Accenture on the future of payments and financial automation

Accenture is a global professional services company with leading capabilities in digital, cloud, security, and other critical areas. More than 700,000 Accenture employees serve clients across more than 40 industries in over 120 countries. The company provides counsel in strategy, technology, operations, and digital marketing.

We spoke with Sulabh Agarwal, global head of payments at Accenture, about the current state of enterprise payments and how Stripe is helping power the projects of Accenture’s clients around the world.

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What are your responsibilities and priorities as global head of payments?

I oversee a global team of more than 5,000 payments advisors and technology specialists whose strategy, consulting, and execution capabilities put our clients on the leading edge of the industry. From the client’s perspective, the payments space is changing very rapidly. The mode, the method, and the customer experience are all evolving.

One aspect of this is that payments have turned into more than just transactions. They’re now a vehicle to carry and deliver richer data – insights which can help our clients grow. Large online transaction volumes and access to new payment options are also increasing across the board, serving as an additional catalyst for clients to upgrade their digital and fintech capabilities with Accenture’s help.

What types of businesses are you supporting?

My team works across diverse sectors when it comes to payments innovation and transformation. We have active partnerships with organisations across financial services, the public sector, retailers, telecom providers, marketplaces and platforms, and central market infrastructures and other businesses that want to transform how they pay or receive funds. We’re improving payment processes for these organisations, including how fast collections are completed and the security mechanisms that help facilitate each transaction.

When you speak with Accenture clients, how are they thinking about payments in relation to their overall corporate strategy?

Payments are the main interaction point between Accenture’s financial services clients and their customers, and are core to our relationships beyond that sector too. They’re often the entry point for businesses. When a customer has a poor checkout experience, it leaves a lasting impression. Often, it can result in a lost sale or diminished loyalty. For platforms and any other kind of business, that can really hurt the bottom line over the long run.

How is back-office financial management evolving for Accenture customers?

So many organisations are undertaking financial transformation right now. As part of this evolution, they’re looking at how best to build straight-through processing (STP), an automated electronic process that eliminates physical and paper-based payments. To achieve this, they’re creating more end-to-end seamless transaction processing. A lot of clients are looking to manage and hedge their various risks in the supply chain because of recent geopolitical conflicts. This has an impact on how liquidity pools and other financials are managed.

Technology is playing a central role. Now, developer APIs can allow clients to operate and interact with their financial dashboards in order to gain real-time insights. Financial management has become more complicated, but the industry has benefited from automation technology to manage all of this with greater efficiency.

In what sectors are you observing the most demand for payments innovation?

The pandemic dramatically changed the market. Companies across sectors were forced to digitise almost overnight and they couldn’t transform at the same pace. There is still plenty of activity and strong demand across multiple industries to digitise payments, but many businesses are finding it hard to fund this innovation. This includes sectors that are traditionally less digital and slower to transition, like insurance, which are now feeling increased pressure to innovate.

Telecom has always been active, and we've seen companies in this sector create their own payment products, like digital wallets in many developing markets. Telecom and automotives are also moving further into machine-to-machine payments, which are automated transactions through digital wallets that require no human involvement. Innovations like this are responsible for reshaping these sectors from the ground up.

How is payments innovation playing out in insurance, media, consumer goods, automotive, travel, and e-commerce – industry sectors that Stripe and Accenture are jointly supporting?

Stripe enables clients with a holistic and modern payments solution to provide end-to-end visibility on transactions, service clients with a global reach, build seamless interfaces across products, and so much more. We’re looking to bring together our strategy, consulting, and execution expertise with Stripe in several industries.

For example, Accenture has a solution called NewsPage, which helps consumer goods companies improve their sales and distribution performance. It provides an integrated view of consumer trends, secondary demand, and supply chain management signals to help companies streamline their route-to-market operations. One of the big challenges in Southeast Asia is the number of cash collections that still take place. We’re actively working with Stripe to digitise these collections, reduce processing costs, and increase collection efficiency.

Where do you see the biggest opportunity for Stripe to power Accenture’s financial infrastructure?

We’re excited to see Stripe’s expansions into enterprise. Accenture is working with Stripe to solve problems for enterprise platforms so their transactions are seamless and the global payments experience is well managed. Together, Stripe and Accenture can solve clients’ payments problems and help them achieve total enterprise reinvention.

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