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Express ACH Direct Credit recorded a 51 percent growth in its volume of transactions in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2019, according to the first quarter product performance report by the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS).

Express ACH Direct Credit recorded a total of 286,516 transactions from January to March this year compared to 189,587 for the same period in 2019. This points to increasing public preference for payment systems that offer them faster access to their funds. ACH Direct Credit is an electronic form of transferring funds from one bank account to another. A regular Direct Credit transfer is effected between 24 and 48 hours, however, an express Direct Credit is effected the same day, once the request is made before 10 O’clock in the morning.
 
The over 50 percent growth in Express ACH is significantly higher than the 12 percent growth that the regular ACH Direct Credit recorded during the first quarter of this year. It is also better than the 3 percent drop in the volume of cheque transactions. The growth in the volume of Express ACH Direct Credit follows a similar growth pattern in payment channels such as GhIPSS Instant Pay and Mobile Money, all of which offer faster access to transferred funds.
 
The world is gravitating towards faster access to funds or real-time payments with many banks and FinTechs streamlining traditional banking services to build their business models around real-time payments.
 
The Chief Executive of GhIPSS Archie Hesse suggested that changing lifestyle, technology and in particular the prevalence of smartphones are some of the reasons why the preference for faster or real-time payments keep rising. He explained that GhIPSS is in tune with the trend and will continue to develop payment solutions that meet what he described as “the instant economy”.
 

GhIPSS earlier this year launched the universal QR code and the Proxy Pay, both of which are in line with faster and real-time payments. Mr Hesse hinted and many products have been lined up to add on to the existing list of real-time payment channels.

The public will have to accept electronic payment channels as their default form of payment, to stay safe as scientists predict that the Coronavirus will linger on for a while. This is because quite a number of electronic payment channels do not require physical contacts for payments to be effected.

 
Ghana has been rolling out a number of measures to help in the fight against the spread of the pandemic, including a partial lockdown at a point and currently, restrictions on social gathering among others.  However recent conversations globally point to a gradual easing of restrictions, to allow life to return to what is being described as the new normal.
 
Speaking in an interview, the Chief Executive of Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS), Mr Archie Hesse said electronic payment is one of the ‘new normal’ that must be adhered to, in order to live with the virus.  He explained that there are several electronic payment options that do not require physical contact and urged the public to consider them as their default mode of payment, even if Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed.
 
Cash transactions have been described as a possible conduit for the spread of COVID-19 if the use of cash remains high. In advanced countries where e-commerce and electronic payment channels are common, the concerns about cash spreading the virus are hardly talked about, but Ghana is confronted with this challenge.
 
The Bank of Ghana, GhIPSS and financial institutions have been campaigning for the use of electronic payment options. But there are fears that people’s adherence to this advice could wane if restrictions are relaxed. But the GhIPSS Boss said a sustained campaign by all stakeholders could be helpful. He, therefore, urged financial institutions to continue to encourage their customers to use their electronic payment solutions.
 
The GhIPSS CEO noted that traders and businesses in general play a crucial role in getting the public to use more of the electronic payment channels. He explained that once merchants, including micro-scale operators such as table-top or corner shops, agree to accept mobile money and transfers from bank accounts, many people will find the need to use more of these channels than cash.
 

Mr Hesse, therefore, encouraged shop owners to accept at least the basic electronic payment channels such as mobile money. “Big shops and businesses can accept a whole range of electronic channels such as GIP, ACH, and other electronic transfers, while the medium can do the QR codes and even the bank transfers but there should be no excuse for people not to accept at least mobile money”, he stressed. “These electronic channels actually bring in more income to shop owners and businesses, because your customers have a wider option to pay you, including money that they do not readily have on them”, Mr Hesse added.

 
Mr Hesse urged the public to continue to observe the safety protocols and patronise businesses that give them electronic payment options.

moreThe use of GhIPSS instant pay (GIP) services continues to see huge jumps in volume as more people turn to the service. The volume of instant pay transactions between January and March this year, stood at a little over one million (1,007,510) representing a growth of 693.8 percent compared to 126,925 transactions during the same period last year.

GhIPSS Instant Pay is an electronic payment system that enables a customer to transfer money from one bank account to another of a different bank or to a wallet and the transfer is effected instantly. Though instant pay can be accessed from the banking halls, it is mostly available on the various internet and mobile banking platforms of the banks. Many Fintechs also ride on the GIP technology for their money transfer services.

Electronic payment channels have become very important in the wake of the novel corona virus (Covid-19), as cash could be a channel of spreading the disease. Although a full assessment of the impact of Covid-19 on electronic payments is yet to be done, a further analysis of the data from GhIPSS shows a significant increase in GIP transactions in the month of March, when Ghana started recording its positive cases.

According to the figures, while GIP volumes in February this year drop by 7 percent compared to January of the same year, the volume of transactions increased in March by 53.6 percent. This shows that GIP was used many more times in March compared to January and February of 2020, a development attributable to increased use of electronic payments due to Covid-19.Instant Pay has become a preferred form of transfers for many across the world and Ghana has recorded the same trend since GhIPSS introduced it a couple of years ago.The Chief Executive of GhIPSS Archie Hesse explained that an overwhelming majority of GIP transactions involve people moving funds from their bank accounts to mobile money wallet of others or themselves. He added that this trend shows how convenient mobile money wallets have become for many people.  

The challenge however is that many people after moving funds from their bank account to mobile wallets, cash out to make payments. But with the launch of the universal QR code, funds stored in mobile money wallets can be used to make payment, Mr. Hesse further explained. GhIPSS last month launched the universal QR code which enables individuals to pay for goods and services by scanning displayed QR codes with their phones. Users of feature phones can also pay via QR Code by dialling a merchant’s number that will also be displayed at the location. Mr. Hesse is hopeful that GIP will continue to experience growth especially in this era of Covid-19 as more and more people turn to electronic payment channels.

conta ctThe public is being advised to use payment options that reduces their contact with persons in order to reduce exposure to the corona virus. The need to use contactless forms of payment has become necessary following the report of 6 confirmed corona virus cases in Ghana.

Many people rely heavily on cash for payment but that will not be the best option in this era of the pandemic, as it increases contact and the currency notes could also serve as carriers. The use of mobile money for payment and other electronic payment options such as internet banking, mobile banking applications as well as others such as Automated Clearing House (ACH) are preferred channels of payment in the wake of the pandemic.

Speaking in an interview in Accra, the Chief Executive of Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS), Archie Hesse urged the people who have not signed up for electronic payment channels such as internet banking and mobile banking applications to do so in order to use them.  He also advised those who have already sign on to these electronic forms of payments to use them and reduce their use of cash.

“Even for the very basic transactions at market places, before you make any payment, ask if the person can receive mobile money, so that you pay with mobile money instead of cash”, Mr. Hesse emphasised. Mr. Hesse advised traders, shop owners and all merchants to accept mobile money and other contactless electronic forms of payments. “It is very important that those who sell to us must now prefer mobile money and other mobile payment options. Those who can, should even encourage their customers to pay them using internet banking. We have these contactless payment channels, let’s use them and save our own lives”, the GhIPSS Boss admonished.The GhIPSS CEO also advised corporate organisations to turn to ACH and other electronic forms of payment instead of cheques, since cheque increases chances of contact.

He commended banks who have sent out messages to their customers encouraging them to use electronic payment channels, saying that it was a step in the right direction. GhIPSS is in the process of rolling out QR codes, though this payment channel will require the physical presence of the customer, it none the less allow for the needed social distance, as the customer will only need to scan the displayed QR code, or dial the merchant’s code for those with feature phones. The world is reeling under the corona virus pandemic, and every effort to prevent its spread including payment, should be avoided, Mr. Hesse added.

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There is continuous growth in the volume of instant pay, emphasising customers’ preference for real time payment. Until recently, payments in Ghana except cash, took at least three days for the recipient to get value. But that has since changed with the introduction of mobile money, express payment services and more importantly the GhIPSS Instant Pay (GIP).

GIP allows customers to transfer or receive money instantly through the banking system, using any of the electronic payment platforms such internet banking or mobile banking. According to the 2019 performance of electronic payment products report released by Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS), the volume of GIP based transactions shot up in excess of 1,200 percent from 144,000 in 2018  to 1.9 million last year.

The growth in instant pay volumes has been consistent since it was launched, showing customers preference for real time payments. The Chief Executive of GhIPSS Archie Hesse has described GIP as, “as good as cash but even more secured”, suggesting that customers’ preference would keep growing.

In line with the obvious interest in real time payments, GhIPSS has set out to roll a number of other real time payments this year. Speaking during a recent interaction with the media in Accra, Mr. Hesse said there was going to be enormous focus on real time payment products. He spoke of the planned launch of a universal QR code payment which will ensure customers can use their phones to scan merchants QR codes and make instant payments. Another real time product that GhIPSS has lined up for the year, is christened Proxy Pay. This service will link individual customers’ phone number to a bank account, such that payments can be made instantly by just typing in the phone number instead of the 13 digit account number. Proxy Pay is to ensure easy payments as phone numbers are easy to recall and type. However, for corporate organisations, their bank accounts will be linked to their names, so that one can just type in a company’s name and effect payments electronically.

GhIPSS also intends to launch Request to Pay, which will enable customers of service providers to make payments when they receive bills from their service providers. These bills will be received through SMS text message with options for the customer to approve payment with funds from their bank account These real time payments are expected to create more convenience for customers and ensure security of their payments transactions.

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