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The Dynamic Rise of Eastern Europe’s Payment Landscape: Exploring the Thriving State and Forward-Thinking Regulations of the Payments Industry in Eastern Europe

Written by Dwayne Gefferie

Guest Author @ PayShield

June 3, 2024

When people think about Eastern Europe, they often harbor several misconceptions that can obscure the region’s true dynamism and diversity. Contrary to the belief that Eastern Europe is uniformly underdeveloped and economically backward, many countries in this region, such as Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, have experienced significant economic growth and modernization. This growth is particularly evident in the rapidly evolving payments industry, which is at the forefront of technological innovation and regulatory advancement.

The notion of a homogeneous cultural and historical landscape is equally misleading. Eastern Europe boasts a rich mosaic of languages, traditions, and historical narratives that vary significantly from one nation to another. Furthermore, while political instability and corruption are issues in some areas, many countries have stable governments. They are active members of international organizations like NATO and the EU, contributing to regional stability and development.

Additionally, the stereotype of outdated infrastructure does not hold true for many parts of Eastern Europe. Significant investments have been made to modernize transportation networks, telecommunications, and urban infrastructure, bringing them on par with or even exceeding those in many Western countries. The language barrier, often cited as a difficulty, is diminishing as English and other major European languages gain widespread use, especially among the younger population and in urban centers. Moreover, the perception of Eastern Europeans as cold and unfriendly is far from reality, with many visitors finding the people to be warm, hospitable, and eager to share their rich cultural heritage.

Understanding these nuances is crucial as we explore the thriving state and forward-thinking regulations of the payments industry in this vibrant region.

The payments industry in Eastern Europe is currently experiencing significant growth and transformation, driven by regulatory advancements, technological innovation, and evolving market practices. Here’s an overview of the current state and looming regulations shaping the industry:

  1. Digital and Mobile Payments Growth: The Eastern European payments landscape rapidly evolving with a strong shift towards digital and mobile payment solutions. For example, Poland has seen a 33% increase in mobile payment usage in the past year alone. The adoption of digital wallets and mobile payment apps has surged, driven by consumer demand for convenient, fast, and secure payment methods.
  2. B2B Payment Practices: While business has been booming, B2B payment practices in Eastern Europe are still characterized by cautious credit sales due to economic uncertainty. On average, 45% of B2B sales are transacted on credit, with payment terms averaging 40 days from invoicing. Late payments are a significant issue, affecting 46% of B2B sales on credit, exacerbated by high inflation and economic volatility.

As technology through digital and mobile usage is changing the adoption of payment solutions, so are recent regulatory changes, which aim to enhance the efficiency, security, and reliability of payment processes across the region. Key regulatory changes shaping the future of payments in Eastern Europe include:

  1. Instant Payment Regulation: The European Commission is set to introduce the Instant Payment Regulation, which mandates real-time execution and settlement of payments across the eurozone. This regulation aims to enhance the efficiency and reliability of payments, benefiting both consumers and businesses by reducing delays and associated costs.
  2. EU Digital Identity Wallet: The proposed EU Digital Identity Regulation will establish a government-issued EU Digital Identity Wallet (EUDIW) for seamless authentication and strong customer authentication (SCA). This initiative is expected to significantly reduce friction in payment processes and improve security, paving the way for higher transaction conversion rates.
  3. SEPA Payment Account Access (SPAA) Scheme: This scheme introduces a framework for premium APIs to enhance payment services, addressing the limitations of the current PSD2 regulations. It aims to provide new capabilities like dynamic recurring payments and automated sweeping between accounts, fostering innovation in the payments market.
  4. New Late Payment Regulation: The European Commission has proposed a new regulation to combat late payments in commercial transactions. This regulation seeks to address the inefficiencies and financial strain caused by delayed payments and provide a more robust framework for timely payments, particularly benefiting SMEs.

Now that we have a better overview of the current state and the impact of regulations in Eastern Europe, the question remains: How will that impact the future?

The regulatory changes in Eastern Europe are set to significantly enhance the consumer experience.

The introduction of instant payment regulations will ensure that transactions are executed and settled in real time, which is transformative for consumers. This development will allow individuals to handle emergency payments immediately, settle shared costs without delay, and avoid penalties associated with late payments. In practical terms, this will lead to a more seamless and stress-free financial experience, increasing overall trust and engagement with digital payment systems.

Additionally, the implementation of the EU Digital Identity Wallet (EUDIW) will streamline authentication processes, making transactions faster and more secure. By reducing the friction typically associated with payment authentication, these changes are expected to improve merchant conversion rates and enhance the overall customer journey, driving higher adoption rates of digital payment methods.

From an operational standpoint, these regulatory changes present both challenges and opportunities. Larger financial institutions, with their robust infrastructure and resources, are well-positioned to swiftly adapt to these new regulations, leveraging their scale to implement necessary technological upgrades and compliance measures efficiently.

Conversely, smaller Payment Service Providers (PSPs) might face significant hurdles in adjusting to these changes, including the need for technological advancements, compliance with new standards, and integration of new systems.

However, this challenge also presents a unique opportunity for smaller players to innovate. By embracing new technologies and developing unique service offerings, they can differentiate themselves in the market. For example, by offering tailored solutions that cater specifically to the needs of high-risk industries, these PSPs can carve out niche markets and establish themselves as leaders in those areas.

In summary, the regulatory landscape in Eastern Europe is evolving rapidly, and while it brings certain operational challenges, it also opens up numerous opportunities for innovation and growth.

As the payments industry advances, those who can effectively navigate these changes will be well-positioned to lead the market and drive future success. The future of payments in Eastern Europe looks promising, with enhanced consumer experiences and a dynamic, innovative market landscape on the horizon.

Click here to read more about Dwayne and his wealth of experience in the payments industry!

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