How Interac is adapting to deliver exceptional, innovative experiences for your customer

We have truly entered an age of digital transformation. We are, increasingly, a digitally connected people engaging in ever more sophisticated tasks through technology—and this will only continue to escalate.

This wave of technological change squarely impacts payments and is marked by the introduction of new technologies, new players and new expectations. At the heart of this transformation is the need to deliver enhanced and optimal user experiences, which the market is expecting and demanding from all players. Canadians want convenience, speed and security and, increasingly, they want flexible access, available anywhere, anytime and on any device.

Can established players evolve to remain relevant during times of disruptive technological change? These entities exist today because they have been able to make significant investments. They’ve been able to adapt, transform and evolve during periods of disruption.

Within this context, yes, established players can do more than simply survive—they can thrive. We’ve demonstrated this consistently over three decades—first as pioneers and now as leaders in the Canadian payments space.

We are all questioning how we can accelerate our ability to respond to and challenge the current changing environment and future requirements. Fundamentally, it means transforming our teams—assessing our resources, skill sets and expanding capabilities.

It’s something we have done in our organization and continuously do to meet the demanding needs of the market. I also believe that it means partnering with global leaders, as well as new entrants, to deliver best in class solutions and user experiences.

From the very beginning, we’ve championed innovative, secure solutions for Canadians that make payments easier, simpler and faster. We know that in the world of payments, settling for the status quo is a one-way ticket to irrelevancy. Nor is it enough to simply compete for the moment, following trends and reacting to the changes taking place all around us. We know that the only way to stay relevant in the payments world is to compete for the future by being proactive and shaping experiences rather than being led by them.

In Canada, it helps that Canadians are great adopters of payments technology. They’ve embraced Interac Debit, using it more than any other payment card. They’ve embraced Interac Flash contactless payments, driving year-over-year transaction growth of 163$ between 2014 and 2015. And, in larger and larger numbers, they’re embracing Interac e-Transfer, making it the leading digital money transfer platform in Canada. It’s delivering faster payment capabilities by processing more than 958,000 transactions per day with more than half of transfer notifications received instantly, allowing for immediate access to funds once deposited through online banking.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Currently, 65 per cent of Interac e-Transfer funds are deposited using mobile devices, highlighting how important mobile has become to Canadians for payments. And while Interac e-Transfer began as a P2P (person-to-person) service, it has evolved to offer P2B (person-to-business), B2P (business-to-person) and B2B (business-to-business) options as well

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. More than 13.5 million online bank accounts are connected to the Interac e-Transfer platform to send money securely and efficiently from one bank account to another.

Business use of Interac e-Transfer will continue to increase, in part due to the recent introduction of a Bulk Disbursement service that provides new capabilities for payments that have traditionally been made using cash, prepaid cards or cheques—a costly and inefficient legacy payment instrument that still accounts for nearly a billion payments every year. The Bulk Disbursement service provides businesses with an efficient, secure and streamlined electronic payments system for things like payroll for temporary and casual staff, insurance claim payouts, company rebates, competition winning disbursements and emergency fund disbursements. Through an automated file transfer process, businesses and other organizations can securely and reliably send multiple payments in a single file upload, eliminating the need to issue, track and reconcile payments. And unlike direct deposit, recipients don’t have to provide any financial institution details, as the recipients just provide an email address or mobile phone number for payment notification, as they would with regular Interac e-Transfer.

Our mandate has always been to operate a modern, efficient and secure payments system in Canada, delivering ubiquitous, cost-effective platforms and services with the scale and reach required to be successful in a highly competitive market. While the backbone of our Interac products and services has and will continue to be our Inter-Member Network (IMN), we recently introduced a new foundational platform—the Interac Token Service Provider (TSP)—to allow us to meet evolving consumer and business expectations.

Developed in collaboration with IBM, Bell ID and Everlink, the Interac TSP is a natural evolution of the strong security value proposition built into every Interac product and service.

The concept of substituting consumers’ financial information with a “token” has always been integral to the security of Interac products, such as debit cards that feature an identifier instead of an account number or Interac e-Transfer transactions that use email addresses or mobile phone numbers instead of account information to allow for digital transfer of funds through web banking. The TSP continues this, offering both security and customization that consumers and clients demand with the capability for tokenized digital debit transactions on any device or mobile wallet that supports it.

With our three foundational platforms—the IMN, the Interac e-Transfer platform and the Interac TSP—we’re ready for whatever happens in the world of digital commerce. Whether it’s In-App payments, where we are enabling merchant mobile applications to securely integrate digital debit payment functionality, or In-Browsers, where we do the same for merchant e-commerce websites, these innovative payment solutions will create new customer experiences and value-added solutions to financial institutions. They also extend the consumer and merchant benefits of paying with debit beyond brick-and-mortar transactions into the digital space.

Constant innovation and a reliable, always-on systems infrastructure lays the foundation for further evolution in digital payments, including enabling Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to leverage the Interac e-Transfer platform. And we’re always reviewing the platform for even more capabilities, such as transactions within social platforms, be they P2P, P2B or B2P.

Canadian consumers and businesses have shown that they want access to digital payment capabilities. They want mobile payment offerings that are fully functional across any device and any platform. They also expect them to be secure and protect their privacy. If existing payment providers don’t give them what they want, they’ll turn to new entrants who will. Fortunately, they don’t have to. If the past 30 years have taught us anything, it’s that you can’t stay relevant by standing still or following the herd. We know our environment, we know what is needed and we adapt. We have domain expertise and know-how to build out capabilities and transform, and that’s what we are doing. Our continual evolution means that we continue to set the standard for secure debit payments and money transfers in Canada, as we accelerate the growth of digital payments by meeting the needs and expectations of consumers and businesses, today and into the future.

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Mark O'Connell

Mark O’Connell is president and CEO, Interac Association and Acxsys Corporation.