Financial Software & Systems (FSS) utilizes the creative and customized methods that tailor its work to the client’s environment to the maximum. Here, Krishnan Srinivasan, Global Chief Revenue Officer, FSS (Financial Software and Systems) speaks on the impact of COVID-19 on the fintech industry and end customers. Excerpts from an interview:
DQ: How FSS is dealing with the global pandemic lockdown? What are the steps taken to meet the new demands during this period?
Krishnan Srinivasan: Moving money and payments are considered “essential services”, and making sure payment rails operate 24X7X365 days is critical. This means that banks, financial institutions, and their technology providers need to work tirelessly to keep payment systems and solutions are seamlessly operating at all times to enable their customers to transact. We have adopted a three-step approach:
Navigating the crisis: As a payment product and processing company, continuity planning is a critical business imperative. No organization can, however, be fully prepared to navigate an epidemic of such magnitude. Given the criticality, our first step was to enable WFH for over 2400 FSS team members and ensure that our FSSNeT environment is monitored very closely to ensure certainty of payment transactions.
Keeping lights on: Our products and operations team, along with associates on the ground, continue to support our demanding customers.
Ensuring access to cash: In collaboration with cash replenishment agencies, we have ensured minimal disruption to cash at ATMs spread across India from Ladakh to Kanyakumari.
Development upgrades: Our development and engineering teams have helped banks in India to roll out new features such as “Donate to PM Fund” in a flat 24 hours.
Assured support: Our customers like their payers and payees need to have an outstanding and reassuring experience — especially in their most critical moments. Leveraging advanced monitoring tools, our monitoring teams continue to ensure 24/7 support in 10+ local languages.
Innovating for the new normal: The pandemic has fuelled new ideas and created new opportunities. We are seeing plenty of signals that indicate an acceleration in digital-first, frictionless or contactless approaches. However, this is not as simple as just “moving to digital.” Re-orchestrating digital interactions, investments in consistent omni-channel experiences, enabling personalised payments and e-commerce and digital security are emerging as prime investment areas for banks. FSS is collaborating with multiple banks to prepare its customers for the emerging normal.
DQ: How is FSS enabling the rural belts of India with its AePS network? What has the growth been like?
Krishnan Srinivasan: FSS operates one of the largest core payment processing services in the country, which forms the backbone for multiple institutions (Tier One Banks, NBFCs and RRBs) to ensure continuity in retail transactions for multiple customer segments. We cater to payment needs of banks through multiple channels AEPS, Digital Banking, UPI, IMPS, ATM, Micro-ATMs and PoS.
FSS AEPS is aiding financial institutions to ensure universal services delivery whilst providing a means to alleviate the constraints of social distancing, lockdowns, “circuit breakers” invoked to limit the pandemic’s spread. Financial institutions offering agency banking services are successfully leveraging their banking correspondent network to deliver doorstep banking services in semi-urban and rural areas pan-India.
This allows a customer in a remote village in Bihar to safely access funds in their bank account without having to risk stepping out of the house during the pandemic to withdraw cash. On an aggregated basis across our customer portfolio, the transaction volumes have recorded a 3X uptrend.
One of our largest AEPS customers, India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) with a pan-India network of 190,000 Grameen Dak Sevaks has seen a 500% surge in cash disbursals using FSS Aadhaar-Enabled Payment System (AEPS).
DQ: Can you shed some light on FSS’ SaaS and cloud-based commercial models? How is it helping the banks and fintech companies?
Krishnan Srinivasan: COVID-19 is proving that online payments are a lifeline service. Customers who did not have a card before or did not transact online will shift to digital very soon. For banks, the forward path entails balancing conflicting demands of new investments in digital transformation initiatives and cost containment. To avoid upfront investment and lead time required to develop solutions, many banks are evaluating “Payments-As-a -Service models” rather than buying or building software and running it in-house.
FSS offers Payments-As-a-Service on a white-label basis to financial institutions, which in turn can design wraparound services catering to the needs of their customers. Our solutions portfolio spans the complete payment spectrum – (Card Management, Merchant Solutions, Digital Banking and Payments, Digital Security, Payment Analytics, Smart Reconciliation and Payment Switching), and are hosted on FSSNeT, FSS private cloud, into which customers can integrate via readily available APIs. New out-of-the-box features can be turned on quickly and configured, thus promising reduced time to RoI.
From a bank’s standpoint, the FSSNeT managed services model offers a single point of entry to readily access the complete payments eco-system and frees the bank to focus more time, energy, and resources on partnerships, marketing, and distribution strategy. As an example, FSS operates the complete digital payment infrastructure for several banks globally and in India, including Ujivan and IDFC.
Another example is our digital commerce offering. To augment our platform’s value, we have developed automated merchant onboarding capabilities as well as added value capabilities including analytics services and risk-based authentication that support customers by helping meet three goals: increase revenues, better merchant experience, and rationalise processing costs.
DQ: What are the recent trends and payment patterns seen in the digital payments space?
Krishnan Srinivasan: There will be faster adoption of digital payments. Digital payment infrastructure has proven to be resilient and reliable, and consumer devices are fast becoming the user’s primary payment machine that enables payments to peers, merchants, and, businesses. We see growth in online omnichannel payments in the areas of health insurance, groceries, education, utility.
Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) of GoT is yet another catalyst. The Government is relying on the JAM infrastructure—Jan Dhan, Aadhar and mobile telephony —for mass transfers. Direct disbursements to bank accounts would help change attitudes towards digital and payment habits of a large segment of cash-reliant consumer segments. As a matter of fact, FSS Card management platforms are used by Governments in countries like South Africa to disburse pensions.
According to McKinsey Research in China and Italy, for example, four weeks after the coronavirus began to spread, the estimated increase in customers’ digital engagement was between 10 % and 20%. We would see the impact on similar lines in India.
Banks need to outperform their peers in providing quality, convenience, and value via exceptional digitally driven customer experiences. Different banks are at varying stages of digital maturity. Across the board, however, there will be an increasing adoption of technologies that improve engagement and operating efficiencies such as API driven payment system, AI and ML-based authentication and Big Data.
DQ: What are the steps taken to maintain the ATM networks active and running?
Krishnan Srinivasan: FSS manages a large ATM base for multiple banks pan-India. Given the dominance of cash as a payment instrument, our business continuity plans were enacted and in place three weeks prior to the lockdown. We continue to work closely with banks and cash logistics partners to ensure uninterrupted supply of cash at ATMs.
There have been no outrages, and consistently, across our ATM network, we have maintained greater than 90% uptime via the deployment of remote tools for real-time ATM monitoring of ATMs across 150 critical parameters as well as cash forecasting.
DQ: How is FSS battling increased fraudulent activities?
Krishnan Srinivasan: State lockdowns and social distancing have forced many traditional customers to become digital customers, creating a perfect breeding ground for scamsters. There has been a spike in bot-led attacks, phishing attacks, fake sites, and fake accounts, as attackers are using COVID-19 as a bait to steal customer credentials, impersonate payment services brands and defraud customers. The Interpol and WHO have also warned of growing financial fraud attacks linked to COVID -19.
Strengthened digital security systems, practices and governance is the first and best line of defence. FSS has adopted a two-pronged approach to help payment service providers optimize their counter-fraud security postures. At FSS we are aiding several customers to implement AI and ML-based real-time fraud intelligence capabilities such as risk-based authentication and behavioural analytics for proactively detecting fraud signals. As an example:
* spikes in daily login rates from the same device that last from half an hour to several hours combined with higher failure rates.
* login using the same password in different accounts or one device logging into multiple accounts
* shifts in the location from which transactions are initiated in an implausible time window
* sudden increase in transaction velocity and value on an account.
In addition, we have equipped payment service providers with solutions that empower consumers to mitigate fraud risk. To cite an example, many banks have implemented FSS Toggle a security solution that enables customers limit spends by payment instrument, channel, merchant type and location and receive real-time alerts, and respond to fraud alerts.
The solutions are available on FSSNeT in a play and plug model alleviating CAPEX requirements and enabling banks to pay as they grow. Cloud-based multi-tenancy models provide an added advantage by enabling aggregation of fraud patterns for fine-tuning risk-management approaches.