Updates from the EPCA-forum
April ’24 in Madrid

Mathijs Helgers
Connective Payments, June 2024

EPCA, the European Payments Consulting Association, held their sixth monthly Forum in Madrid. Twelve representatives attended from Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Italy, Latvia and the UK. On behalf of Connective Payments, Mathijs Helgers, manager & consultant, participated in this event.

Members presented on a wide range of topics, which included:

1) Virtual Bank cards in a B2B setting

More and more institutions are offering virtual bank cards (with a PAN number), which offers a lot of advantages in a B2B context. Virtual bank cards give a company greater control and the opportunity of hyper personalization, e.g. assigning a card only for travel payments and setting payment limits. More (goal specific) cards simplify pooling and accounting. Simply Freezing cards can a.o. reduce fraud. Instant issuing and regulatory compliancy are other advantages. In the old days smaller SME’s had only a limit number of credit cards available, while for corporates it was a complex task to manage all card expenses. Now corporates can use virtual cards for example to setup B2B procurement, or a central travel account.

Different players like (neo)banks and specialists take a different approach to the market. Airplus is a good example of the usage of virtual cards specific for one goal; they provide a virtual card solution for business payments. Their offerings include single-use virtual cards for travel bookings, procurement payments and travel trade transactions. These virtual cards enhance security, provide transaction data, and enable centralized payment processes.

2) Digital euro

A lot of discussion is going on about the advantages and challenges of the digital euro. There is a lot said about how off-line and online digital euro payments should work, how anonymity is guaranteed or how the account limits and wallets impact the customer experience and the financial journey.

During the EPCA meeting the discussion focussed on a specific subject, namely payment fees. Before the ECB can launch the digital euro, the European Commission must pass the digital euro law. Both the EU Commission and the ECB have published multiple documents and progress reports. The proposal for this law emerged on June 28, 2023[1]. Article 17, “Fees on digital euro payment services,” is particularly interesting. The ECB closely follows the 4-corner model, involving issuer, acquirer, merchant, and consumer, with interchange fees and merchant service charges. The European Commission’s description on the other hand is less explicit.

The European Commission clearly states that:

1) No fee can be charged to the consumer (natural person), giving no room for discussion.

2) The merchant service charge or inter-PSP fee shall comply with the principle of proportionality and must be based on relevant cost.

3) Payment service providers may not charge merchants for the funding and defunding of the digital euro.

In combination with the proposal that a merchant has no holdings limit on the account, this poses an interesting challenge regarding who bears the cost of digital euro transactions. Enough food for thought.

3) A2A and P2P payments

Account-to-account payments (A2A) refer to the direct transfer of funds from one bank account to another, typically electronically, bypassing intermediaries. A2A payments offer numerous benefits such as (cost) efficiency, security, convenience, integration, and user experience. Especially in combination with instant payments and open banking A2A transactions are very interesting for both consumers and banks. There is a large list of A2A providers diving into this market. Most of these parties have neen around for years and have strong market penetration rates within their domestic countries.

Example:

Bancomat Pay (Italy), Blik (Poland), Brite Payments (Sweden), Bizum (Spain), GiroPay/PayDirekt (Germany), iDeal (Netherlands), MobilePay (Denmark and Finland)/ VIPPS (Norway), Payconiq by Bancontact (Belgium), Paylib (France), Sofort/Klarna (Germany), Swish (Sweden), Twint (Switzerland), Twisto (Czech Republic).

There are three trends or challenges for the A2A players.

  1. Expanding beyond their current offerings, many A2A players excel in specific markets. For instance, Tikkie dominates P2P payments in the Netherlands, while Sofort leads in C2B transactions in Germany. Especially the shift to in-store payments, like Swish are very interesting. But also adding features can be an option, e.g. user validation, loyalty point or improved bank app integration.
  2. Expediting service beyond current country. There are different approaches broadening their model by partnering with additional banks and merchants abroad, such as Bizum. Collaborative integration efforts, such as between MobilePay and VIPPS, or involvement in larger initiatives like EPI (see our article about the launch of Wero), or the combination of these efforts.
  3. Regulation’s impact, including the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and Payment Services Regulation (PSR), alongside initiatives like Instant Payments and the digital euro. For example, the current implementation of instant payments varies across European countries, differing in availability and cost, resulting in different models for A2A providers. While DMA, among other effects, may alter their positioning relative to US big tech companies.

Other topics that were discussed during the event include:

  1. Scheme challenges: How should the payment scheme handle opportunities and threats of Artificial Intelligence, arguing the relationship with banks and fintechs, and understanding the implications of embedded finance, such as A2A payments and the digital euro.
  2. Large merchants’ payment architecture; setting up an innovative and stable payment architecture for large merchants with multiple brands, like major supermarket chains. Great insights were provided on the do’s and don’ts of such an architecture project, with a roll out period of 5 years, facing challenges such as finding vendors, internal resistance, and managing intellectual property rights.
  3. Selecting MDM platform; a comprehensive overview was provided on the selection of Mobile Device Management (MDM) system for POS terminals, describing the (dis)advantages of terminal agnostic platforms versus single branded terminals platforms. Taking into account operating systems (mostly Android), customized features and integration with merchant applications.
  4. Metaverse and web3.0; aims to decentralize the internet through blockchain technology, promoting transparency, security, and user control over data and transactions. In contrast, Metaverse focuses on creating immersive virtual environments where users can interact and engage. Metaverse and web3.0 are revolutionizing the internet, are (online) payments ready to embrace this future?

The European Payments Consulting Association (EPCA) is a European network of independent payments consulting companies, existing of bigger and smaller Pan-European payments consultancy companies. At a recent event in Madrid, EPCA members including CleverAdvice (Italy), Gallitt (France), PaySas (Germany), Vedicard (Latvia), PSE (UK), Avantio (Norway), Rieger.fi (Finland), and Nalba (Spain) joined Connective Payments to discuss industry trends. The goal was meeting each other and sharing insights around the European Payments industry. A wide range of topics was touched upon, of which 3 are described in this Article, without going into every detail.

Connective Payments is here to help you

For more information about the discussed topics during this EPCA-forum, please contact Mathijs Helgers directly via This link You can also contact us using the link on our website 

Picture of Mathijs Helgers

Mathijs Helgers

Connective Payments
Manager
+31 6 278 46 220

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