Streamlining financial operations, fintech investments and enabling easier cross-border payments is the growing need-of-the hour. Christian Spaltenstein, Managing Director – Americas at AFEX discusses these changing trends in the payments ecosystem in this QnA with Global Fintech Series.
Tell us a little about yourself Christian and a little about AFEX…
With an experience of over 28 years in the FX industry, I hold an MBA from Zurich Institute of Business (CEIBS) and an AMP from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. As the Managing Director at AFEX Americas, I am responsible for managing strategic direction across Americas region. Prior to this, I have worked as the General Manager with Travelex Switzerland.
AFEX is a trusted global payment and risk management solutions specialist with a heritage that dates back to 1979. We offer a comprehensive range of global payment, foreign exchange and risk management services. We can handle every aspect of a client’s foreign payment needs, from risk consultation to transaction execution, and have a diverse client base. I strongly believe that with API technology, global payments infrastructure and flexible models offered by AFEX, we have the opportunity to deliver success to our business partners.
Given the current economic condition, what are your thoughts when it comes to the evolution of global payment solutions and apps: how will the demand for certain features come to the fore given the challenges businesses are facing due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic?
Businesses have realized now more than ever the importance of automation and technology. A recent research shows that 85% businesses believe that automation technology would be helpful for their business continuity needs. Streamlining financial operations to enable easier cross-border payments, efficiency and consistency will be critical for companies who are struggling to make timely payments to their employees and clients while working remote. On the other hand, businesses are also now compelled to provide not just a product but valuable customer experience when it comes to their service offering.
Here’s where having the right global payments solution partner helps corporates and banks alike to deliver on their promise. AFEX’s flexible, adaptable technology integrates seamlessly into a business’ existing platform. Automating manual processes results in streamlined payments, faster settlement, and reduced costs. The availability of transparent and scalable models, designed to increase efficiency and revenue, not only helps businesses gain a competitive advantage but also provides international growth. With this technology, businesses can securely store clients’ data using the latest industry standards in encryption, transmission protocols, and data privacy regulations.
What are your thoughts when it comes to the contactless payments niche, for local payments, what newer innovations do you foresee given the need of the hour to reduce contact on surfaces?
Contactless payments are here to stay! The COVID-19 outbreak has further amplified its importance in recent months, with a majority of businesses opting for cashless/contactless payments methods. Transactions, both B2B and B2C have significantly shifted to online platforms giving birth to a new niche of players who are now offering easy-to-pay cashless options to customers. According to a recent Mastercard global consumer study, nearly eight in 10 respondents said that they are now using some form of contactless payment.
Going forward, I strongly believe that the whole ecosystem of accounts payable and accounts receivable will be under one roof. A common platform shall be setup for cash management providing a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all transactions. There will be multiple service providers who will join hands to support day-to-day business operations thereby mitigating any financial risk.
Which industries do you feel need to relook their overall global payments strategy and what are your top thoughts when it comes to choosing and implementing a solution for a B2B entity?
Businesses need to be mindful when it comes to streamlining their financial operations and developing a global payments strategy. Industries such as travel, real estate, education, import and export etc.; that deal with high volumes of cross border payments must opt for a global payments partner that provides tailor-made solution suited to their specific business needs and offers the entire product suite through API. For example: AFEX offers two types of APIs that businesses can opt for:
1) Partner API – This solution integrates seamlessly into a business’ front-end technology, providing its clients access to a full suite of FX and international payment services. It helps with customer on-boarding, increasing revenue and supporting regulatory compliance. This type of solution is best suited for companies whose clients are involved in international trade, such as FinTechs, financial institutions, and treasury platforms, among others.
2) Direct API – This solution connects to a business’ existing payments software or ERP, providing employees easy access to a range of international payment, risk management and FX services. This type of API is suitable for corporates, gig economy platforms, travel companies, technology platforms, to just name a few.
What are your thoughts on the future of digital payments and trends that businesses need to watch out for?
In order to capture global opportunities and operate efficiently at an international level, businesses need to be flexible and provide scalable access to a worldwide payment network.Competitions between closed and open payments platform will continue, however development of new regulations particularly to protect businesses will be at the forefront. With increase in cross-border trade opportunities, money transfers and commerce will grow exponentially across the globe. The digital first generation will hit their spending years and businesses will be more adaptive to new technologies, especially ones that impact their daily operations. Companies will invest in digital technologies to address evolving customer/client preferences and mitigate risk and regulatory obligations. An efficient FX and payments system can help businesses to steal an advantage in the market. Many business models are on the periphery of either the incoming or outgoing payment, and integration of these basic features into a business’s product can represent exponential growth in new users and wallet share.
Any other thoughts (business tips / work-life balance tips / remote work tips) for our readers before we wrap up?
The greatest asset to ensure work-life balance is to be aware about what’s going on in the world and easily adapt to new changes. This includes your job and social life that must run parallel to each other. In order to maintain harmony between the two and not being overwhelmed at the same time, it is important to create a certain routine in life. Allocating time to your hobbies such as reading or exercising is essential to educate yourself and stay motivated. Always have a goal in mind to contribute to a better world!
AFEX has pioneered personalized foreign exchange since 1979, becoming one of today’s largest privately owned non-banking providers of global payments and risk management solutions. The company is a trusted partner to more than 35,000 businesses and individuals worldwide, helping clients process payments to more than 180 countries around the clock every day.