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Posted August 28, 2018

global payments trends

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Earlier this summer, WEX shared the results of our second annual Payments Pulse survey, completed by nearly one thousand CFOs and senior financial executives from around the world. From the findings, we plucked a number of insights that we share within the report about what’s trending globally in payments.

It’s not often that you get to pick the brains of so many financial decision-makers at once. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time myself with the data. I’ll share here my key takeaways for players in the payments space looking to get—and stay—ahead of the curve.

The time is now for the digitization of payments. Checks still represent 59 percent of payments from American businesses and 46 percent from Asian businesses. This presents an enormous opportunity for electronic payments, and financial leaders are actively attacking. Need proof? Around half of surveyed businesses have already implemented an electronic payables initiative, and the majority of those with one underway are working to launch it in the next six to 12 months. However you slice it, e-payments are imminent, and your business can’t afford to be left behind.

The most important reason to move to e-payments is all the reasons. What’s the most important criteria motivating today’s financial leaders to embrace an electronic payments initiative? When we posed this question, we got many different answers, from better compliance with company policies to more efficient reconciliation, but there was no top response. The winners will be those that focus on all of the compelling reasons and work with their customers to identify a customized suite of offerings.

Putting yourself in suppliers’ shoes is critical—now more than ever. Overwhelming majorities of the executives we surveyed (95 percent in the U.S./Europe and 94 percent in Asia/Oceania) at least somewhat agreed that maintaining positive relationships with suppliers is as important as introducing new technologies. And over 85 percent of all surveyed executives said their suppliers’ adoption/engagement with electronic payments has been at least somewhat successful. That supplier engagement is increasingly critical isn’t just something our data verifies; it’s a point that has emerged again and again in my conversations with customers. Companies must focus not only on the advantages that e-payments bring to them, but also to the payee and merchant. This enables them to leverage e-payments’ broad benefits and create mutually beneficial solutions for all.

Look to traditional financial institutions and banks to pick up the innovation torch from fintechs. You read that right. The industries we surveyed are overwhelmingly eyeing finance/banking to be the first to successfully implement blockchain. Whereas five or 10 years ago, fintechs led payments innovations, today we’re seeing that more traditional entities have been forced to innovate by building new approaches or buying or partnering with fintechs. This puts the spotlight on companies like WEX, which as a blend between a financial institution and a fintech, are the nimblest of the traditional players.

For more fresh insights, download the 2018 Payments Pulse survey here.

Jay Dearborn

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