If you can track a pizza, why can't you track a payment?

Wells Fargo, HSBC, and the Commonwealth Bank all agree consumers are looking for the same experience from their bank as they get from other parts of their life.

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Image: Asha McLean/ZDNet

Consumers in Australia can track a parcel en route to the United Kingdom every step of the way, and to Peter Maddison, executive director of payments innovation at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), they should be able to do the same with their digital funds.

"I can send a AU$3 package from Sydney to London and see at any point in time where that is. We now, as a result of some of the API capability and some of the fantastic work being done around the gpi piece are going to have the capability to do that for transactions," Maddison said.

See also: SWIFT's instant cross-border gpi payments test touted as a success

Echoing a similar sentiment to Maddison, Niall Cameron, global head of Corporate and Institutional Digital at HSBC, said the issue of tracking is really important in the financial services industry.

"I think we've taken it for granted in our personal lives or the retail industry -- you can track just about anything," he said. "If you can't track it now, your frustration is pretty high."

According to Cameron, tracking comes in two forms. The first is around immediacy, which he said is when something has happened, when it is completed, and all parties involved need to know that state has been reached -- like a read receipt on a message.

Secondly, he said tracking is also something that takes a period of time and the involved parties need to know where it is on the journey -- similar to the way a consumer can monitor where their package is throughout the delivery process.

With capability already there, Cameron said it is the innovations such as pizza tracking and parcel delivery that is driving the enterprise need for such capabilities. Domino's, for example, has been tracking its delivery drivers since 2015, making the real-time capability visible to customers since then.

"From that sort of experience and that need from the consumer -- that's migrating into the corporate world," Cameron continued. "People are saying: 'Well the technology is obviously there, because I can see where my pizza is, why can't I see where my $10 million payment is?'"

Ashish Sharma, head of Strategic Payment Solutions for Wells Fargo's Financial Institutions Group, questioned why the capability isn't already in place.

"We as banks tend to think of innovations as changing an existing process," he added.

"We have a very narrow view or a very narrow problem we are trying to solve as opposed to trying to look at it from a customer experience point of view and trying to look at it from an end-to-end point of view, which I think really makes a difference in how we should do things."

The three banking executives were appearing on a panel at Sibos in Sydney on Monday, discussing how the traditional multi-bank correspondent banking model that underpins global commerce today may not stand the test of time.

"If you look at all the solutions that are out there, one thing that is really missing is trying to solve the operational efficiencies," Sharma said.

According to Maddison, the customer expects capabilities such as payments tracking from their bank, and financial institutions should really be investing in capabilities that their customers want or need.

"None of this to our respective customers is terribly innovative -- a 14 year-old, if something doesn't work within two seconds, they think it's broken -- so there's a persona there with people using smart devices whether it's for payments or booking holidays or online shopping ... they expect instantaneous responses, or at least a tracking capability that tells them why something is going to be delayed," Maddison said.

"The need is there already. We actually have to do this, firstly, but also it's incumbent on all of us to have a really good capability around experimentation and working out what models actually work and the technology actually becomes irrelevant, it's about can I move a payment from one side of the world to the other in a really quick and efficient manner, whilst at the same time making sure I'm meeting all of the appropriate regulatory hurdles and screening and other capabilities."

However, Maddison did highlight that in tracking a parcel or a pizza, that business is just following one activity.

"The challenge here, and the benefit of some of these technologies that have actually come along, is that you've got a multitude of different institutions involved, with different ways that they handle payments, and a multitude of different regulatory environments," he said.

"I think the work so far that's been done around APIs -- and if APIs are the way we're going to do this, and so far that's looking promising -- I think it will absolutely address the customer need."

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