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Necessity of Revolution in Cross Border Payment process

E-Commerce has broken the political borders and offers products & services across different country borders. This has resulted in a high volume of cross-border goods and payment flows. 

Cross border payments have become an integral part of the day-to-day activities of global businesses. Small Businesses’ zeal to expand their business beyond their country boundaries has been well supported by ongoing digitalisation and high-end technological capabilities across multiple sectors and industries. However, it continues to face significant challenges owing to complicated cross-border mechanisms. The Small businesses face challenges in making or receiving payments internationally because of dealing in different currencies and country specific rules and regulations for international payments. This has created a need for a more agile and frictionless cross border payment framework making cross-border payments as simple as domestic transactions.

 

What are Cross-border payments?  

 

Cross-border payments are defined when both the parties i.e. buyer and sellers involved in the transaction are registered in different countries. Most popular cross border payments methods are wire transfer, credit cards and alternative payment methods- mobile wallet, low value payment method. All interaction for payments happens between buyers and sellers through their respective Banks. The Banks communicate with each other through the SWIFT mechanism when it comes to international transactions. 

In Traditional cross-border payments of correspondent banks, the number of intermediary banks depends on the relationship of the buyer’s and seller bank’s with the correspondent bank. As the number of intermediary banks increases, costs associated with fees and commissions also increase. A Bank can track the transactions till its immediate bank. It becomes difficult for the originating bank to track the transaction once the payment goes to the next bank in the sequence. There is no standard procedure for cross-border payments due to different rules and regulations of each country.  Evolving customer requirements, instantaneous fund transfer, cost reduction, complete transparency and technological innovation has initiated the process to improve cross-border payments as a whole.

 

Cash Flow in Cross-border Payments

 

When a customer makes a purchase, there’s a complete back-end process wherein money gets transferred from the buyer’s bank account to the seller’s bank account. This process becomes very complex when it comes to cross-border payments. In international transactions, currency exchange rates and foreign transaction fees are also involved along with the fees or commission charged by the different bank in the value-chain. In cross border payments domestic and international financial institutions are working together to make the transfer of funds.

 

When a purchase is made, if the buyer’s and seller’s bank have a direct relationship payment is done very easily and seamlessly but in the absence of direct relationship intermediary bank’s role becomes important. These intermediary banks are called correspondent banks.

 

Major Banks across the globe have their own branch or correspondent bank’s branch in another city. In such cases, the funds will first move from the Buyer’s bank branch to the Bank’s own branch or its Correspondent bank’s branch in the seller’s country. This fund is further transferred to the seller’s bank who will then credit the seller’s account. There are many entities, different currencies, exchange rates and transaction fees involved in the single international transaction which make the process slow and opaque in nature. The more the number of correspondent banks in the chain, cost and complexity of transaction keeps on increasing

 

In the Era of Globalised Digital Economy, international payments still felt backward and analogue.

 

A Revolution in Cross Border Payments  

The future of cross-border payments is clear wherein the world requires ability to move funds instantaneously, seamlessly with full transparency and 24*7 access. As the payment industry started moving forward on this journey, an array of new industry initiatives and emerging technologies are transforming the payments process. Fintechs using emerging technologies like blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning have started offering faster, agile and seamless solutions to the financial institutions to cater the emerging needs of customers.

 

Currently multiple paths are being used by the payment service providers such as Real-time payments, SWIFT gpi, SWIFT’s transaction manager, artificial intelligence, blockchain and digital currencies- cryptocurrency, central bank digital currency and stable coins. These new ways in cross-border payments would provide opportunities to make cross-border transactions faster, more frictionless, efficient, transparent and cost-effective like domestic transactions. Fintechs act as catalysts for innovation and bring global payments together through various approaches. Banks have started collaborating with fintech to mend their strengths and optimize their offerings by enhancing the payments infrastructure with latest technologies.

 

This revolution will transform the landscape of cross-border payments and empower the end user with full control on sending and receiving international payments at any point in time with complete transparency related to fees/ commissions charged and traceability of transactions in the system.

 

As per Deloitte report – B2B and P2P payments with blockchain would result in a 40% to 80% reduction in transaction costs and take an average of four to six seconds to finalize (compared to two to three days using the standard transfer process).

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What’s the Next Step in the Payment Industry for addressing Security Concerns?

Card industry has seen steady growth in the last two decades from EMV chip card (use a smart microchip to store data instead of mag stripe) payments to contactless payments, but security remains a big challenge for the industry. These concerns have led to innovations towards more reliable and secure technologies such as biometric card payment. Such technologies have received significant boosters during the contagious Global pandemic of COVID-19. People started preferring contactless payment methods for payments using Mobile wallets or tap and pay cards to avoid any kind contact as precautionary measures. The main concern with the current contactless payment system is the upper cap on the transaction amount. To boost the contactless payment, RBI has increased the limit from Rs 2000 to Rs 5000 during the pandemic period. However, higher transaction limits for tap and pay cards posed bigger security concerns since no second factor is being used for payment authorisation. Biometric cards do provide a ray of hope by addressing some of the challenges faced by the card industry.

 

Biometric Cards: Innovation for Secure Payments

What are Biometric Cards? 

Biometric cards are a unique combination which uses the payment mechanism of a regular Card, authentication mechanism of biometric based payment while maintaining the safety mechanism of contactless payment. Biometric contactless cards offer more security and seamless user experience than all the other payment modes by combining their best features and avoiding their shortcomings. Each Biometric Card has a built-in fingerprint reader hence customers do not need to remember their PIN or touch any POS terminal, as all transactions are performed by touching the fingerprint reader on the card itself. Biometric payment cards ensure the same existing EMV standards and use typical safety measures like end-to-end encryption along with tokenization with additional layer of security, by adding finger size biometric reader on the card for biometric authentication. In the case of cards Lost or Stolen, chances of replicating fingerprints or stealing data from Card for fraudulent activities is implausible. Also, personal data of cardholders is stored only on the card and is neither held on the bank server nor sent to any external database. We tech savvy people always want more personalised and high technology cards and these biometric cards are the exact solution for our requirements.

 

How do Biometric cards work?

  • Once the biometric card is received, the cardholder can securely install the fingerprints data in the card by inserting the biometric card in the sleeve and following the simple procedure provided.
  • Cardholders can also configure the fingerprints by visiting their nearest bank branch.
  • Card activation is completed at the time of the first transaction at the POS terminal. 
  • At the time of making the payment, customers can place the card on the POS terminal.
  • The POS terminal reads the card details and requests for authentication.
  • Customers can authenticate the transaction by placing their finger on a biometric reader on the card thus avoiding any direct contact with the POS terminal.

 

Benefits to Stakeholders

  • Highly Safe, Secure and easy to use. 
  • Easy and quick registration of fingerprint data on card at home or by visiting bank branch
  • Instant and seamless payments authorisation.
  • No need to remember the card PIN.
  • Technical compatibility with the existing contactless or chip payments terminals
  • No additional cost for merchants to accept payments through biometric payment.
  • Self-charging – biometric sensor is powered using a terminal.
  • No queue on the checkout counter because payment processing is faster with biometric cards.

The only challenge with the biometric card is that only the cardholder can use the card because transactions get completed only after the successful fingerprint authentication and biometric technology can only capture one unique identity that can never be changed.

Way Forward

Biometric cards can bridge the gap between innovation and security concerns of the current payment system. It will gain trust of banks and service providers by providing complete customer assurance and convenience to use with no additional efforts on their part than simply putting a thumb on the card. All these benefits put together make biometric cards setting the new industry standards from a security and convenience point of view in the payment industry. According to the ABI research around 2.5 Million biometric contactless cards are expected to be issued in 2021 and growth of biometric cards is expected to soar globally in the next few years.

 

In a country like ours which is predominantly rural and agricultural based, where the illiteracy rate is very high and remembering PIN/ Password for cards is very challenging. The benefits of Biometric cards will be a real boon for us. Biometric payment cards provide all-in-one high-end technology, convenience, usability of smartphones and security assurance with reduced effort on the customer’s part. Now is the perfect time for Indian banks to start offering biometric cards to its users and  make India a cashless and digital economy.

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