Real-time payments saving real lives

Could real-time payments change the world? Throughout the Covid pandemic, FIS’ RealNet platform has helped move money to those who desperately need it. In that way, real-time payments have literally saved lives

The resurgence of Covid-19 in 2021 was a sobering moment that saw the loss of thousands of human lives and left national healthcare systems overwhelmed.

In the spring, when that resurgence hit India, FIS leveraged its brand-new real-time payments platform, RealNet, to achieve something significant.

According to the World Health Organization, by 18 November 2021 India had recorded more than 35 million Covid cases, 500,000 deaths and healthcare bills mounting to 18,000 Rupees per day for those in need of a ventilator.

With the struggle playing out on global news outlets, it became clear that additional support would be needed to protect India’s population of 1.3 billion. FIS took action using two of the tools in its armoury: its internal charity and its proprietary real-time payments system, RealNet.

Over half a million US dollars was sent by the FIS workforce through its internal charity – FIS Cares – set up to allow staff to make charitable donations directly from their monthly salaries to support vulnerable colleagues in India.

FIS was also able to contribute to healthcare costs, the construction of isolation facilities and the development of new healthcare solutions through its real-time payments system, RealNet. In this way, real-time payments literally saved lives in India.

Sending money to India would not have been as effective without RealNet, which utilises a full range of existing domestic and cross-border payment rails to simplify and speed up the processing, clearing and settlement of payments.

Traditionally, payment rails are very complex, with a network of approvals, compliance and logistical obstacles, meaning transactions will often take days to complete. Transferring money internationally is even more complicated, because direct connections between payers and recipients are not always available, so intermediaries such as wire services are used.

The kind of transaction that was enabled by RealNet would have taken between five and six days using traditional payment rails. But the situation in India required a speedier turnaround. By partnering with TransferMate, RealNet was able to deliver funds within 24 hours, which allowed FIS employees to afford medical bills and funeral services and support their families if a loved one lost employment due to the pandemic.

The pandemic proved that in times of crisis the ability to receive money instantaneously is essential. Of course, RealNet’s applications extend far beyond providing assistance during crises. It can also be used by businesses and consumers on a day-to-day basis. As an example, companies using RealNet will be able to implement a system that pays employees for the day’s work as soon as they clock out, thereby expediting workers’ access to their wages. RealNet can also significantly improve the experience of refunds and disbursements, a continuing problem area for consumers and merchants alike, with card refunds usually taking at least a few days to process.

Despite all the benefits associated with a real-time payment infrastructure, it exists in only 56 countries. Some countries still lack a real-time payment scheme. In others, where the platform does exist, the traditional payment rails work like a patchwork system in need of an upgrade.

The upcoming launch of RealNet Central – a central infrastructure software that powers real-time payment clearing – will allow the implementation or improvement of real-time payment schemes across the globe, covering the complete process from initial infrastructure development right through to the transactional elements.

RealNet will connect all major payment schemes and infrastructures across the globe, but for this to work globally, all systems need to operate in unity. With the global real-time payment market set to grow to $26bn by 2023, it is clear to see the momentous change that RealNet will have on the future of real-time payment schemes. The practical success achieved by RealNet is a clear indication that getting money to those who really need it – in real time – could help change the world for the better.

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