Innovation in Payments with Amber Foucault, Vice President of Product at Sensibill

COVID-19 has massively accelerated the growth of e-commerce. What do innovation opportunities in Payments look like in post-COVID world? Highline Beta has put together Crisis Manifesto: Innovation Opportunities in Payments post-COVID report. Today, we talk with Amber Foucault, Vice President of Product at Sensibill.

Hi Amber, as a VP of Product at Sensibill, what are your thoughts on some of the changes and trends you are seeing in payments? 

I think there is a really interesting conversation to be had around Payments-as-a-Service (PaaS) business models, especially in a post-Covid environment. There is a clear benefit to consumers, businesses and financial institutions when local, regional and global payments and payouts can be housed in the same model. There have certainly been discussions around and attempts at PaaS over the last few years, but I believe that this activity will reignite as gaps in payment solutions have been highlighted during the pandemic. Just as sending and receiving payments is important for a consumer or business, so is managing these finances in a single location. 

What specific gaps, blind spots and opportunities has COVID-19 exposed? What existing trends have been accelerating and why?

Covid has changed consumer behaviour. This pandemic has forced the market to adjust,  and consumers are evolving habits at a faster rate than we’ve ever seen before. The opportunity is clear to me: day-to-day transactions (payments, purchases) need to be more transparent and accessible. As a consumer or business, the blind spots in tracking and understanding our charges and payments as we shift to online shopping, new delivery models and different payment methods,  become more difficult to manage as verticalization in payments continues. There is a real need to create clarity and capabilities to ensure  the control remains firmly in the consumers’ hand.

There has been a prevalent shift in the trust equation for consumers, especially amidst Covid. There has been  a rise in consumer fraud and added cognitive load due to the economic uncertainty. This combination of risk and uncertainty leaves the consumer feeling uncomfortable, but creates an opportunity for financial institutions to use data as a means to protect consumers (instead of exploiting them!). Having this data can shield against fraud and  help reassure consumers by predicting the near future with personalized financial data versus a focus on the long-term ‘planning’ game. 

What do innovation opportunities in Payments look like in post-COVID world?

Highline Beta took a deep dive into payments innovation opportunities and trends, and released Crisis Manifesto: How Payments Will Evolve post-COVID report that examines massive consumer behavior shifts and features industry research and lessons from over 70 startup and corporate stakeholders.

Startup collaborations with large companies (and with each other): What role will creative collaborations play in shaping the future of payments and finance on the other side of the pandemic? What kind of world can we be building now?

Creative collaborations will be the driver of meaningful change in payments and finance. This is particularly true when we are speaking about financial institutions and their partnerships with fintech companies. There was a large pendulum swing about five or six years ago; every financial institution wanted to have new tech embedded into their banking solution, but they were aiming to build it all from scratch internally instead of partnering with a fintech. In a lot of cases, this proved to take far too long and cost far too much. As a result, there is little differentiation among financial institutions and their online banking platforms. Their features and functions seem to be focused on utility instead of transparency, and their roadmap is often measured in years instead of months. 

Now is the time to have conversations about how to relieve pressure from your call centers and how to evolve your communication strategy so customers can continue to interact with you through purely digital channels. Now is the time to invest in an experience that delivers value back to the consumer by making it more manageable, easier to navigate and consolidates everyday actions across different life functions in one place. Now is the time to offer more personalized insights that retailers and other nontraditional competitors have already been leveraging. 

Verticalization in payments. What are you seeing when it comes to verticalization, and how do you think this will impact the state of payments in 2020 and beyond?

Anytime tech is willing to put the customer first, I get really excited – I get even more excited when there is an equal opportunity for businesses to gain control and prosper. Verticalization in payments offers the best of both worlds. We are seeing this morph into more automation of consumer data through marketing and loyalty programs that can be built bespoke through a customized CRM at POS. This CRM can link your POS data, connect to a customer email address and track through payment and transaction history. This eliminates the need for heavy Salesforce integration, saves money and enables personalized experiences. There will be sustained value for all players in the payment process if verticalization is continued. 

What do you think the medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 will be for the rest of 2020, and how should companies large and small prepare for the road ahead? 

In the medium-term, there can be a real opportunity to shift to more of a collaborative model between startups and the incumbents. Instead of a focus on disrupting an industry, I hope that healthy and collaborative competition will actually transform the experience for users – particularly in banking. I think this requires far more effort on the incumbents’ part than the start-up or scale-up. Truthfully, there aren’t many start-ups that can survive the 18-24 month sales cycle of traditional financial institutions. There needs to be a reckoning that addresses the survival requirements on both ends of the spectrum and focuses on finding some middle ground for implementation that will ensure everyone can prosper – because everyone CAN prosper.

In the long run, I believe that incumbents will need to build all their customer (or business)-facing platforms with an eye to easy integration for direct or API access to any start-up they want to partner with. The future will be more focused on a viable platform that can easily connect experiences to win customer loyalty and adoption. Lowering the barriers to test and implement new technology will be key to long-term survival.