Linda Weston

Payment trends shaping 2021

With more than 20 years working in the payments industry, Linda Weston, Head of Core Product at Barclaycard Payments, has seen payment technology move forward rapidly, offering consumers a more convenient and streamlined payment experience. Linda reflects on what she’s seen and what’s next?

What are some of the biggest changes you've seen in the payments industry?

“I’ve seen a lot of change throughout my career in payments. The first was probably the move to chip and PIN in 2003, which was really one of the first truly industry-collaborative programmes I’d been a part of.

“I was involved in the contactless trials in 2007 when Barclaycard was among the first to start rolling out contactless payment methods and it’s been amazing to see how that has evolved.

“Then there was the move to single use virtual card technology in the commercial card space. This has really changed how commercial payments operate - more companies are moving towards digital management systems and there has been a surge in demand for online solutions to help manage day-to-day expenses in a more efficient way, and that continues to provide a substantial growth opportunity.

“More recently, we saw the introduction of the Payment Services Directive (PSD) to regulate payment services and payment service providers. And, then there’s been the changes that have followed to ensure secure customer authentication through open banking, giving greater transparency options for accounts holders; and, the rise of the fintechs to develop financial applications and services.”

What new products are coming for 2021?

“We launched Smartpay Fuse for corporate clients last year and now we’re adding features to make it more relevant for small business clients.

“We’re launching Barclaycard Multi-currency, which gives merchants a fixed, forward-looking exchange rate on foreign transactions. We're adding acceptance of a new payment method, in Bank Pay to give ecommerce merchants the ability to collect funds directly from the customer's bank account.

“And, we're developing digital receipts so we can offer our merchants the ability to issue receipts automatically and digitally to Barclays' customers.”

What payment trends have you seen emerge as a result of the global pandemic?

“We have continued to see an increased demand from both merchants and consumers for contactless payments, which resulted in the contactless limit rising from £30 to £45 back in March 2020. I was really pleased that we were able to respond to this change quickly and enable the new limit for our merchants within a couple of weeks.

“On 3 March this year the chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the contactless spend limit will increase to £100, up from £45, and as a business we’ll be supporting this higher threshold.

“The move to digital is exciting for the payment industry - it will drive innovation and could accelerate the timetable for a cashless society.

“I’m sure it will come as no surprise that another key trend has been the shift in retail from face-to-face to a greater online presence, particularly in the small business space. I’ve found it fascinating seeing how innovative businesses have become over this time, really evolving their business models. There are so many fantastic examples popping up on social media, such as vast range of goods and services you can now have delivered directly to your door. I expect the actions taken by businesses as a result of the pandemic will continue when the world returns to its new normal and will shape the business models of the future. For example, the local clothes shop in a village may have moved online during the pandemic and they are unlikely to go back to just in-store only; so they will continue to serve customers online as well. I expect that we will also encourage more new businesses starting out, thinking about their operating model differently, with a blend of in-store and online customer experiences.” 

How is Barclays supporting new payment trends?

“There are a large number of payment trends that we have in development but I’ll touch on a couple of key ones.

“Maintaining payments security whilst maximising sales through a simple checkout experience is critical for businesses. This is why we launched Transact, a suite of tools designed to help merchants make their online transactions both simpler and safer. 

“With payments trending towards becoming ‘invisible’, integrated into an experience, we have seen clients in the commercial payments space adopting virtual cards. This trend continues to evolve and we could see the end of traditional card products. Last year we launched Precisionpay Go, a mobile-based solution for generating virtual cards on the go. This year we’ll be adding the ability for the virtual card to be used in a physical environment through ApplePay. That allows all the benefits you get with virtual cards, such as reconciliation and control where the card transaction can be approved before it takes place, and takes it into the face-to-face environment.” 

How has working from home been for you?

“Working from home, I’ve managed to be way more efficient with my time than I ever imagined and can balance a wide variety of different types of meetings and engagements. Nothing replaces face-to-face interaction but, actually, the tools available do come pretty close and I’ve certainly felt much more connected than I thought I would - but you do have to put the effort in. 

“Finally, I’ve seen some great examples of resilience and creativity over this period, which goes to show how adaptable we are, and will always find ways to continue to deliver for our colleagues and clients.”   

What advice would you give to your younger self at the start of your career?

I would say, actively seek out opportunities to operate outside of your comfort zone. During my career, when I’ve done this I've learned so much and it’s accelerated my development. Sometimes you surprise yourself, and it keeps you on your toes.”