Russ Jones

The Five Biggest Trends in Payments

All of the 2019 prediction stories got me thinking about the mega trends in the payments industry.

These are the year-over-year tectonic shifts in the industry that you can bet your company’s strategy on — maybe even bet your career on. In a landscape of trees, this is what the forest looks like.

Trend #1 – Analog to Digital

The multi-decade shift to digital payments cuts across the core payments systems. The checking system has largely replaced the paper check with the digital image of a check. The card system is using tokenization to replace plastic cards in our wallets with digital cards in our devices. Even the world of paper cash is being remade with cryptocurrencies that act like digital cash.

Trend #2 – Slow to Fast

New bank transfer systems around the world are increasingly helping end-users move money between bank accounts in real-time. In the U.S. market, two of these, Zelle and RTP, are now operational. The card system is also moving to real-time push payments to debit cards in order to better support disbursements and the gig economy.

Trend #3 – Bank to Non-Bank

Banks used to own the payments systems in most countries. With Visa and Mastercard now public entities, that’s no longer the case. PayPal, Alipay, WeChat Pay, Venmo, and telco-owned payments systems like M-Pesa, are increasingly managing (and monetizing) the payments flow between counterparties. And let’s not forget the rise of fintech firms that are nibbling at pockets of opportunity in financial services.

Trend #4 – Upmarket to Downmarket

Cloud computing, tablets, and app stores are increasingly delivering enterprise-class solutions downmarket for use by small businesses. A four-store boutique accessories chain now expects access to firm-wide inventory management, a unified customer database, private label credit, and cross-location commerce analytics — all without the need for back-office systems. Payroll processing is just another app. Size is no longer a determinant of sophistication.

Trend #5 – Specialized to General Purpose

Consumerization is bringing everyday consumer technologies into the world of business. In the world of payments, consumer devices are increasingly replacing purpose-built devices. In developed markets, commodity tablets are replacing cash registers. In developing markets, wireless technology is helping many countries leapfrog developed market payments infrastructure by decades. In B2B payments, industrial suppliers are increasingly side-stepping procurement and simply selling their goods using a general purpose website, product catalog, and shopping cart.

There are also trends specific to each of the different payment domains: the POS, remote payments, B2B, P2P, Bill Pay, and Income. Some trends are visible in one market and barely discernible in another.

But this is my framework for evaluating the largest trends in the payments forest. Let me know what you think!