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08 Mar 2021

Case study: A2A payments for French retailers with BNP Paribas

Payments are a continuing and complex challenge for ecommerce merchants. BNP Paribas saw the opportunity for a new solution, combining PSD2 APIs with SEPA Instant payments to allow e-commerce merchants to accept instant A2A payments. The bank looked to Token – with their focus on payments, connections to almost 100 French banks representing about 80% of payments’ accounts in France, understanding of the retail payment channel and technology stack – as their partner.

Keeping a wide-ranging collaboration simple

This is a complex project involving BNP Paribas, Token, merchants and the French banking ecosystem.

  • BNP Paribas hosted a series of working groups with selected merchant clients, to identify key pain points — such as the abandonment of high-value baskets by customers with insufficient card credit available — and to more closely define the proposed solution.
  • Getting buy-in from key BNP Paribas internal stakeholders was a key requirement for the success of this radically new proposition. The project team undertook a substantial internal marketing and engagement program across IT, security and compliance, with high-level security validation required even to reach a pilot stage.
  • Token’s white-label solution for PSP resellers was further extended, simplifying configuration and roll-out for merchants whilst allowing BNP Paribas to fully manage, onboard and support their clients.
  • Token’s platform enabled a fully-branded BNP Paribas merchant portal. By presenting the new service as just another BNP Paribas service — keeping Token’s role behind the scenes — the potential for merchant/consumer confusion was minimised.
  • The whole project also relies on making sure that other banks are ready to fulfil their side of the payment. In open banking terms, payments are more demanding than data — reliable API performance is essential.

The first merchants went live in February 2021 and showcase the flexibility of the solution, from instore payments with a pilot across 200 stores to traditional ecommerce payments for online merchants. This will help to provide feedback from every region in the country, and different demographics helping BNP Paribas learn more about customer reactions and the potential for new services.

Innovating in a Pandemic

While getting internal buy-in and security validation were demanding, these are challenges that are foundational for almost any bank/fintech collaboration. (It helped that Token is ISO 27001 and PCI-DSS accredited.)

There were several more specific challenges:

  • Novelty. Both merchants and consumers will need to understand how to take advantage of this new payment method, the first to combine PSD2 and SEPA into a single offering in Europe. BNP Paribas is developing support materials to ensure a positive experience, encouraging future uptake.
  • Transaction fees. SEPA Instant fees are a potential barrier and make this method of payment most attractive for higher-value purchases. A key aim of the pilot is to investigate how to incentivise use of the new payment method.
  • French bank APIs. PSD2-readiness across Europe is still patchy, and while data APIs have largely stabilised, payments has taken longer. There have been extensive discussions and testing with different banks.
  • Coronavirus. The pandemic not only caused practical issues, but created a new urgency to the project and a new need. For e-merchants offering click-and-collect, a safer, dematerialised alternative to cheques has become a priority.

A Big Bang for Instant A2A Payments?

A successful pilot will be an exciting realisation of the EBA’s vision of combining two major initiatives, using PSD2 APIs to drive traffic to the SEPA instant payment rails. It will have created a new payment method for French e-commerce merchants, of particular value to merchants selling higher-value goods and services.

The merchants involved in the project working group have suggested an aim of migrating between 2 to 5% of all transactions to the new payment method – a significant share of a French e-commerce market worth well over €100 billion.* BNP Paribas, one of the world’s largest banks, has access to a huge range of merchants, and the potential to integrate this solution across different platforms. Against the background of the wider open banking and open finance movement, we are moving towards a big bang in payments.