Driving a more elegant future for payments

We talk to Alan Irwin, VP Products and Solutions for Global Payments Europe, about what’s on the horizon for the future of payments.

Global Payments (NYSE: GPN), a leader in payment technology and software solutions, is a Fortune 500 giant that provides payment solutions to merchants and issuers worldwide.

Their acquisition of EVO Payments, which trades in Ireland as BOI Payment Acceptance (BOIPA), follows Global Payments acquisition of another Irish business, Realex in 2015, making Ireland a central hub for the company’s product innovation and vision.

“The future of payments is about elegance and making the buying process easier, more secure, but also unique at the same time”

We spoke with Alan Irwin, VP Products and Solutions for Global Payments Europe, about what’s on the horizon.

Seamless experiences

Software is pretty much eating payments. If you think paying via a mobile wallet on your smartphone is pretty futuristic, then think again.

The future, says Irwin, is about seamless experiences and convenience, all underpinned by software and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to such an extent that the machines themselves may disappear, from our view at least, while we consume services and buy products without friction.

The pandemic saw Ireland embrace contactless payments at breakneck speed and that trend only continues to gain traction. According to BOIPA’s own research, 62% of Irish businesses believe the increase in card transactions over cash has helped them to run their businesses more efficiently and is safer and more secure than handling cash. 

A technological leap forward

For Alan Irwin, the acquisition of EVO is an exciting development for Global Payments that follows on the gains made by the acquisition of Realex.

“Ireland and the UK are punching above their weight when it comes to e-commerce versus other regions and that is mainly because of the Realex acquisition. The office that we have in Dublin is now the centre of excellence for ecommerce, omnichannel and technology with a lot of our engineering delivery being handled out of Dublin. We were the first in the Global Payments family to integrate all of our solutions into the cloud and we pride ourselves on pushing the envelope on new technologies.

“The EVO acquisition means we will be able to offer a full-stack proposition, utilising their domestic Irish acquiring and partner distribution.”

“The payments ecosystem has evolved over the last number of years. Historically, Global Payments would pride itself on being a pureplay payments focused company, but now we’re seeing more and more demand from merchants and partners to have a payments partner that also offers a suite of commerce enablement solutions,” explains Irwin.

“This means going beyond the terminal to offer added intelligence such as managing tables, enabling customers to split bills, using analytics to understand average spend, comparing spend by new customers versus returning customers. It’s about adding value on top of accepting payments.”

In essence, Global Payments can access a virtual globe of data from its customers and partners to glean insights to compare demographics, deliver insights and ultimately help business owners  make better decisions by utilising data. It’s about a relationship that goes beyond the point of sale to advising informed business decisions.

“It could boil down to something like a bar owner knowing exactly how many kegs of beer he needs to buy in ahead of a busy rugby weekend to a restaurant owner who wants to encourage repeat footfall among returning customers. It also means being able to connect with other platforms. We have already started to deliver above and beyond just pureplay payment capabilities.”

Less friction, more convenience

Enabling businesses to do more is the spirit that is leading to the upcoming roll-out of BOIPA’s new website builder proposition, in association with Bank of Ireland, that provides businesses with the tools to build a website, engage in customer relationship management (CRM), process e-commerce payments and market their offerings digitally, all as part of a one-stop shop.

“People are tired of the myriad of different services they have to sign-up for in order to get a website up and running. They just want a simple platform to pick a website template, add their branding, and to be able to drag and drop the tools they need to create  a website and add a range of functionalities, whether it’s a  webstore, CRM, web chat and so on.” Irwin added.

Another important trend is fraud prevention and adding intelligence to the payments experience such as silent validations to ensure seamless and secure transactions on a business-to-business (B2B) basis.

“We are seeing more and more digitalisation among businesses,” says Irwin. “And that’s going to continue to grow. But we’re also seeing how businesses are embracing models like subscription-based payments, but also B2B digitalisation of payments where payments are faster and fraud exposure is reduced.”

Looking ahead, you cannot talk about the future of payments without mentioning AI. Irwin says AI is already at work in Global Payments’ systems to drive greater fraud prevention. “Fraud prevention across the billions of dollars of transactions we process annually is critically important. Fraudsters are clever, so making sure that the models are constantly fed with knowledge to spot fraud is paramount. We are also using AI to drive quicker payment results and higher authorisation rates.”

Irwin says that other future moon shots include the role that augmented reality could play in the e-commerce space such as powering the purchase of a Louis Vuitton bag in Brown Thomas via a virtual store seen through a VR headset.

“The future of payments is about elegance and making the buying process easier, more secure, but also unique at the same time.”

John Kennedy
Award-winning ThinkBusiness.ie editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.