European payments: a look at the past, present, and future

European payments: a look at the past, present, and future

14 January 22

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The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be attributed to the European Payments Council. 

This time we interviewed Narinda You, our former Vice-Chair and former Head of Strategy and Market Practice at Crédit Agricole Payment Services. We were curious to know her perspective on past, ongoing, future developments and challenges in the European payments landscape.

What in your mind are the most important developments that the European payments landscape has experienced over the last 5 years?

The continued growth of electronic payments in the retail market, the explosion of contactless payments at point-of-sale (POS) (in some countries, they already represent more than 70% of physical card-based transactions) and the accelerated development of e-payments all come to mind.

I think we should also recognise the benefits of the (Single Euro Payments Area) SEPA for credit transfers. While our ambitions to develop cross-border direct debits were maybe too far-fetched and did not go as far as we had imagined, SEPA for credit transfers are now harmonised Europe-wide. I think the overall objective to make the market more efficient and secure has been achieved.

Looking to the future, perhaps the new frontier is now the international payments segment. Just follow the FinTechs and you’ll soon see where the key issues are!

What do you see as the key drivers for the evolution of payments in Europe over the next 5 years?

I think mobile – at last! The mobile payments presented ten years ago as the future’s predominant way to pay are just beginning to gain the trust of the European citizens. I think the development of Person-to-Person (P2P) transfers made the mobile phone a convenient and increasingly accepted device to transfer money.

Mobile payments to merchants still need a harmonised acceptance network and the potential “battle” between Near Field Communication (NFC) and quick response (QR) Codes should be dealt with carefully.

In payments, you cannot easily replace one payment means with another. Each new payment method or solution must find its place and, generally, the substitution takes a while and it is not replaced 100%.

What will you recall from your tenure at the EPC? 

At the beginning, the EPC was a coalition of the willing. Now, it is an established, recognised body, able via consensus to bring harmonised rules and standards to the market.

But the EPC is also a fellowship characterised by mutual respect, openness of discussion and, even though we are all competitors in the market, a real sense of cooperation in standardisation. Maybe that its thanks to past battles like those over SEPA and the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2)!

Additionally, I would also stress the efficiency of our Director General and the role of our Chair as a catalyst for our common positions.

As a payment service user yourself, what are your expectations for retail payment services?

Like any European citizen, I am very attached to the convenience of any payment solution. I expect no hurdles in accessing the service, as well as security and adequate services for when something goes wrong whether it is technical difficulties or fraud. It should work everywhere, whenever it is needed.

Security is a given. I will always rely on my bank to protect my data and my money. That’s why at a moment, as the payment value chain gets more and more complex, involving multiple stakeholders, the liability of each of them should be clearly assessed because, in the end, the account servicing payment service providers (PSPs) will be the ones called by payment service users.

What is your personal view on the digital euro as a potential new payment solution?

For retail payments, the benefits of a “digital euro in central bank money”, if that is what you mean, are still not clear to me compared to the “electronic commercial bank euro” that we all currently use.

I know that some experts emphasise the fact that it can be “configured” – meaning that it could be devoted to some restricted uses – but then again, this would need a very serious analysis of this feature’s impact in the market. Will products and services be recognised instantly to allow the usage of a digital euro wallet? What if some purchases are rejected?

Put simply, if the use of the digital euro wallet isn’t convenient enough, it will be rejected.

I understand that the ECB has launched a two-year investigation phase to identify potential use cases, but we all should have in mind the real needs of the market by looking at why and how certain stablecoin systems are developing the way they are.  

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