Exclusive interview with NatWest at Sibos 2022 | The new payments landscape

Monday 7 November 2022 14:08 CET | Editor: Oana Ifrim | Interview

Jessica Richards, Head of Market Development, Payments at NatWest, talks about innovation in banking and the five key trends she sees in the payments industry

Could you please share more details about NatWest`s online payment service Payit?

Payit is a multi-award-winning payment solution to help businesses and customers benefit from the next generation of payments. By using Open Banking technology, Payit offers a new way to collect and send payments online and in person, removing the need for sharing and storing card details.

The service allows customers to make instant online payments to participating retailers, without the use of a debit or credit card – resulting in a fast, fair, simple, and safe payment experience for the customers. Essentially, the customer scans a QR code and then gets taken to their bank where they authorise the payment. 

For merchants, it enables frictionless payments directly from customer bank accounts – helping to improve cash flow, reduce fraud, reduce the cost of online payments, and increase conversion at the checkout.

Our payment solution can also help, for instance, reduce the time students have to wait to receive hardship funding payments from their university. We have recently partnered with university services provider JS Group to roll out an innovative solution to the UK university sector, to get bursary and hardship funds to students in minutes rather than days.

The new service aims to simplify access to money, by helping students mitigate financial hardship with faster payments directly into their bank account and has been launched with universities across the UK.

Nowadays, customers have myriad payment options available, which has improved their experience. What must be done to ensure customer trust in payments?

The core would be making sure that the payment works, so making it more secure, resilient, and safe. 

One of the top priorities for achieving business resilience is protecting the organisation against cyberattacks through technology. We invest a significant amount of our capital ensuring that our technology systems are modern and resilient. Furthermore, we also work very closely with regulators and our overseers to ensure that payments work.

On top of that, there is a piece around the customer experience and stickiness. How do you make the customer experience great? How do you make it intuitive as well as safe?  Multiple components must be considered to make a great customer experience. First of all, speed is one of the golden ways you can improve customer satisfaction (ensure that the payment is processed when the customer wants).

There are really interesting initiatives around payments and a clear demand for new payment propositions. One of them is Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL). NatWest joined the BNPL market this summer. We are using our risk models to ensure that we do the right thing for the customer, offering all the protections customers expect from a fully regulated bank.

Furthermore, things around biometrics, PSD2, and Secure Customer Authentication play a central role in customer experience and have the power to minimise security risks.

Also, there`s a lot that can be done around data and how to use it for personalising the customer experience. Having a data-driven customer experience strategy, supported by the right data and technology, is key to improving customer experience.

I think the final thing around the customer experience is embeddedness. The potential of embedded financial services is huge. This is the best way to make commercial relationships as sticky as possible and do everything possible to put the customer experience at the heart of that. Embedded finance and embedded payments are key parts of that sticky offering.

Building customer trust and being a purpose-led organisation are worthy goals for any bank or payment provider.

Just as with other business priorities, the principal focus for NatWest is doing the right thing for the customers, stakeholders, and society as a whole. Making sure that the payments are right and using data to really help customers, for sustainability, financial inclusion, and making sure that people have access to cash, particularly at times like this.

What must banks do to protect customers from payment fraud? How does NatWest apply this?

Recent statistics show that eight out of ten people in the UK have been targeted by scams, over email or text. We lost GBP 730 million on unauthorised fraud, and the amount lost to APP (authorised push payments) fraud is GBP 580 million.  

We recognise that we cannot tackle and reduce financial crime in isolation. We work collectively with industry bodies, law enforcement, regulators, and governments.

We work at an industry level and a bank level. 

At the industry level, NatWest has teamed up with the police to help customers understand more about protecting themselves against fraud. We, as an industry, fund a specific police unit to go out and prevent fraud. 

Detecting and preventing financial crime is everyone’s job at NatWest Group. All frontline managers and branches are trained to identify fraud and victims of fraud. By doing that and stopping customers making payments and asking them the right questions, 

in 2021 we prevented GBP 355 million going into the pockets of criminals and have directly educated almost 450k people.

Moreover, we also work very closely with the industry. There are many forums not only with banks and payment providers but also with regulators. We've started to expand that ecosystem to include fintechs and bigtechs as well. 

Specifically from our perspective, we recognise the important role we have to play to detect and prevent financial crime, protecting people, families, and businesses. 

We monitor payments and transactions, so we protect customers, society, and the Group. Today, we have more than 5,000 people in specialist financial crime roles, almost 1 in 10 of our workforce,  dedicated to detecting and preventing financial crime and fraud. Also, we have a committed investment and funding plan to support this. Over the past years, we spent hundreds of millions of pounds on crime and fraud. The bank will continue to invest in fighting financial crime. Over the next five years, we plan to invest more than GBP 1 billion fighting fincrime.

Lastly, while not a silver bullet in stopping fraud, Confirmation of Payee checks can also help support the fight against fraud and scams. It was designed to help stop fraud and accidentally misdirected payments by checking whether the name of a payee’s account matches the name and account details provided by a payee. 

Collaboration, ongoing significant investment in technology, process and systems, and the training of our colleagues are all aimed at protecting people, families, and businesses.

What should we expect from the future of payments? What trends and use cases do you see developing from 2023 onward?

I do think the payments industry is going through unprecedented change. This is being driven by customer expectations, regulation, and technology advancements. 

I see five disruptive trends changing the payments industry.

First, traditional is being eclipsed by digital. Customers expect real-time, 24/7, global, secure, digital payments. I think this trend was partly accelerated by COVID-19 but technology has also improved this. Although cash flow has supposedly declined, it's actually stabilised. I think that's particularly true in the cost-of-living crisis. People often turn to cash, therefore we don't see a cashless, but a less-cash society. Thus, we are very focused on working with the regulator to ensure there is access to cash. 

Secondly, the speed of technological advancement is really driving this digital explosion. APIs, cloud, blockchain, crypto, CBDC – they all have the potential to become the next strategic change driving the banking and payments industry globally. In addition to that, the ‘as-a-Service’ model is a trend that continues to gain traction. Embedded finance, embedded payments are the future of how we're going to bank and pay. 

The third point is around data and the value of data. Payments data offers valuable insights into customers’ behaviours and needs – enabling banks to deliver personalised digital services and experiences. This data can be valuable not only for improving supply chains but also in the fight against fraud and fincrime. ISO 20022 provides consistent, rich, and structured data that can be used for every kind of financial business transaction. This will unlock huge opportunities for financial institutions, such as boosting operational efficiency, improving customer experience and enabling innovative new services.

Fourthly, I truly believe that payments will be a catalyst for growth, especially for SMEs and corporates, domestic and cross-border. 

Lastly, I think that the winners will be those organisations that are purpose-led but do the right thing for customers and stakeholders, accelerating action on financial health and inclusion alongside some other critical topics such as sustainability and climate risk.

B2B payments have represented a hot topic in the past and will continue to be so in the future. What is NatWest’s strategy towards this? What about the cross-border factor?

Moving money across borders has long been seen as one of the last great challenges for the payments industry.

In terms of cross-border, a lot is going on in the industry space and at NatWest as well. 

In the industry space, the G20 is aiming to address existing frictions in global cross-border. The four challenges faced by cross-border payments (cost, speed, access, transparency) are a focus in the G20 Roadmap. They`re also looking at extending and aligning the operating hours of key payment systems across jurisdictions to speed up cross-border payments, improve liquidity management, reduce settlement risk etc.

Also worth mentioning is – EBA CLEARING, SWIFT, and The Clearing House (TCH) plan to launch a pilot service for immediate cross-border (IXB) payments with the support of banks from both sides of the Atlantic. They are looking to pilot faster cross-border payments between Europe and the US. The pilot service is scheduled to begin by the end of 2022 with several participants joining the service in a phased approach.

There's also the discussion of digital assets and how they are used in cross-border transactions.

At NatWest, all these crucial areas are high on the priority agenda. We prioritise the needs and experiences of customers, changing the way consumers and businesses make international payments. In this sense, we partnered with SWIFT on platforms like SWIFT gpi and SWIFT Go to help offer customers a smoother, faster, more transparent payments experience.

Any particular products or partnerships we should be on the lookout for soon? What should we expect from NatWest in 2023?

The ones I'm probably most excited about are in the Open Banking space. 

Apart from Payit, we offer an Indirect Access API to our Financial Institution clients. In November 2022, we are launching our Commercial Payments & Reconciliation API, a solution for our Commercial, Corporate, and non-bank Financial Institutions customers.

Thanks to our APIs, our customers benefit from 24/7 real-time processing, reduced errors, lower risk, lower costs, and improved processes in their payment systems.

Confirmation of Payee (CoP) is also a game-changing innovation; thus we launched our own API allowing commercial customers to implement this functionality into their systems. Not only will this detect fraudulent and misdirected payments, but CoP is also proven to reduce operating costs and improve the digital journey for customers.

We are continuing to innovate and accelerate our digital transformation. By harnessing new technology and partnering with leading organisations, we are improving and evolving our customer experiences. 

At NatWest, we are driving significant benefits for our customers through technology: APIs Open Banking, cloud, digital ledger technology, as well as QR codes and other technology solutions. 

About Jessica Richards

At NatWest, Jessica leads the payments strategy as well as regulatory, industry and external engagement across the payments market. Her team is the focal point for the Bank’s payments strategy and strategic insights, as well engagement across the industry where NatWest plays a leading role, processing 1 in 4 payments in the UK. She sits on a number of industry Boards on behalf of NatWest. Jessica has spent the last ten years at the heart of the payments industry. As a Director at Payments UK and subsequently UK Finance, she was responsible for stakeholder engagement across the payments and wider banking industry. She led the team covering strategy, governance and membership during a period of significant change for the industry, which included the launch of the PSR, PSD2, Open Banking and the establishment of Pay.UK. She ran the Industry Board and also represented the UK at the European Payments Council in Brussels. Jessica has over twenty five years senior level experience in financial services including investment banking at Morgan Stanley. She has a MEng from Oxford University and an MBA from London Business School.

About NatWest

NatWest serves customers in England and Wales, supporting them with their personal, private, and business banking needs. NatWest helps customers at all stages in their lives, from opening student accounts, to buying their first home, setting up a business, and saving for retirement. Alongside a wide range of banking services, NatWest offers businesses specialist sector knowledge in areas such as manufacturing and technology, as well as access to specialist entrepreneurial support. 


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Keywords: Open Banking, Request to Pay, B2B payments, cybersecurity, fraud prevention, Confirmation of Payee, digital payments
Categories: Banking & Fintech
Companies: NatWest
Countries: United Kingdom
This article is part of category

Banking & Fintech


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