As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, over half of EU businesses say their number one priority is cutting costs. And almost a fifth are pivoting their strategy or products to reach new markets. These findings were revealed during a Modulr virtual event featuring a panel of EU payments experts.
The virtual event ‘EU Payments Unlocked’ was hosted by Tom Mullally, Senior Product Manager at Modulr, who was joined by:
- Gill Murphy, Head of Payment Schemes, Banking and Payments Federation Ireland
- Alison Donnelly, Director, fscom
- Alejandro Torío, Payments Manager, Santander
- John Irwin, General Manager, Modulr Europe
The experts discussed the impacts of COVID-19 on the EU payments space and how business leaders have been forced to adapt.
EU business leaders are trying to cut costs and reach new markets
We asked audience participants from industries including fintech, banking, payments, cryptocurrency and lending what the top business priorities are in the EU right now. Over half (52%) said their biggest focus was cutting costs. This was followed by pivoting to new markets (19%).
The urgent need to reduce costs reflects the financial pressure on businesses in the current climate. And with some industries being hit much harder than others, many businesses are also attempting to pivot their services or reach new markets to ensure future relevance and growth.
“2020 plans and strategic objectives have been ripped up for a lot of companies,” said Gill Murphy, Head of Payment Schemes, Banking and Payments Federation Ireland. “They’ve had to change their way of working but also adapt to consumer changes. Cutting costs is at the top of the agenda. But businesses need to strike a balance between this and supporting the consumer journey.”
“A few weeks ago, I would have predicted a really big impact. But it’s a mixed picture,” said Alejandro Torío, Payments Manager at Santander. “For example, our peer-to-peer instant payments system has seen a decrease in transactions. That’s because of the social component – people aren’t doing things like splitting dinner bills with friends. But interestingly, we’ve seen an increase in people joining the platform.”
“From a retail payments perspective, the biggest impact has been the change in consumer behaviour – what people are buying and how they’re buying it,” said Gill Murphy. “Cash withdrawals and cheque use has dropped dramatically. Everyone is turning to payment cards.”
“Overall spend is likely to be significantly reduced in April, but it’s affecting different sectors in different ways. For example, grocery spending is up while accommodation spending is down.”
“I work with payments and emoney institutions across the EU and Ireland. Many firms are now settling into the new normal,” said Alison Donnelly, Director at fscom. “For the most part, they’ve now done their stress-testing, identified concerns or issues and reported those to regulators.”
“A few key issues have come up. Obviously, firms in the travel sector have seen a huge increase in the volume of refund requests, and many have had to execute these processes manually. Recruitment freezes have also caused difficulty in terms of resourcing and compliance.”
Full audience poll result: What are EU business prioritising in current conditions?
Pivoting to new markets
Doubling down on existing markets
The demand for instant payments is accelerating
The experts agreed that the COVID-19 crisis will fuel the demand for digital payments technology.
“It’s true that it’s an accelerant,” said Alejandro Torío. “I’ve always defended the position that the payments rails are already there. Now it’s a matter of being creative. Businesses need to revisit their value chains and look at each one from an instant payments point of view. Use your imagination, think about how instant payments could work for your business.”
“There’s been a great deal of collaboration across the industry since COVID-19 emerged. Institutions have almost become brand-agnostic in the quest to support consumers and each other,” said Gill Murphy. “In the payments space, we now need to focus on supporting SMEs.”
“We do believe there should be an extension to PSD2 and SCA requirements – we can’t force businesses to deploy technology change when they’re under so much pressure already. But overall, the situation has accelerated the need for digital technology. It’s driving forward the discussion.”
“It’s always interesting when regulation drives innovation,” added Alison Donnelly. “For example, PSD2 is bringing us Payment Initiation. And once consumers and merchants see the use cases for Payment Initiation, then consumer expectations will start to drive widespread adoption.”
Watch the full webinar on demand to learn:
- Which forms of payment could be made redundant by SEPA instant
- How long it will be until SEPA instant is widely available across Europe
- What forces are going to drive change if SEPA instant isn’t mandated
Our special thanks to Gill Murphy at the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland, Alison Donnelly at fscom and Alejandro Torío at Santander.