Pulse survey results suggest banks should ask merchants to the Open Banking dance

The American square evolved from 16th-century English folk dances, in which the dancers are prompted or cued through a sequence of dance steps by a caller to the beat of the music. The caller is typically on a stage beside the musicians, giving full attention to directing the dancers.

Payments stakeholders in Europe are gearing up for , a new type of square dance where they are answering the regulatory compliance calls of the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2). If they pick the right partners and are skilled enough in the dance, then they’ll stick around long enough to benefit from the new value being created. But if they are not careful, they risk falling over their own feet. need partners in this new dance and some of the most important are retail .

PSD2 allows consumers to grant merchants access to their bank accounts for direct payments, rather than using a credit or debit card. By using bank-to-bank payments, merchants can clear and capture funds faster and significantly reduce—if not eliminate—the fees they pay for card and processor interchange services. The British Retail Consortium estimates that merchants in the UK alone could save £650 million per year1, thanks to the PSD2-required Interchange Fee regulation. Innovative application programming interfaces (APIs) will play an important role in enabling retailers to deliver faster, more personalised shopping experiences at a lower cost.

Smart banks will view merchants as attractive dance partners—and will help them optimise Open Banking to reap benefits and grow their business—despite it cannibalising existing bank revenue streams. If banks sit on the sidelines, then the merchants will undoubtedly find other partners.

For example, banks can offer APIs that give merchants access to the bank’s capabilities. A recent Accenture online of 50 payment executives within the European retail industry indicates that most plan to implement PSD2-related APIs over the next two years. Only nine percent of the retailers who are familiar with PSD2 do not have any immediate plans to do so; 63 percent of them cited slow customer adoption as the main reason. Most of the retailers we polled would consider embedding bank account balance displays, payment initiation, and bank account transaction history APIs into their point-of-sale (POS) systems.

Considering high levels of consumer confidence in banks handing their data and transactions, banks are in a strong position to take on and dominate the new role of registered account information service providers (AISPs). In that role, banks can aggregate their massive amounts of customer transaction data (that is approved by regulation and authorised by consumers) to isolate and identify spending patterns based on age, region, store location, and so forth. (Think Nedbank Market EdgeTM) Merchants will value and pay for such insight to gain a better understanding of their market and to tailor their offers. Seventy-four percent of retailers familiar with PSD2 say that access to better consumer information is most important to their organisation, followed by API-initiated payments (53%), fraud reduction (53%) and the ability to generate offers at the POS based on insight from bank account data (51%). As AISPs, banks can serve as financial advisors to both merchants and their shoppers to monetise their data.

Like the AISP role, banks are well positioned to serve as PISPs, initiating direct payments to merchants on behalf of their customers. Seventy-six percent of consumers we surveyed are likely to choose traditional banks as their PISP over third-party PISPs. Merchants are also likely to choose to partner with PISP banks to accelerate the bypassing of card networks for online payments, improve their merchant service fee structure, and gain access to ancillary services. Over the next three years, 65 percent of European merchants plan to use a third party to provide AISP or payment initiation service provider (PISP) services. In operating a PISP service, a bank would have the opportunity to capture an additional slice of transaction revenue while also providing opportunities for customer loyalty schemes and cross-selling. Accenture estimates PISP services could account for up to 16 percent of online retail payments by 2020. It’s an opportunity for banks to help merchants deliver more seamless shopping while also protecting their own relationships with customers, and avoiding being cut out of the value chain by merchants and other non-bank players.

Whether collaborating in promenade or do-si-do style, banks and merchants can perform a variety of Open Banking dance moves to strategically lead the migration away from card payments. Banks can become “the dance caller,” giving full attention to directing the migration towards new revenue models and market relevance. Those who sit with their arms crossed on the sidelines are unlikely to be part of the long-run future of the industry.

I invite you to share your thoughts on the near-term dance partnership between banks, merchants and consumers.

[i] Currencycloud.com, “How Will EU Interchange Caps Affect the Industry?, February 27, 2016. https://www.currencycloud.com/en-us/news/blog/how-will-eu-interchange-caps-affect-the-industry/

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