Carrie Blankenship helped SunTrust, now Truist, become the sixth bank to connect and transact over the Clearing House’s Real-Time Payments service, and now she’s working for Fiserv as director of product management to continue that work and help expand its options and opportunities in the marketplace for instant payments.
Fiserv is a payments and fintech giant that provides account processing and digital banking services, card issuer processing and network services, payments, e-commerce and other services as well.
Blankenship’s responsibilities include working with the Clearing House’s Real-Time service but also other instant payment services in the U.S. and Canada.
Blankenship spoke with FinLedger about real-time payments, opportunities she sees for growth, and more.
FL: You recently wrote an interesting piece of content called “Making the Move to Real-Time Payments.” Tell me about that article and why it’s important.
Blankenship: Making the Move to Real-Time Payments, the crux of that is trying to demystify some of the pieces that are involved in making that move itself. The ability to start to dissect what will my organization need to do to be able to move in that direction? There’s a lot of thought leadership, there’s a lot of discussion [around it]. I think the last time I ran a Google search for real-time payments, it was something like 1.4 billion hits. The goal of that piece was to demystify what is involved. What do I need to do? What do my clients or my customers need?
FL: The Federal Reserve has announced plans to launch a financial service real-time payment system by about 2023. What are your thoughts on this plan overall?
Blankenship: I think very similar to the ACH world, where you have competing and similar systems, I think introducing FedNow as an alternative to the Clearing House RTP is an important step in the payments industry and offering choice through competition. As part of the FedNow service, their original request for comments back in late 2018, early 2019, the responses to that were overwhelming in two places. Number one was “Yes, please build a service that is a public sector service that creates competition with the private sector service.” The second one is “Make sure the two services are interoperable. That way it is a level playing field and it doesn’t fragment the market even more by saying you have to be part of both or you can only use one or the other.”
The introduction of FedNow — and they’ve actually revised their guidance they will launch in 2023 — is an important step to offering choice to financial institutions of all size and the ability to leverage either or both services if that’s what they choose to do.
FL: Why is it important for financial entities to have the ability to have choice and flexibility etc, especially when it comes to real time payments and payment options?
Blankenship: I’m an advocate for competition and free market ability to choose in any regard. When it comes down to competition and choice, it feels better to feel like you have a choice, and when you have competing services, I think they hold each other accountable as well. In the long term, that’s a good thing. Competition stimulates innovation, it ultimately creates growth, that choice—that ability to have these platforms for innovation—creates a lot of opportunity in the marketplace and for financial institutions.
FL: What opportunities do you see for growth for Fiserv as it concerns the payments industry and real time payments?
Blankenship: The Clearing House RTP service was the first new payments rail launched since ACH more than 40 years ago. The fact that that is brand new and the instant payments and instant settlement nature of instant payments is now less than four years old — we’re still in the infancy of that. When you look at the product life cycle, overall, you tend to see low volume, low adoption is very low in the beginning of that bell curve. In the very near term, you’re going to start seeing that real hockey stick ramp up of growth as part of that traditional product life cycle. That’s important, not just for Fiserv, but for Fiserv clients, the financial institutions that we serve. And the ability to move payments instantly and serve their account holders is really that Fiserv mantra of “we move money and information in a way that moves the world.” When you think about situations where money can be, should be, needs to be sped up, the use cases are really limitless in the ability to deliver funds instantly. And at the same time, reduce some of those operational headaches for a financial institution.