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Outages caused by Wirecard show that the time to look at multi-acquiring is now

The retail and ecommerce industry has already seen a number of significant unexpected events to contend with in 2020. The effects from the unplanned outage caused by Wirecard’s issues can be added to a growing list of unwelcome surprises this year, which have put huge pressure on retailers from both a financial and a technical perspective.

For anyone not fully aware of the backstory, as a result of alleged accounting fraud, a few weeks ago businesses that relied on Wirecard’s technology to process payments, including a number of UK fintech firms like Curve, Pockit and Anna Money saw their payments being frozen. This caused several retailers to be unable to take payments, and at a critical time for them where cash is absolutely essential to their survival. At the same time, this impacted consumers as many were unable to withdraw their own money or use their cards for payments. 

Technical teams across financial services and ecommerce had to work around the clock to get things back up and running as quickly as possible. A number of businesses have posted about the challenges that their teams overcame to “keep the lights on” on social media. But this shouldn’t have needed to happen. Weekends, time spent with loved ones, and sleep didn’t need to be sacrificed to keep critical payments and ecommerce services running. 

In short, this wouldn’t have been needed if companies had a robust failover in place, whereby businesses didn’t rely on a single bank for their payments.

Whilst this may be a unique event, arising from an unusual set of circumstances, it shines a spotlight on the underlying issues that consumers and retailers alike are subject to, by being reliant on one acquiring bank for processing all of their payments. It shows that outages can befall acquirers, and they take no account for status – they impact new market entrants and established institutions alike. In a business environment which is already challenging enough, they impact customer services for retailers, merchants and consumers alike.

Businesses need to have the peace of mind to know that they can trade whatever the circumstances, and know that consumers can always access their money and make payments. They need to have a reliable failover in place. 

Where companies are using one bank exclusively, they urgently need to review their partner arrangements. Whilst there are supposed benefits that come from the ease of relying on the likes of Elavon or Barclaycard, if a business is reliant on only one of these, they should look at branching out and adopting a failover. If your business relies on a single banking connection, you will face similar challenges if a bank goes down, whatever the issue that causes it is.

For merchants who are currently reliant on a single bank the answer lies in multi-acquiring.

Previously, multi-acquiring has been the preserve of only the very largest retail businesses. The likes of Amazon, Tesco and Facebook would typically use several banking partners. These are global businesses which need to transact around the clock, and any outage would represent significant revenue lost to them.

Multi (or dual) acquiring was previously a more manual process as well, which would have needed multiple contracts, across many different markets with a number of different banking partners. And there have previously been significant technical hurdles and complex APIs that come with having a failover in place. 

The Amazons of this world can afford the expense because of the scale of their business. But how could differently scaled retailers, with limited payments knowledge and who want to hand over payments responsibilities to one, trusted, global partner hope to manage this?

Now, businesses can easily access a truly global banking network by working with one multi-acquiring payment processing partner. By using the right payment processor, businesses will automatically be connected to a number of different banks. Multiple payments options and constant protection with multiple failovers are then in place, as the merchant is supported across multiple banks.

To date, I’d always believed that the biggest benefit to businesses with large global banking networks was their ability to use intelligent payment routing to get the highest conversion rate, and therefore higher revenues. Following the Wirecard issues, I now know that the biggest benefit for merchants is the confidence that comes from having not just one, but multiple back-ups. High authorisation rates are meaningless if you can’t take payments in the first place.

I can’t promise that businesses in the retail and ecommerce sector won’t have to experience more unexpected events for the rest of 2020, or in the future. But what I do know is that multi-acquiring gives them a platform to face an uncertain future and trade with the maximum level of confidence that they will always be able to take payments. It's time for businesses to embrace the benefits of multi-acquiring.

 

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Comments: (2)

Michael Fuller
Michael Fuller - None - London 16 July, 2020, 22:52Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Unless I'm mistaken the main problems from the wirecard accounting fraud impacted issuers using wirecard and their customers rather than acquirers. Having multiple issuers of cards doesn't seem to be a valid solution but, whatever the background regulators and the card networks need to learn lessons and find solutions so that consumers can access their money. 

Fingers will rightly point at auditors and validating material matters will always be critical and an essential part of any effective audit. But for as long as auditors rely on the representations of management and management can point to the outcome of audits (based on their own representations) there will be a vicious circle to be broken. 

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 17 July, 2020, 14:281 like 1 like

"Weekends, time spent with loved ones, and sleep didn’t need to be sacrificed to keep critical payments and ecommerce services running."

LOL. You must be very lucky if you've experienced this. 

In every payments op that I've been involved, this is a utopia even when we're not buffetted by a couple of Black Swan events at the same time.