Q&A: Marc Pettican, Chief Executive Officer, Barclaycard Commercial Payments

Q: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your career in commercial payments/financial services?

A: Without a doubt the biggest shift is the one that we’re seeing right now towards digitization and automation. Today, customer expectations in commercial payments are being shaped by the best-in-class experiences from other parts of their personal and professional lives, such as ordering a taxi with Uber or a takeaway with Deliveroo. As a result, commercial payments businesses need to optimize their use of digital and automation to redesign their customer journeys, in order to provide seamless, frictionless experiences all the way from account application and opening, through to account servicing and client engagement. Done correctly, this allows you to offer the right level of personalization, at scale, as both you and your clients grow.


Q: What do you think is the biggest threat to the business/industry as it exists today?

A: Looking beyond the current political and economic landscape, I believe that growing customer expectations pose an inevitable threat to the commercial payments industry. As customer expectations evolve, so too does the need for businesses to keep upgrading their technology in order to meet those expectations. As the speed at which customer expectations continues to rise, businesses are struggling with the challenge of building additional capacity and functionality, without adding technical debt. This is especially true of larger organizations, which have a longer history of legacy systems, and who often face significant resistance to change, which our research shows is the biggest barrier to keeping finance and payments systems updated and fit for purpose.


Q: What excites you the most about the future of the industry? Pace of change and the scale of the opportunity.

A: Funnily enough, the thing that excites me the most is the inefficiency that we see in today’s B2B payments landscape – there is so much scope for us to revolutionize our clients’ finance and procurement functions, whether that’s by helping to save them time and money, enhancing their working capital position, or improving the relationships they have with their suppliers. I want to change the way our clients think about finance and procurement – rather than simply being an operational necessity of running a business, I want to help them view their finance and procurement functions as drivers of profit, and sources of competitive advantage.


Q: What’s your best piece of advice for someone looking to make an impact in a mature industry like this one? Whether it’s a start up business, or someone transitioning into payments/commercial cards?

A: Collaboration is vital. Procurement is a vast and complex ecosystem, and you can’t hope to build the perfect product in isolation. Even if you design the best customer experience in the world, as long as your users are having to flip back and forth between yours and their existing systems, you’re just adding to their workload, not simplifying it. That’s what we call a ‘swivel chair’ model, and it can be a real drain on a finance team’s efficiency. At Barclaycard, we’re partnering with some of the world’s leading procurement and ERP systems, like Coupa and SAP Ariba, in order to integrate our payments directly into the places our clients are making their procurement decisions. That way, payment can be made automatically, as soon as a purchase order is raised, and without even having to leave the procurement platform, saving finance teams huge amounts of time and effort.


Q: What’s a problem that’s yet to be solved in commercial cards/payments that you’re eager to see the industry tackle?

A: As computing power continues to increase, one of the biggest problems that both we and our clients face is the never-ending arms race against fraud and cybercrime. At Barclaycard, we will never underestimate the trust that our clients place in us to keep their data and their money safe, and that will always be our number one priority. We’ve also seen elsewhere in the industry how easy it is for a business to lose that trust, which is why we will always strive to achieve the highest standards of security and privacy in everything we do, in order to stay one step ahead of the fraudsters. The good news is that there are industry-wide measures coming into force, such as PSD2’s Strong Customer Authentication, which will help businesses of all sizes to keep themselves safe, in order to tackle the growing rates of cybercrime.