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COVID-19 crisis highlights need for real-time and new digital payments services

More than half a trillion real-time payments transactions will be processed over the next five years, according to ‘Prime Time for Real-Time’, a global report from ACI Worldwide and Global Data. The research, which analyses global real-time, account-to-account payment volumes and forecasts across 30 global markets, projects a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.4% from 2019 to 2024.

The report outlines the five strongest indicators of a market’s real-time payments success. A national system or individual country does not need all of these indicators in place for initial adoption, but a combination of two or more is enough to drive the initial growth explosion:

  • Centrally driven payments modernisation initiatives. The backing of a motivated market force, whether governmental or collaborative stakeholders, is key for countrywide change - as countries like India, Nigeria and Malaysia have proven.
  • Seamless and integrated payments experience with rich overlay services. End users want convenience, and unsurprisingly, real-time growth is strong where access to easy-to-use payment types exists for both business and consumer users.
  • Connected ecosystem of players enriching user experience. When a market has broad ecosystem acceptance, combined with the convenience of rich overlay services and strong functionality, real-time payments can grow explosively.
  • Digital payments maturity level and ingrained payment habits. In regions with historic reliance on paper-based payments such as cash and checks, real-time provides an easy digital alternative - and when this shift is backed by a government initiative, adoption can be significant.
  • Openness to alternative payment methods. Alternative payment methods like mobile wallets continue to surge. Adoption is greater when real-time overlay services are offered, particularly the integration of real-time payment capabilities within mobile wallets.

“Recent events have given digital payments mainstream attention, and faster access to funds for individuals and small business has never been more critical,” said Jeremy Wilmot, group president, Banks & Intermediaries at ACI Worldwide. “The financial inclusion benefits of payments digitalisation, including the launch of real-time payments, should not be overlooked, and they should be considered in tandem with national and global economic benefits. We see that internet access is now a necessity, and the ability to transact online is inextricable from the need for connectivity. Everyone needs to be prepared to handle the growth of real-time transactions, as well as digital and alternative payments and non-financial transactions.”

Additional key findings

  • India is poised to lead the world in real-time payments volume over the next five years, with transaction volumes set to grow from 15.3 billion in 2019 to a staggering 52.8 billion in 2024.
  • Additional key countries and regions to watch for real-time payments growth include the US (42.1% CAGR growth), the Nordic countries of the P27 initiative (20.9% CAGR growth), ASEAN (39.0% CAGR growth) and Europe; these countries and regions already have one or more of the above indicators in place.
  • Among the countries relatively new to real-time payments, Malaysia, Finland and Belgium are predicted to have the most exponential growth in the next five years, with an expected CAGR of 176.5%, 90% and 67.9%, respectively.

“Our research reveals that despite vastly different cultural, economic and technological factors, there are a number of traits that determine if real-time transaction volumes will see a rapid upward trajectory, and within what timeframe,” commented Craig Ramsey, global head of real-time payments at ACI Worldwide. “Recognising the key indicators of real-time adoption (or further real-time growth) is critical to getting ahead of the competitive curve. These indicators suggest what needs to be done to unleash the potential of real-time payments and will empower stakeholders to make the right decisions.”


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