The Journey Toward Instant Payments in the U.S.

Five takeaways from a recent Nacha conference showcasing the future of instant payments

Last week at the Smarter Faster Payments Nacha Conference, I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion on the Future of Faster Payments in the United States, where industry leaders gathered to share insights and chart a path forward.

The conversation was rich with ideas, highlighting both the immense potential and the significant challenges ahead. Here are five takeaways from that fascinating panel.

1. Market-Driven Ubiquity and the Role of Banks 

The panelists agreed that the adoption of instant payments will be largely market-driven, propelled by the tangible benefits these systems offer to businesses and consumers alike. However, there’s an interesting twist: banks may accelerate their efforts due to a sense of “FOMO” (fear of missing out). As financial institutions see the competitive advantages of instant payments, they will likely push harder to implement and promote these services, ensuring they remain relevant in a rapidly evolving financial landscape. 

2. Small Businesses: A Major Use Case 

Small businesses stand to gain significantly from the advent of instant payments. These enterprises often face cash flow challenges, and the ability to receive payments instantly can be a game-changer. Whether it’s paying suppliers, managing payroll, handling day-to-day expenses, or receiving payments from customers (a more novice use case), instant payments provide a level of liquidity that can help small businesses thrive. By highlighting these benefits, banks and payment providers can drive adoption and support economic growth at the grassroots level. 

3. Bridging the Awareness Gap 

Despite the clear advantages, there is a significant gap in awareness and understanding of instant payments.

The panel underscored the need for comprehensive education initiatives, which should be spearheaded by banks. It’s essential to demystify instant payments and communicate their value proposition in a way that is digestible and contextual. A well-crafted go-to-market (GTM) playbook, which can be rebranded and tailored for different clients, was recommended as a strategic tool to facilitate this education. By presenting use cases that resonate with specific clients and end users, banks can illustrate the practical benefits of instant payments and drive broader comfort level for acceptance.

Whether it’s RTP, FEDNow or other instant payments products, it should be purpose-driven and clear to the customer which product makes sense and when. 

4. Collaboration for Growth 

To accelerate the adoption of instant payments, it’s crucial to foster collaboration between large financial institutions and smaller entities. This partnership approach can help create a more inclusive financial ecosystem where the benefits of instant payments are accessible to all.

I also think collaboration (from a data sharing/pooling perspective) can help improve fraud prevention and management. The panel emphasized that achieving ubiquity shouldn’t take decades. By simplifying the conversation and focusing on peer-to-peer interactions, stakeholders can demystify the technology implications and encourage more widespread use. 

This simple comment shared by one panelist was spot on: speak about things like people talking to other people, and don’t make it sound so complicated.  

5. Learning from Global Experiences 

The U.S. can learn from other countries’ experiences with instant payments, but mandates like those seen in India and other markets may not be effective. Instead, a market-driven approach, bolstered by robust education and collaboration, is likely to be more successful.

The journey toward ubiquity in the U.S. will be unique, shaped by its market dynamics and regulatory environment. 

The Bottom Line 

The future of instant payments in the U.S. is bright, with so many choices and significant potential to transform how businesses and consumers handle transactions. By driving market awareness, fostering collaboration, and leveraging educational tools, stakeholders can expedite the journey toward ubiquitous instant payments.

I believe it’s time to embrace this transformative opportunity, ensuring that the benefits of faster payments are realized by all, sooner rather than later. 

Banks have never seen more disruption, from unprecedented market and regulatory challenges to intense competition from fintech challengers. Further Advisory works with major financial services firms to establish transformational strategies, build new digital capabilities, and accelerate launches, all while modernizing core business operations.

About the author


  • Sherry Seetram

    Sherry has 20 years of financial services experience and deep expertise in the acquiring and issuing space. She has advised premier companies across the payments ecosystem, including payments service providers, major card networks, financial institutions, and merchants in a variety of industries. She is a proven expert at developing strategies with actionable roadmaps, assessing and mitigating risks, and streamlining processes and back-office automation to help improve productivity and organizational effectiveness.

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