The pandemic has forced many businesses to drastically adapt how they do business to survive. Here are 4 steps you can take today to safeguard your payments environment during the pandemic and beyond.
The payments ecosystem has always been a complex web of tools, technology, and providers with a multitude of rules and regulatory requirements. It can be difficult for any organization to effectively navigate this space on their own and be proactive in maximizing efficiencies while simultaneously minimizing cost. However, the complexities have been magnified in the current environment to levels not previously observed.
Organizations are facing an upheaval in the way they do business, adapting to new protocols and contending with increasingly challenging economic conditions. On top of that, the card brands have announced the most sweeping changes in a decade – but more about that later.
Given all this turmoil in the payments space, organizations must take this opportunity to evaluate their current payments strategy and adapt it accordingly to keep up with the new normal.
1. First things first – take this opportunity to take control of your payments environment and make sure you have a detailed payments strategy.
Start by ensuring you have access to your payment card data and can draw meaningful insights from the information. You will want to ensure that your access encompasses comprehensive details including, but not limited to, transaction fees, card brand fees, gateway fees, acquirer fees, third-party fees, entitlements, payment card industry (PCI) costs, and interchange and card network fees.
In addition to access, you need an effective means of normalizing and rationalizing the data so it is usable and meaningful. To gain a complete picture of your payments environment, you’ll want to know your cost of payment by method, channel, and platform. In addition, you will need to monitor and manage KPIs around chargebacks, fraud, average ticket, authorization to settlement ratios, effective rate by payment channel, and overall volume.
Your organization must also have the team, process, technology, and tools in place to ensure you are proactive in managing your environment and costs. If you do not have the necessary team or resources, take this opportunity to engage an expert to whom you can outsource the program oversight and management.
2. Be proactive in managing your payments environment.
Organizations need to be aware of the upcoming card brand changes that are now slated to take effect in April 2021. You need to make sure you understand the impact of these changes, especially if your environment has changed (e.g., you have seen volume increases in card payments or a shift in the payment channels or methods used by your customers).
If left unaddressed, your organization could face costly increases that can otherwise be mitigated. By acting now, you have the power to stave off future fee increases and create significant savings for your business.
3. Understand your vendor relationships and contractual obligations.
Organizations need to take this opportunity to review their payment card acceptance agreements. This includes your agreements for routing preferences or customized value exchanges with the card brands and debit networks. This is in addition to the agreements you may have with gateways, acquirers, and any other third-party or value-added resellers (VARs) you may use.
Equally important, organizations need to ensure they understand their collateral and reserve requirements. For instance, do you understand your security interest and reserve calculations, or what event(s) would trigger your acquirer to invoke these clauses? Did you specifically agree to the terms or simply accept the boilerplate contract language?
Given the rapidly changing economic environment, we are seeing many acquirers and processors taking steps to implement reserve accounts and collateral requirements. Organizations should be proactive so they do not find themselves caught off guard should their acquirer impose a reserve account or collateral requirement on short notice. Take steps now to protect your business by understanding the potential triggers and making sure you have an open line of communication with your partners to secure advance notice and avoid being caught by surprise.
Are you satisfied with your current acquirer? Another change we have seen is that some acquirers are refusing to board new merchant business in certain sectors. For some acquirers this list is quite long. That said, if you are currently seeking to change acquirers, we strongly recommend talking to an independent expert advisor first. By doing so, you’ll be able to navigate an increasingly complex marketplace more effectively and make more informed decisions to satisfy your short- and long-term needs.
4. Optimize your payments environment.
Now is the time to review service utilization and pricing structures. Does your organization have the tools it needs to mitigate risk and avoid exposure to fraud? Do you have the technology, process and infrastructure necessary to support your business? This is extremely important if your environment has recently changed and evolved in response to the current economy.
The next question is are your fees competitive? Taking this opportunity to align your service and fee structure is critical now, more so than ever. A proactive approach now ensures you can be confident in knowing that you represent ‘best in class’ from a benchmarking and best practices standpoint.
Taking control of your payments strategy is not an easy task, but it is doable, especially with Redbridge’s tools and expertise. Organizations that choose to wait and see will likely face even greater challenges, as it will only become more complex and more difficult to navigate this space. While it may seem daunting given all that is going on at the moment, the time to act is now.
Redbridge is here to help. Reach out to your advisor today and we can show you how to evolve your payments strategy and remain ahead of the curve.