly spend
down their assets with confidence. Our mission in 2021 is to ensure
that people saving for retirement can do so in comfort as their
parents and grandparents have done.”

John Mitchell, CEO, Episode

Episode Six are providers of a financial technology
platform for creating innovative and differentiated financial and
payments products for consumers and businesses. For CEO John
Mitchell, he believes that the payments industry has evolved
towards digital due to the ever-growing demands of the

“There’s no doubt that the events of 2020 have been a global
wake up call in many regards. From a payments perspective in the
US, financial service providers are finally adapting at a pace to
meet heightened demand from customers for truly digital solutions
– for example, QR codes to bring up helpful information such as
payment options in restaurants are becoming not just the norm, but
expected. And this isn’t just demand from young customers, it’s
all ages. A more digitised payments landscape has been the
direction of travel and talked up for many years now, it’s
accelerating quickly.

“The problem in US Financial Services has been for too long
new digital payments services have been bolted onto dated and
complex banking systems. The challenge – and opportunity – for
these digital payment service providers is to ensure they have the
right infrastructure behind their innovative front-end
functionalities, so they can continue to expand their user base
without risking technology disruption, and the customer journey is
as seamless as possible. The companies that ignore the back-end
infrastructure risk complications that will erode trust from the
customer base and could face even great problems. What’s next?
For those that can do this, they’ll be reaping the rewards of
fast-growing consumer uptake for years to come.”

Yitz Mendlowitz, CEO, PAAY

Yitz Mendlowitz is the CEO and Co-founder of PAAY, a
consumer authentication service. He founded PAAY to give merchants
choice and control of their destiny and thinks that the pandemic
has sped up the shift to contactless payments. 

“Looking back at 2020, there has been an unprecedented amount
of innovation & change in fintech, especially in my area of
expertise; e-commerce payment security. There’s no doubt that
Covid-19 has accelerated the shift to remote commerce, and
contactless payments. In Q1 of 2020 Mastercard reported a 40%
increase in contactless payments. The global pandemic has caused
many merchants who were traditionally selling products in a brick
and mortar environment to pivot and change their business model to
have an e-commerce first approach.

“From a fintech perspective, specifically looking at payment
security – It’s been a big year. The increase in e-commerce has
led to a significant increase in fraud. Hackers go where the money
is, and moving transactions online makes their job easier. In
addition to hackers, we are seeing merchant’s bottom line
suffering because of “friendly fraud” aka chargeback fraud.
Legitimate cardholders are calling back their credit card companies
saying they never made purchases – just to keep the items.

“All of this has pushed fintech companies to focus on building
fraud and payment security solutions for merchants. This is where
we are seeing unprecedented innovation. The demand for payment
security and fraud tools is at an all-time high. I am a technical
associate on the EMVCo board, a governing board that facilitates
worldwide interoperability and acceptance of secure payment
transactions and this year we have been laser-focused on building
security solutions to help protect remote commerce merchants.
Perhaps the most important is the adoption of EMV 3DS (also known
as 3DS2) throughout the payment ecosystem. 3DS allows merchants to
authenticate cardholders at the point of interaction on the web,
and as a result, shift the liability for fraudulent chargebacks off
the merchant and onto the card issuer.” 

Andrea Kando, Head of
Product, Marketing, and Communications, Paya

As the Head of Product, Marketing, and Communications
at Paya (a payment solutions provider), Andrea Kando manages
Paya’s solution portfolio, oversees the company’s marketing
assets, and champions client and employee engagement. She sees the
shift towards integrated payments as a major trend of the

“Within the payments space, one trend stands out amid a year
of widespread shutdowns: the increasing need for cloud-based
business management software with integrated payments capabilities.
Many verticals had of course been moving in this direction, but
those who lagged behind quickly found themselves at a disadvantage
as the pandemic forced shutdowns and accelerated remote purchasing
and management use cases. 

“This year, more organisations moved toward integrated
payments, which fold payment collection and processing into their
existing business management software. During the pandemic in
particular, this integration has offered companies the ability to
seamlessly move from paper printed invoices – which were often
being mailed to empty offices – to online invoicing services,
with recurring billing, flexible invoicing, and customer portals to
manage all parts of the payments process. For many organisations,
this has proven to be an invaluable way to maintain revenue
collection during shutdowns.

“In the next year, the payments space will see providers
continuing to broaden their capabilities to support the expanding
needs of distributed organisations, including robust and
instantaneous reporting of information about companies and their
end customers, to simplify and virtualise back-office
reconciliation. In-person payments are also accelerating the use of
contactless acceptance. Providers offering EMV cloud services will
also stand to gain, as companies with those capabilities can
seamlessly upgrade their hardware and software to support
contactless payment methods.

“With businesses and their customers becoming more accustomed
to the ease of use and flexibility of integrated payments, this
technology has gained a steady foothold even in sectors, like
nonprofits and local governments, that have traditionally been slow
to digitise – and its adoption and usage is only set to trend
upward in 2021.”

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US Payments: Smart Pension, Episode Six, PAAY and Paya in View from
the Top 
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