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FIS President: B2B Payments Transformation Needs Strong Value Proposition

With the worst of the COVID crisis hopefully behind it, financial services giant FIS is now on the lookout for something that will utilize its now fire-tested ability to respond quickly to customers’ changing needs.

According to Bruce Lowthers, president of banking and merchant solutions at FIS, the key challenge the industry currently faces has to do with creating a strong value proposition that goes beyond just replacing a paper payment method.

“We need to find a way to create something cool that solves a problem and helps our clients so they can get better and more efficient at running their businesses,” Lowthers said to Karen Webster. “The reason things haven’t accelerated faster than they have in the past is that no one has come together with that really compelling value proposition to make the move.”

In addition, Lowthers said the drive to find new ways to make clients’ lives better has caused him to be “very bullish on the B2B space.” Although unwilling to give specifics on what the next “killer app” from FIS might be, Lowthers simply said he sees a lot of opportunity in B2B payments.

So, stay tuned.

Keep The Trains On The Tracks

This mindset pivot at FIS, of course, follows an unprecedented period of adjustment, which Lowthers said started out as simply “trying to keep the trains on the track” in the face of an immediate and abrupt shift to remote working for their customers – and has now morphed into finding new ways to add value to what they do day-to-day. It’s a process that would not have been possible, Lowthers said, if FIS hadn’t embarked on its own modernization process years ago.

“Obviously, we had no idea that a pandemic was coming, but the steps we took positioned us very well to make these pivots, and helped to drive the critical infrastructure that our customers needed, both on the merchant side and the banking side,” Lowthers noted.

PPP Platform Drives One Million Jobs

One area of recent accomplishment of which Lowthers is especially proud involved the company’s rapid build of a new PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) platform to deliver over $15 billion in loans to merchants, who used the funds to save a million jobs. Lowthers has also seen a surge in demand from merchants looking to go omnichannel, get digitized and drive commerce, in a business where 70 percent of transactions were previously done in-person.

“So there’s been a lot of activity on the merchant side and on the financial institution side, and I think there will be a blossoming of new products coming to market,” Lowthers said.

Paper Checks – Not Dead Yet

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Lowthers said, one old business that is not going away anytime soon is paper check processing. While he thinks the long-term downtrend in paper checks will continue, he predicts that it won’t happen rapidly.

“The death of the check has been proclaimed now for a long, long time, yet it doesn’t seem to go away,” Lowthers said, noting that FIS is the largest check processor in the country.

Another trend Lowthers is currently analyzing is the degree to which newly formed digital habits will retain their hold as things start to normalize, or whether things will go back to the way they were before.

“It will be fascinating to watch it unfold over the next six or seven months and see what habits stick in our new economy,” he said.

At the same time, Lowthers said the COVID era has been a tremendous internal catalyst at FIS, triggering a mindset change that has benefited the firm.

“[COVID] has really unlocked the art of what’s possible for us,” Lowthers said. “If you had asked us before the pandemic if we could pivot and have everybody remote within five days, I probably would’ve said no way.”

But now, with rapid response projects under its belt, like the PPP platform that went from ideation to delivery in less than 70 days, there’s been an awakening of what is possible. “It unlocked [the reality that] we’re capable of moving exceptionally fast,” Lowthers said.

And so as FIS winds down a year that has been filled with unexpected challenges, Lowthers is also looking forward to a new year filled with opportunities: “We’re very excited about what we can do in 2021.”

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