It’s difficult for banks to distinguish themselves in today’s digital world. With technology evolving at the speed of light, customer expectations are high, and it is incumbent upon financial institutions (FIs) to provide their clients with the latest technology if they wish to obtain, and retain, their customers.

While for the most part FIs are keeping pace, one area in which they have historically lagged is cross-border payments, and in particular bill payments. In this one regard, they are mainly stuck in the 20th century, and those that do not adapt to the changing marketplace will begin to feel the consequences.

Costly missed opportunities

Transferring funds or paying bills within one’s own country has long been available via apps, but for individuals or small mid-sized enterprises needing to pay bills internationally, there have been only two options for such transactions, neither of which are simple, cost-effective or convenient. One, customers can either visit bricks-and-mortar banking locations to initiate lengthy wire transfers. Or two, they can open additional bank accounts in the various countries payees reside. The latter can be subject to non-residency challenges and regulations and can put undue strain on their cash flow.

Both processes are highly time-consuming, costly and inconvenient, not to mention archaic. With shifting populations, growing global trade and living in a real-time data-rich world, how is it possible that paying a utility bill can be so difficult?

Disappearing borders are increasingly turning the world into a global village (to cite Marshall McLuhan), changing not only the way that business is conducted, but contributing to major population shifts. In Canada alone, more than 20 percent of the population are immigrants[1], many of whom need to send money and pay bills for personal and business purposes across borders. On top of this, many Canadians still like to flock to the U.S. in the winter while keeping, and still paying for, their homes in Canada. But despite virtually all banking functions now being available at the touch of a button, international bill payments have, until now, remained analogue.

This is an enormous lost economic opportunity for FIs. In 2017, the international payments space saw $1.9 trillion in revenues, and, measured projections show the potential for the space to reach $2.9 trillion globally by 2022: provided financial institutions step up to modernize the process[2].

As international trade expands, this latency in cross-border payments is extremely costly to everyone along the supply chain. The friction that exists within bill payments creates a tedious customer experience and something that needs to be improved upon.

Needed: new solutions

This is why digital real-time solutions are critical as we move forward. Improved cross-border bill payment capabilities have the potential to help businesses grow, and to help individuals quickly, easily and seamlessly pay bills overseas. Directly connecting cross-border bill payments to domestic bill pay infrastructure can remove latency and improve the customer experience.

Fortunately, external providers are emerging to help FIs expedite the technology solutions necessary to make real-time international bill payments a reality.  Buckzy Payments Inc. is among the new players in the space, offering a much-needed solution. The firm is enabling users to send and receive money instantly between bank accounts and facilitate real-time international bill payments, 24/7, 365 days a year. Buckzy partners with FIs including banks, facilitating integration with its platform, thus enabling them to provide a real-time payments solution to their customers, and ultimately satisfying their customers’ rapidly changing needs.

Players like Buckzy are transforming the way money gets moved and bills are paid around the world. Such services are on track to be available in more than 50 countries, spanning five continents, by the end of 2019.

With global migration continuing to grow, and barriers to global commerce gradually coming down, international payments and bank to biller payments need to keep pace with rapidly changing technology. Though the digital economy moves forward, one time-tested truth remains: the customer is king. If banks hope to maintain their clients, they need to adapt to an ever-changing global village.

[1] Statistics Canada, “Immigrant population in Canada, 2016 Census of Population”, October 25, 2017.

[2] McKinsey & Company, “McKinsey Global Payments Map 2018”, October 2018.