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Geoff Rush

Geoff Rush

Partner, Advisory & National Industry Leader Financial Services, KPMG

As the payments landscape evolves, financial institutions and other organizations must strive to stay consumer-centric and competitive.


The payments industry is currently undergoing significant disruption. Financial institutions, fintechs, and other organizations are all competing to keep up with customer expectations and to make payments faster, easier, and more convenient. This requires core infrastructure transformation, new product innovation, and adhering to the new regulations and legislations popping up to accommodate the industry’s transformation. Payments modernization has never been more important or diverse in strategic opportunity, choice for participation, and positioning organizations for the future.

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Industry-wide disruption

“If you look back 10 or more years, the payments experience was characterized by quite a bit of friction for the end-user,” says Geoff Rush, Partner and National Industry Leader of Financial Services at KPMG in Canada, a leader in financial and payments services. “It took a lot of effort to complete a payment and often a lot of time for it to clear. What we’re seeing now is a lot of innovation to take that friction out of the process.”

Higher customer expectations are driving the trend. “Customers are expecting more on the service level, which includes the cost, efficiency, and visibility of their payments,” says Edwin Isted, Senior Manager at KPMG in Canada. And the non-traditional entrants into the payments ecosystem, big tech or fintechs, are shaking up the ecosystem significantly, forcing incumbent financial institutions to evolve and innovate.

Full-service payments support 

With organizations striving to meet customer expectations, stay competitive, and future-proof their businesses, they’re also now having to contend with new regulations and legislative changes around payment service providers, new digital currencies like crypto, and other disruptions. These compounding factors are driving an accelerated pace of innovation in payments, says Rush. That’s where KPMG comes in.

“We’re one of Canada’s largest professional services providers,” says Rush. “We’re well-known for our advisory, technology, and analytical services.”

Included in KPMG’s financial services management consulting business is its payments practice, which helps organizations manage risk, enhance regulatory compliance, optimize customer and digital strategies, and improve operations.

“Our payments team is industry-agnostic,” says Cody Greer, Senior Manager at KPMG in Canada. “We help both traditional payment clients — such as wholesale banks, commercial banks, investment banks, retail banks, central banks, card associations, and payment market infrastructures — as well as non-financial institutions like retailers, technology companies, fintechs, transit providers, and governments with payments transformation.

Embracing open banking

“One of the trends we’ve seen and which the Canadian market is about to embark on is open banking,” says Isted. Open banking refers to banking that provides third-party financial service providers open access to consumer banking, transaction, and other financial data from banks and non-bank financial institutions through the use of application programming interfaces (APIs). 

“Open banking is very interesting because we’ve seen a variety of models to enable it,” says Isted. “On the one end of the spectrum, you’ve got a pure legislative requirements-driven approach, while on the other end, you’ve got a purely market forces driven approach,  and then you have something in the middle which is sort of a hybrid of both. Open banking isn’t just about payments. It’s a fundamental change to many organizations in terms of how they view their data assets internally.”

“This is again about reducing friction and making lives easier for the end-customer,” says Rush.

What really separates us is the calibre of our people on an individual level. We’re the friendly firm and not only do we bring really great insights and help our clients achieve great results, we’re also great people to work with, and that’s hard to replicate.

Encouraging innovation   

“Modernizing the Canadian payments infrastructure can have enormous benefits to all Canadians, and other countries are already there,” says Rush. “At the core, what we’re trying to do with open data sharing is to create a more innovative and competitive payments landscape.”

“Open banking and payments modernization aren’t separate things,” adds Isted. “They’re both bringing more efficiency, lower costs, and require greater integration than before.”

From enabling real-time payments for both businesses and consumers to increasing operational efficiencies and boosting revenue for financial institutions, there are many benefits to open banking and payments modernization.

Open banking adds complexity, however, which the Canadian market is currently grappling with. “There are things that need to be in place to enable open banking, such as the surety of the actors involved,” explains Paul Jackson, Director of Payments Modernization at KPMG in Canada. “Being able to verify their digital identity becomes key.”

“To put this in place therefore requires some massive changes — changes to regulation, changes to incumbent players, technology infrastructure and processes, and even education and changes to consumer behaviour,” says Rush. 

Prioritizing payments modernization   

Payments modernization is therefore a critical priority, and organizations must work quickly to evolve their payment models and core infrastructure, adopt digital channel experiences, and innovate.

“We focus on three primary areas: payments modernization, getting financial institutions ready for the SWIFT mandates around ISO compliance, and strategy around payments across multiple industries,” says Isted.

“The new international data standard (ISO 20022) and open banking aren’t small transformations that organizations can just plug into,” says Greer. “These often require years of planning, testing and execution to ensure that they are ready on time. And compliance is only one half of the journey. At the same time, they need to consider the competitive and customer impacts in their new reality.”

KPMG assists its clients with a broad range of services related to payments transformation, from payments strategy and implementation to process reviews, automation and digitization, payment products, market research, risk assessments, and more.

Leading the way 

For organizations looking to tackle these changes and thrive in the payments landscape of the future, turning to a leader in financial and payments services like KMPG is a smart move.

“As a national industry leader, we’ve got some extremely talented professionals who are very deep in their areas of expertise,” says Rush. “But what really separates us is the calibre of our people on an individual level. We’re the friendly firm and not only do we bring really great insights and help our clients achieve great results, we’re also great people to work with, and that’s hard to replicate.”

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