News & Views - Savantor

A challenging world

Friday, 16 November 2018

We are all aware that the current economic environment is not particularly stable, resulting in many casualties in the retail industry. Numerous retail brands have either closed down, for example Maplin, Toys R Us, or been sold off, such as House of Fraser, or are having to undertake massive cuts and store closures in an attempt to survive. Even the household name staple of Marks and Spencer has not been immune.

The traditional banks are also grappling with how to manage their presence and shape themselves in competition with the newer challenger banks who are unburdened by legacy systems and unwieldy organisational and system infrastructures.

There are many contributory factors for this uncertain economic environment, but consumer payment behaviour together with technical innovation in payments are two of the key underlying reasons for change which have had and will continue to have significant impact on the retail and payments domains.

Consumers today, particularly millennials, are becoming more and more comfortable with the mobile as a method of undertaking payment and banking transactions and expect the apps and necessary support for mobile payments to facilitate this. There is a requirement for immediacy and responsiveness which is not always easily able to be provided by the traditional banks and which the challenger banks without the burden of legacy systems can more easily satisfy.

This in turn results in a greater emphasis on digital services and less priority given to traditional functions such as bank branch banking with the inevitable branch closures that this results in.

The change in consumer retail behaviour, with an increasingly greater usage of online services and a demand and expectation for almost immediate fulfilment has meant that retailers are likewise having to adapt their services and supporting infrastructures to fulfil these needs.

Technical innovation is also intrinsically involved in the behaviour changes, all of which require the technology to enable them – and the corresponding means of acceptance to enable them to be used.

The Bank of England is likewise considering the evolution of payments and has just launched an open forum on ‘the future of money’. It is interested in hearing how people in the UK use their money, what payments they make and where, and what they think the future of cash will look like. As part of the forum it has launched a Cash vs Cashless Challenge for people to undertake for a week and to report their experiences.

With so many challenges present in the payments sector of today, it will be interesting to see which of the many players are successful in defining or adapting their roles to prevail in the future payments landscape.

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