Payments

How Cross River Bank plans to bring mobile payments to business customers

  • While most are still trying to crack consumer mobile payments, Cross River Bank already sees the opportunity for businesses
  • In the innovation economy there are more people working outside traditional hours; it's an opportunity to change how businesses pay employees, customers and suppliers
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How Cross River Bank plans to bring mobile payments to business customers

Another year gone by, and the industry still hasn’t cracked consumer mobile payments.

Across banking, companies are learning from their consumer innovation projects and applying those learnings to business customers. But while they continue their work on consumer mobile payments, Cross River Bank already sees the value in them for businesses and has had solutions in the market for three years. But its head of payments sees a much larger opportunity that’s not getting enough attention.

“Payroll is predominantly set up for traditional salary, ‘regular’ employees,” said Ben Isaacson. “There’s a real opportunity to innovate on that front; businesses can change how their employees get paid to be more consistent with how they’re working.”

How and when employees get paid should be their choice, Isaacson said. The technology to make that happen is already in the market — Uber and Lyft drivers are taking advantage of it, for example — but the systems aren’t in place at most companies, and there’s a mental barrier for businesses to overcome to begin creating mobile payout experiences.

“As an innovative bank it’s about us partnering with our customers to deliver solutions that will benefit them as well as their employees, customers and potentially, their suppliers,” he said.

For suppliers, payments are mostly made in checks or cash, which is cumbersome and inefficient. In many cases, drivers receiving large sums of cash have to go into a post office and get a money order for the amount, which would be included with other payments they’ve received throughout the day.

It’s also too inflexible for some businesses, like a restaurant or store that may need more or fewer cases of Coca Cola than the originally ordered 10. They need to be able to make adjustments like that in real time, Isaacson said. With a mobile device, people can manage and initiate payments in real time and remotely.

Plus, in the innovation economy there’s a growing number of gig work, contract workers, people working outside traditional hours or working jobs that last between an hour and a couple of days, said Rajesh John, a principal in the financial institutions practice of A.T. Kearney. How people work and account for it is changing.

“Mobile payments are becoming more about currency for everyday business and not just peer-to-peer,” he said.

Cross River Bank is a business bank, whose clients are some of the biggest fintech companies. Behind the scenes, CRB has developed payments solutions for faster, more secure and lower-cost transfers that have been integrated by TransferWise and the bitcoin wallet Coinbase, as well as Google Wallet and Stripe — which counts Lyft as a customer.

It touts itself as a technology-first bank that was the first in the industry to roll out push-to-debit payments, in 2014 with Stripe, which allows companies like Lyft, Postmates, Instacart, and TaskRabbit to send funds to employees’ and sellers’ debit cards instead of their bank accounts for a simpler and less error-prone experience.

“We’ve built out a comprehensive suite of disbursement mechanisms that are technology enabled,” Isaacson said. “That means we are continuing to build out ways for our customers to pay out quickly and effectively however they need us to and in real time.”

Existing peer-to-peer players like Zelle, Venmo and WeChat that have created ways to send money to a mobile phone or email address are helping lay the groundwork for what Isaacson sees as a huge opportunity.

“All these mechanisms have been created and are beginning to proliferate,” he said. “As more and more businesses begin to understand this capability they’re going to start moving this way.”

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