PAY360: The payments ecosystem under one roof

by George Iddenden, Reporter, The Payments Association

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At ExCel London, PAY360 gathered over 4,000 payment professionals to discuss the future of payments, innovation, and regulatory challenges with industry leaders.

Across two days in March at ExCel London, over 4,000 payment professionals walked through the doors of the UK’s largest annual gathering of industry insiders. Hosted by The Payments Association (TPA), PAY360 brought together some of the brightest minds and most influential names in the payments ecosystem.

An opening keynote address from MP John Penrose set the tone for the payments industry’s landmark event for 2024. Penrose advocated for the UK government to publish timelines and designate standards bodies to expand open banking into new sectors to maintain the country’s fintech leadership and create new commercial opportunities.

Forging payments North Star

Day one kicked off with Lloyds Banking Group director for payments industry and development, Samantha Emery, and TPA director general, Tony Craddock, emphasising  a unified approach is needed to drive innovation and support the UK payments market while ensuring safety, security, and resilience.

Emery says: “We need to simplify the payment landscape, which will reduce the cost of ownership to existing participants and new entrants, creating space for the payments industry to innovate organically.”

The discussion moved to the requirement that achieving a seamless, fair, and accessible payment system requires completing the capable core, embracing new international data standards, and creating the right operating models for new products and services. 

A key takeaway from the conversation was the need to promote high-quality competition within the industry and a pledge to support the UK’s industry in innovating the “marketplaces of the future.”

Emery stressed the need for a “laser focus” on the economic viability of the UK payments estate, from ecosystem-based cost-benefit analysis to more efficient and equitable funding models to decommissioning strategies.

A glimpse into the payments crystal ball

A number of speakers discussing the future of payments said disintermediation, partnerships, and a longer time horizon are expected to shape it. Fintechs are rising, and traditional banks must adapt. Interoperability, standards, and personalisation are crucial for creating better customer experiences. 

Panel speakers from Swift and First Direct emphasised the importance of striking a balance between technology and human interaction in banking. They also highlighted the need for tailored payment methods and personalised experiences to upsell and create loyal customers. Open banking and central bank digital currencies are expected to reach a tipping point towards mass market adoption, benefitting customers. 

Overall, the speakers agreed that a balanced approach to tech development and human interaction is key to success in the future of payments.

In conversation with the FCA

During a deep-dive session, Laura Dawes, director of authorisations, and Nicholas Webb, market interventions manager, discussed the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) role in regulating the payments and e-money sector. 

Insights on the FCA’s supervisory response to crypto assets were shared, along with discussions on the regulatory sandbox, early hybrid oversight function in Canada, and the future of regulation in the payments industry.

The speakers addressed the challenges and opportunities in financial services regulation and discussed the need for proper governance arrangements. They discussed the FCA’s consultation on enhancing transparency, and the audience engaged in a debate with the speakers regarding the lack of clarity on expectations. Dawes and Webb emphasised the importance of independent challenge and oversight.

Payments’ next giant leap

Bank of England executive director of payments, Victoria Cleland, was joined by Open Banking CEO Henk Van Hulle and Marcel Haag, director for horizontal policies at the European Commission to discuss payments industry’s challenges and opportunities, with all parties emphasising the need for a balanced approach between innovation and risk management. 

Van Hulle stressed the importance of responding to surveys and investing in change. He also explored the potential benefits of open banking and open finance in improving financial inclusion and consumer empowerment. The session gave attendees an overview of the EU’s legislative framework regarding digital currencies, stressing the importance of collaboration and harmonisation across the industry.

In conversation with Joe Garner

A focal point on the agenda was a discussion about the future of payments in the UK, focusing on innovation, resilience, and competition. Craddock emphasised the necessity of a national payments vision while also stressing the importance of interoperability and invisibility in the payment space.

Both Garner and Craddock stressed that resilience should be the top priority and discussed the potential of tokenisation in the future of payments. They also discussed the growing impact of big tech in financial services, highlighting the importance of regulatory engagement and collaboration to address potential risks and opportunities.

Delivering the best outcomes for customers

At the plenary, Visa’s Managing Director, Mandy Lamb, emphasised the importance of drawing from the UK’s payments industry’s past successes to shape an open future while also underscoring the need for trust within the industry – a contentious issue.

Lamb paid tribute to the potential of embedded finance in unlocking more financial products and services for the public and underlined the importance of balanced regulatory environments enabling the industry to innovate and adopt more open finance solutions for their customers.

 Open banking, a popular topic throughout the conference halls over the two days, was praised throughout the session. Lamb discussed how the technology can help increase flexibility, control, and improvement in choices in payment methods, ultimately benefitting the customer.

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