Where’s the Zelle for Small Businesses?

EXCLUSIVE – While the U.S. payments landscape witnessed two important bank-backed efforts (hello, Zelle and realtime payments), one largely neglected area is likely to be the major focus next year.

That area is small and medium-sized businesses. These are the entities too big to use the P2P payment app Zelle, with its $1,000 daily transfer limit, and too small to engage an expensive SAP or similar third-party service to manage things like payroll and other expenses.

Indeed, it is the SMEs that are getting “squeezed in between,” David Grindal, director of solution consulting at ACI Worldwide, agrees.

“The challenge for banks is figure out how they can provide enough services to the middle-sized businesses… the ones that fall in between a one-person business and the General Motors of the world,” Grindal told Bank Innovation. “How can banks use that seamless consumer experience of Zelle and design that kind of seamless and relevant experience for these businesses?”

One example of relevant features, for instance, is enabling post-dated payments. Features like these, which cater to the specifics of middle-sized business, will be a crucial part of the puzzle, he said.

Whether or not banks choose to charge for certain services is also an important question to consider, he said, if not for anything other than recovering their costs.

The need to focus on this sector makes sense as the number of middle-size businesses in the U.S. keeps growing.

According to Capital One’s Small Business Growth report, these entities are enjoying high growth in 2017, which will carry on with that momentum in 2018. The report suggests that majority of business owners in the U.S. have reported increased sales and improved business conditions compared to last year.

It seems only logical for FIs and banks to give this sector more attention, as digital lenders and other fintechs like Bento or QuickBooks, have already started creating a plethora of products and services specifically for this population.

The market-demand for such a bank-backed product for this sector is great, so much so that it isn’t a matter of if, but rather when will banks get onboard and how?

To learn more about the latest developments in payments and digital banking, join us on March 5-6, 2018 at the Parc 55 in San Francisco for Bank Innovation 2018. Click here to register.