Ask the difficult questions
In the case of the coronavirus crisis, it is already becoming clear that for some organisations, the answers to such questions may not be reassuring. The impacts of the crisis are far-reaching and not always obvious, but travel restrictions, for example, may have knock-on effects for international payments; another consideration is that anyone currently receiving a cash payment, perhaps collecting it from a bank or payments bureau, may not be willing or able to continue in this way.
In this context, all organisations and their customers need to be asking their payments providers some tough questions – not just in relation to COVID-19, but also about resilience more broadly. “How will you continue to pay me should your systems and processes fail. What is your back-up plan?” Identifying your providers’ potential vulnerabilities before a crisis breaks will enable you to plan ahead for risk mitigation.
Your existing payment provider should be able to demonstrate that it has considered these issues for itself and that it has strong and convincing business continuity plans of its own in place. What is its back-up plan for making your payments on time in the event that its current models of operations are disrupted for any reason? More broadly, how strong and stable is its business – does it have the balance sheet strength and positive cashflow required to get through a shock?
What’s your back-up plan?
In addition, even if you’re confident in the answers you get from your current provider, it’s important to have a business continuity plan of your own. If your existing payments arrangements no longer prove viable, do you have an alternative option to fall back on – and how quickly could you get it up and running?
If the worst does happen, organisations that don’t have alternative arrangements in place will find themselves scrambling to keep payments flowing. It may be too late to set up processes that ensure everyone is paid the right amount at the right time, potentially causing real hardship for employees and pensioners, or jeopardising relationships with key suppliers. International payments can prove to be a particularly acute pain point, since they require providers with specialist expertise and the right infrastructure to execute transactions in the right way.
For these reasons, it makes sense to appoint a back-up payments provider who you know you will be able to rely on if your current arrangements are under threat. Look for a stable and secure provider who will be able to take over your payments very quickly if needed. At Equiniti, for example, it can take as little as five days to get up-and-running with a new payments provider once basic onboarding such as legal agreements and know-your-customer checks have been completed.