Treasury Today Country Profiles in association with Citi

Payments security top worry for financial pros

Security padlock lit up on a circuit board

Fraud losses pushing security concerns to top of financial executives’ payments concerns.

A recent global survey of more than 1,000 senior financial executives reveals security of transactions as one of the most important attributes of payments processing, higher than accuracy and timely processing.

From a list of respondents, including 501 from the US, 206 from Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia (combined), and 207 from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK (combined), many said they had suffered losses to payments fraud several times in the last six months.

In fact, the survey by payment processor WEX Inc reveals that in the US, executive concern about information security is aligned with the incidence of payments fraud or misuse. Just over half (52%) ‘strongly agree’ that they are very concerned, with 52% having experienced payments fraud or misuse over the past six months, 68% of them at least three or more times, and at a cost of over US$10,000 in 38% of the cases.

In Asia, just over a quarter (26%) of respondents expressed the same level of concern, corresponding with the 24% that have experienced fraud or misuse in the same time period although when it did happen, it was similar in terms of frequency and extent of damages.

Almost half (49%) of European respondents are very concerned about payments security, and 29% reported having experienced fraud or misuse (again, with frequency and extent of damage similar to the US and Asia).

Initiative

In the US, about 48% of respondents indicated that better fraud control was a motivation for either implementing or considering an electronic payables initiative. The chief reason in the US was better internal compliance (55%). In Asia, the main driver was improving speed of settlement (55%), and in Europe it was risk reduction (49%). For all three regions, streamlining processes and operational cost reductions were very high on the list of principal drivers.

In the US, 50% have already implemented an electronic payments initiative, with 37% having one under way. Europe is slightly higher, at 56% and 38% respectively. Asia lags slightly in this respect but is catching up, with 43% having already implemented but 42% having an initiative under way.

Almost all those surveyed (92%) indicated that their business is currently using cloud-based payments platforms. A full 84% say they trust cloud-based systems more than locally hosted ERP/AP systems to keep account payables secure. However, in Asia, far more (55%) only ‘somewhat agree’ with the trust statement than ‘strongly agree’ (21%). In the US and Europe, the split was about equal.

Plans for a digital payments initiative are harboured by the vast majority: 91% of European respondents say they are seeking to launch an electronic payables paperless strategy in the next six-12 months, with 89% of US and 85% of Asia.

Many are being driven by the security needs of their suppliers. In terms of which aspects of accounts payable were thought to be the most important to the respondents’ suppliers, in all three regions ‘security of settlement’ was most highly rated (68%), with ‘settlement speed’ (57%) and ‘cost of acceptance’ (46%) following in second and third.