Real-time Payments Use Cases and Opportunities in 2020


August 9, 2019


What Are Real-Time Payments?

The world of payments is aflame with talk of real-time payments (RTP) and how it will revolutionize payments capabilities in the United States. The Federal Reserve assembled a task force to explore it, and every vendor in the space is hosting webinars and sending out marketing emails describing how they have solved for it.

Yet behind closed doors, many wonder about the business case for a faster payments system and how they can monetize it. The reality is that it will be some time before the payments industry figures out the best use cases for faster or immediate payments, but the companies that position themselves to capitalize early will see tremendous new opportunity once the industry eventually fully adopts the new tools.

Here, we’ll look at how real-time payments are defined, what solutions are currently in market, and how the concept will continue to evolve.


Our 2021 Real-Time Payments Market Insight Report is here

Levvel Research's 2021 Real-Time Payments Report (RTP) provides a guide to the many use cases of RTP for businesses and outlines the ROI of adoption for financial management processes, product delivery, and customer satisfaction.

The Clearing House RTP Network

The bank-owned Clearing House has created and gone live with a new network that clears and settles payments in real-time. The RTP network launched with 15 financial institutions, with the expectation that every financial institution in the U.S. would be able to access the network by 2020. Unlike wire and ACH, the RTP network is available for real-time payments 24/7/365 days a year.

Real-time payment product offerings support use cases varying from examples like expedited bill payment, enhanced cash management, vendor payments, person-to-person payments (P2P), and business to consumer (B2C) disbursements. While all of these payment services can be completed today by other payment methods, the value in using a real-time payment system comes with the enhanced data capabilities available with each transaction, the certainty of payment receipt, and the immediate availability of funds for the receiver.

Levvel’s 2021 Real-Time Payments Market Insight Report is here. Read the report today.

How Do Real-Time Payments Work?

The RTP process involves a receiving bank, a sending bank, and a pre-funded Federal Reserve account. Efficient real-time payments are executed through a credit transfer payment message within the RTP network. The transfer is initiated by the sending institution, received by the receiving institution, and finalized in under 15 seconds. 

The three main components of RTP functionality are receiving, sending, and requesting for payment (RFP). There are also other supporting messages for exchanging data and other information.

The Federal Reserve FedNow Service

The Federal Reserve announced that they will start developing a new interbank 24x7x365 real-time gross settlement service with integrated clearing functionality to support faster payments in the United States, to be called FedNow, and should launch in 2023.

For more information on the FedNow service, and some thoughts on its effect on the market, check out What is FedNow and How Does It Impact The Clearing House’s Real-Time Payments?

Real-Time Payments Use Cases

Now that we have a good understanding of the real-time payments services, we can look at some of the key use cases. It’s not hard to understand why most people focus on the speed aspect of real-time payments given the nomenclature of the products.

Speed is a key trait that can be useful to frame the discussion, and monetizing speed is obviously intuitive in business payments or B2B use cases. There will be many cases in which a business or corporate customer is willing to pay to receive funds faster; however, the same may not be true on the sending side. Many businesses model their cash flow around the float they get from delaying payment until the last possible minute, and cost savings that offset that revenue will be required for broad adoption.

In addition to the enhanced speed of the actual money movement, another characteristic of real-time payments that is often overlooked is the certainty of delivery and real-time status on both ends of a transaction. Current payment flows in B2B and corporate environments often involve a multi-step process with POs, invoices, checks, ACH, and other individual payment interactions that are not systematically tied together.

Levvel’s 2021 Real-Time Payments Market Insight Report is here. Read the report today.

This begins to change with the introduction of real-time payments. The real-time network from TCH, for example, includes room in the message structure to send remittance info (PO, invoice number, etc.) as part of the payment or acknowledgment message. Similarly, they also offer the ability for a payment recipient to request more information to supplement the transaction.

To further illustrate the far-reaching touch of these new payment methods, one should think about the potential impacts to things like payroll disbursements, insurance payouts, tax rebates, gig economy compensation, small business supplier payments, utility payments, tip disbursements, expense reimbursement, and disaster relief funds. These areas are all actively being worked on to incorporate real-time payments.

Many of the largest financial institutions are connected to real-time payments and are already beginning to work on use cases across their portfolio. Smaller institutions have also connected and are targeting the RTP functionality toward their core business, whether that be commercial, small business, or retail. 

Moving Forward with Real-Time Payments

Regardless of your role in the ecosystem, the availability of real-time payments will continue to impact financial institutions of all sizes and dramatically affect the financial services industry. Those that invest time now to understand the opportunities and how to best position for them will be the most successful and fully capitalize on them.

Authored By

Scott Harkey, Chief Strategy Officer, Head of Financial Services & Payments

Scott Harkey

Chief Strategy Officer, Head of Financial Services & Payments

Fred Fuller, Senior Director, Financial Services and Payments

Fred Fuller

SVP, Retail Banking

Meet our Experts

Scott Harkey, Chief Strategy Officer, Head of Financial Services & Payments

Scott Harkey

Chief Strategy Officer, Head of Financial Services & Payments

Scott Harkey is Levvel's Chief Strategy Officer while also leading the Payments and Financial Services work. He has 15 years of banking experience including leading the technology team that implemented digital wallet products at Bank of America along with 10 years of technology merger integration and IT operations outsourcing work at Wells Fargo. Scott brings a unique “insider” point of view combined with a proven track record of delivery to banks, technology providers, and merchants exploring the digital payments space.

Fred Fuller, Senior Director, Financial Services and Payments

Fred Fuller

SVP, Retail Banking

Fred Fuller has nearly 20 years of corporate finance experience with a focus on data analytics, process improvements, and strategic decision making. Prior to joining Levvel, Fred has held several senior leadership positions within the financial services industry at companies such as Cardlytics, Inc. and S1 Corporation. He currently manages a team responsible for all client engagements for the Financial Services & Payments team at Levvel, while supporting sales efforts with deep expertise in banking and payments. In his free time, Fred likes running, hiking, golfing, and spending time with his three boys in the Atlanta area.

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