The COVID-19 pandemic was a shock to the system for businesses that rely on global supply chains for manufacturing, procurement, and fulfillment. Single points of failure in the supply chain (like China’s near complete shutdown during the pandemic) sent shockwaves across the global economy. And supply chain chaos still reverberates today — with disruptions caused by geopolitical uncertainty, extreme weather, and more.
In response, many businesses are now reevaluating procurement and manufacturing processes in an effort to develop and maintain operational resilience. A critical component of that resilience is creating supply chain redundancies — and emerging markets like India and Bangladesh, some of the fastest-growing markets in the world, offer enticing opportunities to do just that.
But there’s a problem: Emerging markets are systematically underserved by the legacy payment rails that fintechs and financial institutions rely on. Continued innovation, growth, and financial inclusion in these markets require fast, reliable cross-border payments. Until this becomes the norm, the incumbent infrastructure will continue to present barriers to global business engagements.
It’s no surprise that in a recent survey, less than a third of businesses said their current B2B payment solutions are satisfactory when it comes to meeting companies’ cross-border needs. In fact, nearly half said they were looking for an enhanced cross-border payment solution with transparent fees and rates and a simpler user experience.
The need is clear — a cross-border payments infrastructure that meets the requirements of global businesses and supports economic growth in emerging markets will provide the resilience to mitigate unexpected challenges.
Supply chain failures lead to unpredictability
When production facilities in established markets shuttered during the pandemic, companies were left to deal with the consequences. Although stressors have eased, disruption persists. Consider the impact China’s “zero-Covid” policies have had on global supply chains. Due to ongoing lockdowns and facility closures, a market once known as a stable and reliable source of manufactured goods has become far less predictable.
To avoid overreliance on a single market, many companies are already diversifying their sourcing by seeking out new suppliers in emerging markets around the globe. Mexico is an example of an emerging market with great promise thanks to its lower labor costs and more permissive regulatory environment. The U.S. has already recognized this opportunity and partnered with Mexico to create the Supply Chain Working Group focusing on the semiconductor supply chain.
Cross-border payments are critical to supply chain resilience
To effectively integrate new emerging markets into their supply chains, organizations need a fast, efficient way to pay manufacturers and vendors in those markets. However, that’s a challenge when fintech and financial institutions continue to rely on outdated cross-border payment infrastructure.
Legacy cross-border payments often lack transparency and can take days to process. Moreover, these transactions are often expensive since international money transfers have to jump through more hoops due to a lack of direct connections between banks in established and emerging markets. For example, a bank transfer from a company in the U.S. or another established market usually needs to travel through multiple interconnected banks, each of which takes its cut in the form of fees, before it gets to a bank in an emerging market.
Additionally, many emerging markets are underserved by major banks, resulting in underbanked consumers, businesses, and even banks in emerging markets.
Without a more efficient and cost-effective way to make B2B payments, it’s difficult to diversify supply chains beyond established markets. To improve operational resilience, organizations need access to a better payment infrastructure that enables transparent, real-time transactions with partners around the globe.
What does a truly global payments infrastructure look like?
To build a robust cross-border payments network that serves the needs of today’s interconnected global economy, banks and fintechs must replace outdated payment rails with efficient connections between established and emerging markets. That’s easier said than done: Navigating financial regulations and access to banking services in emerging markets to set up these connections can be complex, and most banks and fintechs lack regional expertise.
However, with consumers and businesses alike increasingly adopting and in many cases favoring alternative payment channels like mobile wallets, supporting multichannel rails is a critical component in a holistic approach to emerging markets. Improved infrastructure will help organizations of all sizes overcome critical connectivity and interoperability gaps in the global payments value chain. It will also support continued growth and increased financial inclusion in underbanked markets, with ripple effects for the entire global economy.
Tapping into emerging markets can help companies increase agility in the face of supply chain disruptions. But to achieve improved resilience, businesses need banks and fintechs to update legacy infrastructure. It’s time for financial institutions and fintechs to embrace comprehensive solutions that unlock the true potential of global business payments.
Cecilia Tamez is the chief strategy officer of Dandelion, a Euronet company. Dandelion is a cross-border payments network that operates across more than 190 countries. Euronet is a Leawood, Kansas-based financial technology and payments services provider.Favorite