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Citizens’ 2023 Payment Trends Survey Finds Middle-market Companies Are Embracing Modern Payments, yet Traditional Methods Persist

Corporate treasury departments are embracing social tokens, real-time payments, virtual cards and other digital innovations for their speed, security and convenience, according to new research from Citizens. Yet, traditional payment modes – checks, automated clearing house (ACH) and physical credit cards – still have a stronghold.

“This is a time of disruption in the payments world,” said Matt Richardson, executive vice president and head of treasury product solutions, Citizens. “While we see many treasury departments taking advantage of new technologies, some have been slow to adapt.”

The Citizens survey of 205 treasury executives at middle-market businesses ($50M to $1B annual revenue) in February and March 2023 focused on company use of payment modes today and what treasurers think of their options. Key findings include:

  • Middle-market companies report that they use about five payment methods on average. As the menu of payment methods expands, companies are assembling a custom mix to meet their needs – but they could be overlooking the strategic benefits to streamlining or upgrading outdated modes. Payment usage is all over the place, with all payment methods showing some popularity. Physical credit cards and wire transfers topped the list. Some of the relatively newer methods, such as virtual cards, still face lower adoption levels. Half of businesses continue to use paper checks.
  • Companies also show a high level of interest in expanding their payment mix. Six in 10 non-users of real-time payments said they were “very likely” to consider incorporating them into their payments strategy. This is likely due in part to speed associated with real-time payments solutions. About 40% of non-users said they would consider virtual or digital credit cards or business-to-consumer (B2C) payment alternatives (platforms such as Zelle).
  • Companies are using B2C options such as peer-to-peer payment for a number of treasury functions. Consumer payments have seen a lot of innovation in recent years, with new options such as Venmo, PayPal and Zelle. Middle-market businesses have started to embrace these tools as well. Among companies who said they currently use B2C options or are likely to in the near future, most say they will use these tools to pay vendors. Paying salaries is another popular choice. Nearly half of companies say they would use B2C alternatives to issue refunds.
  • One innovation in B2C technologies is the use of social tokens, which allow payments to be sent to a phone number or email address rather than needing bank account information. Most companies rate social tokens as both easy and secure, and they would use them for both bill pay and payment requests. They also like the security of not retaining bank account info on their servers.
  • Virtual cards, a digital alternative to physical credit cards, are another emerging payment technology that is earning more interest from middle-market companies. The sectors with the highest virtual card adoption include human capital management and business services. These sectors typically have a less complex accounts payables environment with a supply base that tends to be more susceptible to accepting card payments. Consumer sector businesses have been the slowest to adopt virtual cards.

To see more results from the 2023 Payment Trends survey, please click here.

Citizens is a trusted strategic and financial adviser, consistently delivering clear and objective advice. The Citizens approach puts clients first by offering great ideas combined with thorough market knowledge and excellent execution, to help our clients enhance their business and reach their potential. For more information, please visit the Citizens website.

About Citizens Financial Group, Inc.

Citizens Financial Group, Inc. is one of the nation’s oldest and largest financial institutions, with $222.3 billion in assets as of March 31, 2023. Headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, Citizens offers a broad range of retail and commercial banking products and services to individuals, small businesses, middle-market companies, large corporations and institutions. Citizens helps its customers reach their potential by listening to them and by understanding their needs in order to offer tailored advice, ideas and solutions. In Consumer Banking, Citizens provides an integrated experience that includes mobile and online banking, a full-service customer contact center and the convenience of approximately 3,400 ATMs and more than 1,100 branches in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Consumer Banking products and services include a full range of banking, lending, savings, wealth management and small business offerings. In Commercial Banking, Citizens offers a broad complement of financial products and solutions, including lending and leasing, deposit and treasury management services, foreign exchange, interest rate and commodity risk management solutions, as well as loan syndication, corporate finance, merger and acquisition, and debt and equity capital markets capabilities. More information is available at or visit us on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.


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