Level up your payment processes by automating pay-outs

The administrative effort tied up in processing pay-outs can be a burden for many businesses. Whether accounts payable or the issuing of refunds, paying out in a traditional sense is typically time-intensive and error prone.

In a typical workflow, a user will log in to a business bank account and manually enter a range of different details for each payment. These will be authenticated by another team member before the transactions are authorised.

However, when disbursing payments across multiple recipients, the manual process to facilitate the transactions can get out of control as your business grows. Mistakes, delays and unaccounted figures begin to take up more time as your company scales, reducing overall efficiency

Timely and accurate payments are a crucial driver for customer success, so it is important businesses pay attention to their payment processes and identify areas for improvement. Two in five UK invoices were paid late in 2018, implying there is scope to update payment processes across sectors.

A sophisticated payment workflow will look to automate manual tasks and minimise opportunities for human error. For larger organisations that already use third-party systems to organise supplier payments, a best-in-class solution would see them combining all their disparate databases into one unified payment solution. By integrating with an API for payment automation – such as fire.com’s – the need to route payments through multiple systems for complex payments is greatly reduced.

Examples of automated pay-outs
Whether it’s an inter-account transfer to a segregated customer or staff account, or automating large volume batch payments to suppliers, there are a number of ways APIs can be used to streamline the pay-out process.

Alternative lender – automated, real-time disbursements
GRID Finance is an alternative finance provider that specialises in loans for the hospitality, e-commerce and personal service industries. Being able to release funds to customers quickly is a key differentiator in the alternative lending space, so they looked to fire.com to help them automate payments-out and open segregated customer accounts in real-time, to support effective reconciliation.

As a result, GRID Finance has significantly increased speed of settlement and reduced reconciliation processing times to minutes:

“Every minute we save allows us to focus on delivering the best possible experience for our customers” says Senior Operations Manager of GRID Finance, Gary Grimes.

Bulk pay-outs to suppliers
By opening a fire.com business account and integrating with the API, businesses can initiate vary large volume batch payments to suppliers, contractors or staff. Once the workflow is set-up, users authorise each payment via the firework mobile app.

Bespoke payments providers such as fire.com can also support businesses with less development resource to automate batch pay-outs, with the only requirement being the provision of data in Excel format and the opening of a fire.com business account from which to send the funds. If you think you could benefit from this service, get in touch with our team to find out more.

Shopper debit cards
Buymie is an online retail platform that allows customers to purchase goods from local retail stores and have them delivered same day. Buymie wanted a solution that would enable them to open accounts for each personal shopper and quickly transfer the funds needed to purchase goods for customers. They also wanted the ability to freeze cards themselves, switching each one off once purchases are made.

By opening up an account with fire.com, Buymie can open additional accounts with no further KYC checks. Each account comes with its own IBAN and all inter-account transfers are made in real-time, at no charge. For enhanced security, all account users receive a notification when payments are made, while cards can be frozen or unfrozen instantly via the parent account.

Are you thinking about introducing an automated element to your pay-out process? We can help. Get in touch with our team to discuss the benefits of opening a digital account.

What are Open Payments?

The arrival of Open Banking represents a seismic shift in the way consumers and businesses use financial services. By giving regulated third-parties secure access to financial information, it is shaking up an industry that has been difficult to access – inviting more competition and stimulating innovation.

For consumers, Open Banking is better suited to meeting the needs of our increasingly digital society – offering greater choice and access to highly personalised services. For businesses, it presents the opportunity to create exciting new financial products that are more secure and cost-effective than ever before.

A one click society

Thanks to the rise of mobile apps, voice assistants and streaming media, consumers now expect quick and seamless experiences with every digital interaction. And payments are no exception – indeed, contactless payments accounted for 19% of all payments made in the UK in 2018.

In addition, consumers are increasingly customers of more than one bank or hold multiple accounts and access to accounts via mobile app has become the norm. The result is that everyone now carries a payment device in their pocket.

Account transfers traditionally presented considerable friction for the payer, with account details requiring manual entry. These have been left behind in the one-click revolution. Until now.

One of the new developments arising from Open Banking allows approved payment processors to set up (initiate) an account transfer payment for the payer to authorise in their online banking or mobile app. Termed “Open Payments”, this form of digital payment doesn’t require data entry from the payer, reduces settlement time for the payee and, in some cases, instant reconciliation.

Not only is the experience faster for all parties, it’s also more secure than other payment methods. And, with fewer parties involved in the payment process, Open Payments are also significantly more cost-effective for businesses than traditional debit or credit card payments.

How Open Payments work

Leveraging Open Banking technology, Open Payments allow people and businesses to pay directly from their account, in real-time. It’s safer, faster and more cost-effective than other payment methods available today. Here’s how it works.

The process starts when a payer is prompted to pay using Open Banking. An Open Payment request can take the form of simple web links, so lend themselves well to many payment scenarios. Here are a few examples of how the links can be displayed.

Website button

 

Bus stop shelter

 

Open Banking Payment Terminal

 

The payer’s view

When a customer opts to pay using Open Banking, they are first asked to select their account provider from a list. They authenticate and sign into their account as normal via online banking or mobile app. When logged in, they are presented with the payment details and asked to authorise the payment. The payer is then shown a confirmation of payment before being redirected back to the business they are buying from.

Check out the payer’s view of Open Payments in our explainer video:

 

Find out more about Open Banking payment technology in our white paper: From Open Banking to Open Payments – a better way to pay, and get paid.

Online retail and Open Payments: a perfect match

How e-commerce businesses can benefit from frictionless bank account payments that provide fast settlement, reduce fraud and cost less than card payments.

For years, consumer buying behaviour has been shifting increasingly towards online retail, driven by a range of factors including convenience, ability to compare deals and attractive pricing. Many high street brands are increasing their proportion of selling online, with bricks and mortar retailers experiencing a 10% reduction in footfall over the past seven years.

This shift has been dramatically accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, with shops closed and many people unable to leave their homes. Online sales across multiple sectors have increased significantly and it appears this reflects more than just a temporary change in behaviour. A study by Morning Consult found that 24% of customers don’t intend to start shopping outside again in the next six months, while financial news website PYMNTS found that 23% of consumers who have shifted their routines online due to the pandemic don’t intend to change them.

Stay ahead of the competition

While this is good news for e-commerce, the sector is now set to become even more competitive, so online retailers need to ensure they convert occasional visitors into loyal customers to maintain and grow their market presence. It is vital e-commerce businesses focus on providing a best-in-class online customer experience to ensure they stay ahead of the competition and capitalise on increased consumer demand.

Online shoppers are quick to abandon websites that provide a poor experience and the majority of those will never return as customers. A recent study by PwC found that, after product price, speed and usability are the most important aspects to customers when shopping online. One key element of this is payment: customers want more choice and convenience when it comes to their payment options.

Introducing Open Payments

Mobile banking is already expected to overtake high street bank branch visits by 2021 and the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to drive even greater adoption of online banking. With more people than ever having access to their bank account via their smartphone, this presents an opportunity for a new kind of payment method: Open Payments.

Open Payments is a completely new way for businesses to accept real-time bank transfers from customers. With no data entry required, Open Payments provide a fast, frictionless payment experience for the customer and it benefits businesses too, with faster settlement, less fraud and lower fees than other payment methods.

Open Payments is enabled by the recent Open Banking initiative, which has been rolled out in the UK and Europe to provide more regulation, governance and consumer protection for online payments, while increasing opportunities for businesses to accept payments.

Using Open Payments, digital retailers can now accept payments by adding a simple ‘Pay by Open Banking’ button to their payment options. By clicking the button, customers are instantly redirected to their online bank account or mobile app to authorise the payment, the details of which are automatically populated and simply need to be confirmed.

Business benefits

In addition to faster settlement and lower fees for online businesses, Open Payments is the most secure digital payment option – every party in the payment process is digitally authenticated, minimising opportunities for fraud. Some e-commerce merchants may also benefit from the automated reconciliation feature of Open Payments, which dramatically reduces the time spent on manual reconciliation.

Open Payments also allow rich data to be pulled through with a payment, meaning information such as customer ID, time of payment, campaign number and product code can all be collected from a payment – aiding learning and product development.

Don’t get held up on payments

While many parts of the retail sector are facing a long, slow recovery from the pandemic, e-commerce is well positioned to grow its market share considerably. But online retailers need to remain focused on the customer experience to ensure they take full advantage of the increase in demand.

By making small customer experience improvements, such as adding frictionless, cost-effective payment methods, online merchants can differentiate themselves from their competitors, reduce costs and streamline backend efficiencies – giving them the time and space they need to focus on business growth.

Contactless debit card payment limit increase for fire.com customers

From 1st April 2020, fire.com Mastercard® debit card holders can now make contactless card payments of up to €50.00 / £45.00. This change is part of an industry-wide movement to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 by reducing the need to enter PIN codes on card terminals or handle cash.

The increase from €/£ 30.00 is being implemented across the payments sector with the hope that minimising the handling of cash and reducing physical contact with payment terminals and cash registers, as well as cutting queue times when purchasing goods, will have a positive impact on our collective wellbeing.

In order to use the feature, the software on card payment machines must also be updated to accept the new limits. This is occurring gradually across the retail sector. Grocery stores that have successfully rolled out the update include Asda and Iceland.

The contactless limit was increased for all fire.com debit card holders on Wednesday 1st April with no disruption to services. fire.com will ensure it responds appropriately to Covid-19 and take any actions that help protect our customers. For further updates please visit our dedicated COVID-19 page.

Fire Open Payments – a new way to get paid

The arrival of Open Banking represents a major change in the way consumers and businesses will use financial services. By opening up access to the account to regulated third-parties, it enables innovative new ways to pay and be paid – exactly the mission fire.com set out on nearly a decade ago.

Fire Open Payments is a new feature from fire.com combining our Euro and Sterling accounts, Open Banking and our payment request to enable businesses to accept account-based payments from customers. Whether you’re selling online, face to face or remotely, Fire Open Payments enables you to distribute payment requests to your customers, who can then pay you in a simple, frictionless and safe way directly from their bank or payment account – with the funds settled and reconciled automatically into your fire.com business account.

Integrating the acceptance of account-based payment flows is straight forward. You may create payment requests in the fire.com business account portal or use our API to integrate Fire Open Payments with existing systems for a fully automated collection and reconciliation service. The service is suitable for fire.com business customers of every size, from small start-ups to large corporates accepting tens of thousands of payments a day.

Cost-effective – Accepting payment via open banking is cheaper than other ways to get paid. There’s one, simple, low fee. Reduced chargebacks. Instant reconciliation.

Fast – Funds settle into your fire.com account quickly – typically within six business hours. Payments are executed via Faster Payments (Sterling) or SEPA Credit Transfers (Euro).

Secure – Fire Open Payments is one of the safest ways to collect payments. All parties are securely authenticated, minimising opportunities for fraud.

Currently available as a beta for UK & Ireland business customers, try it now by signing into firework and creating a Payment Request, or check fire.com/fireopenpayments to find out more about the service.

Fire Open Payments is also available as a white-label for banks, gateways and acquirers who are looking to quickly deploy compelling account-based payment solutions to their customers. Check fire.com/pisp-as-a-white-label or contact sales@fire.com for further information.

Owen O Byrne
Chief Product Officer, fire.com

Introducing Fire-UK

As part of our growth plans, we at fire.com are pleased to announce the launch of our new entity, “Fire-UK”.

For several reasons we decided some time ago to create a UK-based legal entity. Firstly, as an authorised e-money institution we are set up to ensure the services we offer our UK-based customers will not be impacted by Brexit. Secondly, as an active payments initiation and account provider in open banking we wanted to be close to the UK payments ecosystem. Finally, we wanted to make sure that we could continue to grow our team based in Shoreditch while staying close to our customers.

We are also delighted to welcome two new board members to the fire.com team – Mike Smith and Lucy McClements.

Mike joins us with a Director level background in Financial Services, having been a UK Bank Commercial Director and on the Board of an SME Lender. Mike was also: a member of the PSR-sponsored Payment Strategy Forum; on the Link Network Members Committee; a Non Executive Director of Faster Payment Scheme Ltd; a Member of the Emerging Payments Association Advisory Board; a Payments Awards Judge.

Lucy McClements joins us with over 20 years’ leadership experience following an executive career with the FCA, FSA and Bank of England. She has held a variety of Board Advisory and Committee roles and provided governance insight and executive advice to many regulated firms. As a newly licensed entity, Lucy will support Fire-UK by providing further Governance, Compliance and Risk Management expertise.

As a provider of multiple sterling and euro payment services, fire.com helps businesses manage and automate payments with all the tech, accounts and cards needed.

On the 16 October 2019, we took the final step in our preparations and our UK customers have now been migrated from Fire-EU, our Irish company, to Fire-UK. There is no change to the way fire.com customers use their accounts as a result of this move.

With thanks to all our customers.

fire.com

 

fire.com to open a development hub in Cork

As part of our continuing growth, we are pleased to announce the opening of a new development hub for fire.com in Cork, Ireland. Our Cork team, comprising development and product specialists will be based in our new private office at the Republic of Work on the South Mall, joining a community of start-ups and scaling businesses.

Cork was selected as it has a number of top-quality universities and technical graduates in the area. This served as a good fit for us as we look to scale our development function. With good access routes to London and Dublin via air, road and rail, it’s well connected to our two other offices in Shoreditch, London and Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin.

We aim to build a great development team in Cork and are recruiting ambitious individuals who want to join fire.com at a really exciting time. If you live in Cork or are interested in relocating to the banks of the Lee, have experience with Java and are as passionate about payments as we are….drop us a note with a covering letter and CV to jobs@fire.com, or apply online here.

Shane O’Brien
COO, fire.com

How to use automated payments to delight and retain customers as an alternative finance provider

The last few years has seen a significant rise in the number of institutions offering alternative finance options to businesses and consumers. From merchant cash advance, to crowdfunding and invoice discounting, there are many loan options available today that were not around five years ago. In order to grow, alternative lenders need to think about how they can differentiate, and one of the best ways to do this is by optimizing their payment processes.

Market maturation

The alternative finance space is booming. Latest findings from the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF) shows an increase in market share by over a third in one year alone (2017) – 68% of which was attributed to business funding. Year prior, 2016, saw an increase of 43% with total share of the lending market rising from £3.2bn to £4.6bn.  Leading the charge by market volume are Peer-To-Peer (P2P) business & consumer loans and property lending – followed by invoice financing, debt-based securities and equity-based crowdfunding. The bulk of alternative finance market volume – 72% – is being raised specifically for start-ups and SMEs.

With so much activity going on in the alternative finance space, players are pushing to increase their share by expanding their product portfolio and improving their services. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is through payment automation. Payment flows are the building blocks of any loan-issuing company. Get it right and not only will you have a business model that can scale, but a differentiated customer experience that will drive customer retention.

How does payment automation work?

In order to achieve the seamless automation of payment processes you need to work with a payment provider that uses APIs. APIs – or Application Programming Interfaces – are sets of software used by developers that allow one system to talk to another. This enables deep integration between business and payment systems resulting in significant benefits.  

Delight and differentiate with automatic payments

Using APIs, payment services providers can enable lenders to delight their customers with a service that is as efficient as it is easy to use. An enhanced service is achieved in the following ways:

  1. Automation of large volumes of pay-outs and pay-ins – reducing manual error and time spent on reconciliation

    Without the need for CSV files and manual reconciliation, lenders can minimize human error whilst maximizing efficiencies. fire.com customer GRID Finance has reduced reconciliation processing times to minutes, by using the fire.com API to automatically update their systems when a payment is received. “Every minute we save allows us to focus on delivering the best possible experience for our customers” says Senior Operations Manager of GRID Finance, Gary Grimes.

  2. Increased settlement times – same-day payments

    Integrating and automating bank transfers reduces settlement times, meaning customers can have money in their accounts sooner. And where multiple accounts are created with the same provider, transfers will take place instantly, further delighting customers and differentiating from slower services on the market.

  3. Enhanced data richness and access to up-to-the-minute data

    By using API functionality, lenders can pull unique fields and troubleshoot issues in real-time, providing a first-rate customer service. With more data points to work with, customer service reps can easily query client accounts and address issues quickly.

fire.com’s digital account and API service is enabling alternative lenders to optimize their sterling and euro payment processes. These businesses are seeing improvements in customer satisfaction and operational efficiency ratings in return. Find out more here.