Payments Views


Federal Gov’t CTO Aneesh Chopra Wows NACHA Councils

I’m in Baltimore attending the NACHA Council mega-meeting. This morning Aneesh Chopra, the Federal Government’s CTO (officially, director of technology for the President’s Office of Science and Technology) was the Keynote Speaker. He took a few minutes to warm up, but by the end he had the whole room of bankers, financial technology providers, regional ACH operators, and NACHA staff swooning.

The highlight was this exchange during the Q&A:

Question from Stephen Hooper, SVP Payment Strategy, iPay Technologies: “We’re in bill payment. One of our biggest challenges is that it is hard to send payments to the federal gov’t.”

Aneesh Chopra: “Are you serious?”

Hooper: “Yes, particularly the Dept of Veterans Affairs. Can you help?”

Chopra: “Amen, of course I can – this is my job! Give me 1 week to set up a meeting so that you can provide feedback to the VA. My counterpart there will listen. I know their leadership will be supportive. That’s silly!”

The whole room erupted in ear-to-ear smiles. A man of action, when he was done speaking, Chopra, walked directly up to Hooper and suggested that iPay prepare a concise brief of the problem: “The issue is blah, we propose piloting blah solution” in anticipation of the meeting. A throng of other payment professionals surrounded Chopra, eager to get help with their Federal Government payment challenges. He made a lot of friends today.

The body of Chopra’s remarks were focused on the President Obama’s Innovation Strategy (announced Monday). He described his personal frustration paying taxes – when he lived in Arlington, VA he could easily pay his property taxes online via ACH. But when he moved to Richmond, VA the tax authority charged an 8% convenience fee to accept ACH (he wrote  a check instead). He challenged NACHA and the payments industry to prepare a white paper describing what it would take to enable local, state, and federal governments to adopt a simple, low-cost, consistent platform for accepting ACH payments within a weeks or months, not years. He went on to stress that increasing the efficiency of healthcare billing and payments would be a key component of healthcare reform and that he trusts that people in the room were working on that. And while we are at it, payment efficiency for education and energy, too.

Chopra also raved about the application on his iPhone (in the context of remarks about energy conservation): “Mint it is frictionless, and easy. Why can’t the smart grid provide easy, frictionless access to each of our energy consumption?”

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