Struggling to keep track of all your regular payments and subscriptions? PayTo could be the answer.
The payments feature, which was rolled out by the banking industry, including on Westpac’s digital platforms, earlier this year, offers a smarter, more secure alternative to Direct Debit by allowing the customer to set up digital payment agreements with service providers, which they can then view and manage on their phone or laptop.
“It’s about empowerment of the consumer,” says Jeff Byrne, managing director, global transaction services at Westpac. “You'll be able to go into your Westpac app and see every recurring payment you've got there, and if you can no longer afford it or you're no longer using any of those services, you can just go in and shut them down in real time.”
It’s easy to rack up multiple subscriptions to things like TV streaming services, phone and gaming services, and sports club and gym memberships, and with cost-of-living pressure front of mind for many of us, it pays to stay on top of the outgoings.
So far, the take-up rate of PayTo has been low, mainly because the function is not widely available to businesses. But that’s about to change. Westpac expects to extend the service to its business customers in the first quarter of 2024.
“Once we go live with this for our major clients - including energy companies, health insurance companies, some big state governments - and they're ready to start establishing PayTo mandates in the market, we think it's really going to take off,” Byrne says.
There are several productivity benefits to businesses adopting PayTo, Byrne says. They include funds settling in real-time, cheaper transaction fees compared to BPAY and credit cards, and the removal of paper from the agreement-setting process. The simplicity of the customer onboarding process is another positive.
PayTo is also a lot more secure than Direct Debit because it doesn’t require the customer to share all their bank details with the counterparty. If they prefer not to hand over their BSB and Account Number, customers can supply their PayID, which they can also set up through the Westpac App. This is a safer way of providing bank details without identifying them.
“All of a sudden the data risk associated with each individual client is reduced,” says Byrne. “We've seen some really unfortunate incidents over the last year or two with some major companies in Australia that have been hacked. If you can reduce the data that is available to be hacked into, that's something that every business in the country is going to fall in love with quickly.”
Meanwhile, well-run businesses shouldn’t be unduly worried by customers having the power to terminate a pay agreement at any time, he adds.
“The other way of looking at it is that you will receive real-time information about your customers’ satisfaction with the service because you'll be pinged the minute they shut down the mandate [PayTo agreement]. So you've got the opportunity to get on the phone and find out what has happened.”
In May, Woolworths announced plans to let customers link their bank accounts to the supermarket chain through its payments subsidiary, Wpay, allowing customers to pay for their groceries and other items directly from their bank account. It's a move Byrne said could help fast-track the use of PayTo in the market.
“They have immense scale, so it’s going to be great for consumers around utilisation of these style of mandates. It’s also going to be good for things like consumer protection and bringing down the cost of transactions.”
He also expects Woolworths to integrate its loyalty program into the payments app, with benefits to both the business and the consumer.
While Wpay is not working directly with Westpac, as momentum behind PayTo grows, Byrne urges businesses who bank with Westpac to be ready to embrace the technology.
“This is just around the corner, so I’d love for our clients who have the capacity to connect to payment APIs to be grabbing our specifications for the PayTo API and start to get ready right now.
“Through Wpay and some of the other programs we’ll be running there is going to be consumer demand here and I don’t want any of our clients to be missing out.”