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FIS’ Lowthers: Connected Economy Must Pass The ‘Mom’ Test

Consumers, amid the pandemic, have garnered an appreciation for all things digital. They’ve also gained an appreciation for simplicity.

And also: When it comes to using data, banks and other providers are going to have to pass the “mom test,” as Bruce Lowthers, president of FIS, told Karen Webster in a recent installment of the ConnectedEconomy™ series.

It used to be the case that the daily minutiae of financial life — banking, paying for things, investing, hailing a ride — were all separate activities, requiring navigation of, say, physical interactions or different apps.

Lowthers explained that we’re all in the midst of massive behavioral change, and we want to streamline the way those interactions happen. Digital front doors, and the platforms that bring a broad range of activities together, are more valuable than ever.

In fact, we’re willing to change our behaviors if we’re nudged to do so by example. If we trust who’s doing the nudging. Thus, said Lowthers, a huge opportunity is opening up for firms (FIS among them) that seek to advance how the world pays, banks, invests and does any number of things in a seamless continuum — not just for consumers, but also for the businesses that exist within connected ecosystems.

The connected economy is no uniform endeavor, he said. Platforms can enable easier movement between those activities, and COVID has been an impetus for us to change our habits.

 Uneven Evolution  

But beware the mindset that one size fits all or that the rise of the connected economy is a global event. As Lowthers told Webster, the world is evolving at different speeds, and habit is a strong force. As individuals, we find a methodology that works for us as we navigate any number of daily tasks — including the day-to-day details of financial life.

Lowthers noted that FinTechs and traditional firms alike can take a cue from the trends emerging in certain countries (super apps like Grab, for example, or buy now, pay later options), whether they are innovation- or regulatory-led. A decade ago, real-time payments began taking root in Asia and have spread throughout the world, coalescing in a range of different domestic RTP schemes.

By and large, Lowthers said, “now, you’re starting to see that rapid acceleration into eCommerce, and the exploration of different thoughts around how, why and when you execute transactions during any given day.”

Against that backdrop, any number of Big Tech, FinTech and traditional players are vying for a way to extend their reach and to craft these ecosystems. There’s no real way to pinpoint whether the giant social media firm, the ride-hailing company or the payments platform will be the pivotal player to serve as the epicenter for a connected economy.

As Lowthers said, it is the entity that finds a way to keep consumers or businesses at the center of the transaction that will find success. “These are the ones that will ultimately win,” he predicted, “because [the connected economy] is becoming more and more about the experience.”

The experience, he said, is enriched by having payments embedded into different applications, evolving as application programming interfaces (APIs) have come onto the scene and made it easier for developers to innovate. Lowthers pointed to FIS, which has developed several platforms that, horizontally, encompass banking, investing and eCommerce, interconnected in the cloud.

Data Is Critical 

Beyond payments, said Lowthers, the ability to interact with apps and ecosystems with the device of choice has been a key enabler of behavioral change. The intelligent consumption and use of data will be key in fostering new consumer behaviors.

No matter the ecosystem, trust is critical, he said. Consumers need to be able to trust companies — banks, for example — with how their information is collected and used, in a way that monetizes that data for the provider and makes life simpler for end customers.

As Lowthers said, only a bit tongue in cheek: “It’s a simple concept of ‘would my mother want her data used that way?’”

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