Podcast August 25, 2022

Real-Time Payments in the Evolving Global Payment System


Behind every digital transaction, there’s a vast infrastructure of APIs and monitoring systems ensuring the security and speed that the public now expects.

In this episode, we take an expert look into these global systems and learn more about the ever-evolving complexities behind them.

Ho Chee Wai, Country Head of Singapore and Vice President of Neobank & Cards Strategy at NIUM, shares his perspective on the rising trend of digital payments and how businesses had to adapt to the challenges of the pandemic.

Join us as we discuss:

  • The new frontier of real-time payments in APAC
  • Maximizing the benefits of global partnerships
  • Adapting to supply chain issues and inflation

Digital payments in APAC

APAC has been advancing rapidly when it comes to real-time and cross-border payments.

When Chee Wai first started working in the space roughly two decades ago, the region was a blank slate — which provided both an opportunity and a challenge for companies breaking into the sector.

The biggest challenge back then was to convince people that digital options for payments were reliable, safe, and secure. This is doubly true when, later, mobile finance started being introduced, for which Chee Wai says there was zero trust at all in the region.

But consumers are beginning to come around, opening a new frontier for today’s payments companies like NIUM.

Since then, China, then later India, Singapore, and Thailand, began enabling real-time and cross-border payments through open-banking and regulators’ improved bilateral relationships — something Chee Wai sees as a boon for the region.

“The openness of the regulators and central bank helps to improve the payment infrastructure, there are really many benefits to support and enable real-time payments.” — Ho Chee Wai

Chee Wai points to how SMEs are able to better manage their cash flow with real-time payments, while individuals can increasingly avail themselves of value-added services being built upon the new payments infrastructure.

And while other regions still have some reluctance when it comes to open banking, the APAC region has embraced adoption, mostly bypassing that main hurdle others have faced. In part, this is due to the many financial companies who have offered products and services that aren’t radically different to the banking tools consumers in the region are used to, which makes them more palatable, along with consumers being more educated about — and better able to take advantage of — the payments infrastructure.

Global partnerships

For companies looking to offer payment services in the region, Chee Wai says that global partnerships are the key to unlocking the full potential of the APAC region’s financial frontier.

Work in this area has already begun by various central banks in the region opening up and allowing a better flow of financial information across the region’s borders. Likewise, partnerships such as the one between Currencycloud and NIUM are accelerating the rising adoption in the region.

“When the regulators and the central banks are behind the effort to support cross border-payments, it benefits the consumer.” — Ho Chee Wai

One area where partnerships are clearly speeding up adoption rates is security. The region’s previous skepticism around safety has been overcome, in large part, due to more and more companies who are making it clear they are prioritizing security through the strategic partners they’ve courted to combat potential fraud and ensure safety for businesses and individuals alike.

Adapting to new challenges

As with much of modern finance, the adoption of newer, innovative payment options has been accelerated by the pandemic and the accompanying necessity for contactless alternatives.

For instance, the ability to pay on mobile by using a QR code opened up the possibilities in payments to the older generation that had previously been much more reluctant to adopt new technologies.

“I am not surprised the adoption of digital payments has increased since the pandemic, because with the proliferation of digital payments, the general public — like our parents —have started using tools they may not be that familiar with.” — Ho Chee Wai

Of course, the pandemic has come with challenges, too.

Economies across the world are grappling with supply-chain disruption, inflation, stagnant growth, and looming recessions — all things that anyone operating in the financial sector will likewise need to contend with.

But Chee Wai is optimistic that the innovative companies in the payment space are well-positioned to tackle these challenges and do things faster, better, and cheaper than some of the traditional alternatives.

And ultimately, that will benefit the many individuals and businesses operating not just in the APAC region, but globally as well.

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Until next time!




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