Yuval Ziv, CCO of SafeCharge
The payments landscape has evolved by leaps and bounds over the past decade. Amid the rise of efficient mobile payments, growing e-commerce, and new technological regulations, the payments function has quickly risen in prominence to become a key competitive advantage in all businesses. Now serving as a mission-critical unit, the payments function has moved away from its roots in operational management, to an active player in strategy and revenue growth. Emboldened and validated by giants like Inditex, who prioritise payment initiatives such as Apple Pay to drive growth and improve the customer experience, payments managers are taking on greater roles within their organisations.
However, with new developments in payments methods (for instance, QR code-based payments) and intensified regulation (for example PSD2, Strong Customer Authentication and eKYC), the ever-changing payments landscape can also be a relentlessly challenging environment to operate in. Much like the Darwinian adage ‘survival of the fittest,’ Payments Managers must be able to adapt to a dynamic environment and respond to any changes, or risk being driven into extinction.
Without innovative technologies and an agile payments infrastructure, Payments Managers cannot overcome regulatory hurdles or generate revenue. Much to Darwin’s theory of natural selection, it’s not those with the strongest genes who endure, but the ones prone to adapt. With the payments landscape changing constantly due to customer trends and technology, Payments Managers must embrace change in order to succeed.
Metamorphosis of a role: the new generation of Payments Managers
As the payments function takes on a more strategic role, the Payments Manager is being recognised as a key leadership figure responsible for achieving their organisation’s growth objectives. While successful businesses will undoubtedly require highly skilled teams of payment experts to support this core function, they will also need to facilitate departmental interconnectivity and cross-collaboration.
With the payments function supporting a growing number of units along the value chain – such as finance, operations, and customer service – it is critical to include all stakeholders involved in decision-making processes. In the changing payments environment, this allows various units to quickly respond to new business demands by collaborating on underdeveloped – and in some cases, previously non-existent – areas of the business; ultimately helping the organisation to stay agile and succeed. Furthermore, this helps core teams align their priorities and work to achieve a common goal.
This does not extend to just internal collaboration, however. In today’s connected world, digital businesses cannot sleep – at any point in time, a customer will be browsing a web-page or app, and will need to make a payment. The failure to facilitate the transaction and accept the payment will result in not only lost revenue, but a lost customer; making flawless 24/7 operations a necessity. To prevent these scenarios, payment managers must partner with a single payments provider who can offer multiple payment routes. This ensures the business maximises their acceptance rates during network failures, and – by extension – their sales conversion, customer satisfaction, and revenue.
Adapt or lose
With new mobile payment methods rising in popularity, the risk of digital fraud is only increasing. Keeping customers safe and protecting them from fraud while they shop is therefore a key priority. This is reflected in recently-introduced regulations such as the PSD2, which requires stringent security measures in multiple forms: strong customer authentication (SCA), marketplace licensing, account verification, and more.
These regulatory frameworks are constantly changing to keep up with the innovative fintech industry. Furthermore, as various consumer markets across the globe differ in their payment methods, multiple transaction flows can cause confusion and increase the risk of compliance failures.
Such obstacles have left business floundering to find a solution that not only satisfies the latest regulations, but also helps them meet the varying demands of multiple customer segments. QR code-based payments, for example, are highly efficient and have quickly become an integral facet of Chinese shoppers’ lifestyles. To capitalise on these growing markets, businesses must be able to quickly adapt to their customers’ unique needs and provide every market with the best experience possible – this means embracing their preferred payment methods. Without engaging with customers in this way, organisations cannot continue to drive growth, and run the risk of obsolescence.
A toolkit for success
To compete in the evolving payments landscape, Payments Managers must arm themselves with the tools to build an agile payments infrastructure and be free to innovate with new payments solutions. This calls for a payments provider who can help businesses break free from legacy payments infrastructures, and integrate modern payments technologies to meet new business needs.
Through strong, inter-departmental collaboration and open relationships with trusted payments providers, businesses can rapidly integrate and deploy the latest technologies. To stay competitive, businesses must dare to demand more from their payments technology, and use it as a stepping stone to achieve their objectives and drive growth. More importantly, however, it can help them build strong customer relationships – by understanding their behaviour and recognising the variations in payments preferences, businesses can optimise their shopping channels to deliver the ideal customer experience.
With the trend of mobile payments showing no signs of abating, it is clear that businesses must adapt to this changing landscape. Key decision-makers involved in the payment process must not only ensure that the payments function is seamlessly integrated with the rest of the business, but also partner with the right payments provider to help them quickly respond to any changes that arise; including new payment technologies, stringent regulations, and varying consumer behaviours. The survival of their growth is at stake!
Car sector seeks more UK government support as output tumbles
LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak should use next week’s budget statement to help boost the car industry’s competitiveness, a trade industry body said on Friday, as production tumbled to its lowest January level since 2009.
Sunak is due to detail how he will further support the economy amid COVID-19 restrictions on March 3.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said the furlough scheme that protects jobs should be extended, more support for training was needed and manufacturing investment should be encouraged through reform of the business rates tax.
“Next week’s budget is the chancellor’s (finance minister) opportunity to boost the industry by introducing measures that will support competitiveness, jobs and livelihoods,” SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said.
“We need to secure our medium to long-term future by creating the conditions that will attract battery gigafactory investment and transform the supply chain.”
Output in January fell by 27% year-on-year to 86,052 vehicles, hit by factors including dealership closures during a latest COVID-19 lockdown, international supply chain problems and the change in trading terms with the European Union.
(Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by William Schomberg)
Exclusive: Portugal sees green hydrogen output by end-2022, $12 billion in investment lined up
By Sergio Goncalves
LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal will start producing green hydrogen by the end of 2022 and already has private investment worth around 10 billion euros ($12 billion) lined up for eight projects that are expected to move forward, Environment Minister Joao Matos Fernandes said.
He told Reuters in a telephone interview there were also several “pre-contracts for the purchase and assembly of electrolysers” to produce the zero-carbon fuel made by electrolysis out of water using renewable wind and solar energy.
Such hydrogen is more expensive to extract than the heavily polluting conventional method of using heat and chemical reactions to release hydrogen from coal or natural gas, known as brown and grey hydrogen respectively.
Hydrogen is now mostly used in the oil refining industry and to produce ammonia fertilisers, but sectors such as steelmaking, transportation and chemicals are beginning to develop large-scale hydrogen applications to gradually replace fossil fuels as countries try to reduce pollution.
The European Commission has mapped out a plan to scale up green hydrogen projects across polluting sectors to meet a net zero emissions goal by 2050 and become a leader in a market analysts expect to be worth $1.2 trillion by that date.
“By the end of 2022, there will certainly be green hydrogen production in Portugal,” Matos Fernandes said. “Green hydrogen will, over time, allow Portugal to completely change its paradigm and become an energy exporting country.”
He said seven groups had submitted applications under Europe’s IPCEI scheme for common-interest projects to make part of a planned export-oriented “hydrogen cluster” near the port of Sines, from where hydrogen could be shipped to Rotterdam. Total investment there is estimated at some 7 billion euros.
A consortium including Portugal’s main utility EDP, oil company Galp, world’s largest wind turbine maker Vestas, among others, is behind one of the projects.
In Estarreja in north Portugal, local firm Bondalti Chemicals aims to invest 2.4 billion euros in a hydrogen plant.
Altogether, these envisage an installed capacity of over 1,000 megawatts (MW).
Matos Fernandes said Portugal was also negotiating with Spain the construction of a pipeline for renewable gases, including hydrogen, from Sines to France, crossing Spain.
Spain and Portugal also want to develop an ambitious cross-border lithium project taking advantage of the geographical proximity of their lithium deposits and aiming to cover the entire value chain from mining to refining, cell and battery manufacturing to battery recycling, he said.
Portugal is already a large producer of low-grade lithium mainly for the ceramics industry, but is preparing to make higher-grade metal used in electric car batteries.
A much-awaited licensing tender for lithium-bearing areas that has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic should take place by the year-end, Matos Fernandes said.
He promised the tender would address environmental concerns by local communities and there would be no lithium mining “at any cost”.
The minister also said Portugal would use its six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union to finalise a landmark law that would make the bloc’s climate targets irreversible and speed up emissions cuts this decade, expecting it to be approved in the first half of 2021.
(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; Editing by Andrei Khalip and David Evans)
Under fire in EU, AstraZeneca CEO says ‘hopefully’ will meet vaccine supply goals
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot said on Thursday he hoped to meet the European Union’s expectations on the number of COVID-19 vaccines the company can deliver to the bloc in the second quarter, after big cuts in the first three months of the year.
The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker has been under fire in the EU for its delayed supplies of shots to the 27-nation bloc, which ordered 300 million doses by the end of June.
“We are working 24/7 to improve delivery and hopefully catch up to the expectations for Q2,” Soriot told EU lawmakers in a public hearing.
Under its contract with the EU, the company has committed to delivering 180 million doses in the second quarter.
Soriot did not mention the 180 million target, but said he was confident the company will be able to increase production in the second quarter using factories outside the EU that had no production problems, including in the United States.
He confirmed the company was trying to get 40 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the EU by the end of March, which is less than half the amount it promised for the quarter in its contract.
The EU, which has fallen far behind the United States and former member Britain in vaccinating its public, has repeatedly urged the firm to deliver more.
Lower-than-expected yields – the amount of vaccine that can be produced from base ingredients – at its factories hurt output in the first three months.
Asked about supplies to Britain, which relies on the same factories used by the EU, Soriot said the former EU member with a population of around 66 million was smaller, and noted that most doses produced in the EU were used to serve the EU which has a population of about 450 million.
Executives from rival drugmakers that have developed or are testing COVID-19 vaccines, including Moderna Inc and CureVac NV were also part of the panel.
But most questions were directed at Soriot amid anger that the company has failed to deliver promised vaccine quantities to the bloc on schedule.
Moderna Chief Executive Officer Stephane Bancel said the company has experienced fluctuations as the U.S. biotech group ramps up output of its COVID-19 vaccine.
He said usually a company would stockpile product ahead of a launch, but it is shipping every dose it makes, leaving it without any spare inventory.
His comments came a day after the company increased its output target for this year and 2022 as it invests in additional manufacturing capacity.
(Reporting by Josephine Mason in London and Francesco Guarascio in Brussels; Editing by Susan Fenton, Bill Berkrot and Keith Weir)
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