Interview: Serena Smith, FIS – payments at the speed of change
We talk with Serena Smith, division executive, international payments at FIS, in an exclusive interview about the payment industry’s massive changes, its goals, and how they change around the globe. Smith was recently shortlisted for PayTech Awards 2018 in the “Woman in PayTech” category.
“The world of payments is very exciting at this very moment, there is so much going on, and so many things changing,” says Smith.
You can hear the excitement in her voice. Wherever you look, she says, there are different challenges to be overcome, and new innovations being announced; but from a global perspective, the goal is very similar: real-time, enhanced customer experience, security and trust.
Smith just came back from Brazil, in which FIS aided in the opening of an innovation centre. Brazil is looking at implementing real-time payments solutions, so she has helped assess what this means for the country as the economy, the market, and the day-to-day of people change.
One of the main problems Brazil is facing is the current lengthy settlement period. Brazil is taking a similar approach to the US, as they determine how to enable real-time payments and progressively move to a real-time payments scheme.
A new game
Looked at from a regional perspective, Smith explains there are nuances that change the rules of the game in each geography. There is Alipay and WeChat in China, both looking outside its borders for expansion, including Brazil, Mexico, India and the US. In the US, Amazon is already providing lending and exploring opportunities to provide deposit accounts, working with JP Morgan Chase. Even Uber is stepping into the Netherlands for financial services, too.
The result is that non-traditional banking players are jumping into the market but aren’t necessarily fighting against the big financial institutions. Rather, they are filling in the gaps and adapting to customer demands, rather than making customers adapt to the current status quo.
But banks, with all the data and resources available to them, can still remain relevant. “We are working with our clients to find ways to utilise data to adapt and create those experiences that customers seek,” Smith says.
Improvise, adapt, overcome
FIS tells us that it strategically determines the geographies it tackles, as it’d much rather specialise and perfect in adapting to the context in which these challenges appear, than taking a blanket approach. As we established, challenges and conditions in each geography vary.
Real-time payments is just a little piece of the whole picture. APIs and open banking now play a role, too, so FIS also focuses on promoting collaboration with fintechs. Banks need to deliver those plans to further enhance services to meet customer needs, which include enhancing ease of use, security, and trust around bank products; take the bank’s services to the “one touch” experience; and include robo-advisory services.
What is clear is that banks will go nowhere for a long while, in the short-to-medium term, they will have to update their products and services to avoid becoming the finserv equivalent to your grandad looking through tiny glasses at the screen of an outdated phone model, accidentally sending a text to his niece when he just wanted to set an alarm.
This interview is also featured in the September 2018 edition of the Banking Technology magazine.
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