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Why payments must be a CFO's strategic priority

Pierre-Edouard Jumel

Traditionally viewed as a cost center, payments have long been relegated to the sidelines by most CFOs and Finance Teams. When discussed, the focus often centers on cost reduction and fraud prevention, with little consideration for the strategic potential of payments.

Although this mindset has gradually shifted in recent years, entrenched beliefs take time to change. I engage with other CFOs and Finance Leads from companies of varying sizes and industries every week. More often than not, the conversation revolves around minimizing payment processing costs as much as possible.

On the one hand, I understand this perspective. A few years ago, I shared a similar view, seeing payments as a complex and opaque process at the end of the customer journey. Payments were costing the businesses I worked for a significant amount of money, eroding our margins. Naturally, the most pressing question was: 'How can we cut the cost of accepting payments?'

For those of us in finance roles, processing costs are (and will always be) at the top of our minds. But in 2024, that’s definitely not the only question you should ask concerning payments. 

Instead, the most ambitious and forward-thinking finance executives are asking: “How can we use payments to drive value creation or, in simpler terms, accelerate our growth and path to profitability, execute strategic priorities, fast-track international expansion, and build flexibility into our cost base?”

The answer to this question is typically the same: invest in an underlying payment infrastructure. Doing so will empower your business to use payments to boost revenue, reduce the overall cost of managing the payment stack, and drive operational excellence across the business.

You achieve this by first getting access to the tools needed to drive payment success at scale and without complexity. This includes driving higher conversion rates by offering more payment methods and a more seamless customer experience at checkout. It also includes using tools that improve authorization rates, such as smart routing, retries and fallbacks, adaptive 3DS, and network tokenization

You’ll also generate significant savings by eliminating gateways, fraud reduction, replacing cloud and security infrastructure, reducing the headcount necessary to build and maintain payments and automation integrations, and reducing the time spent managing payments data, resolving disputes, and reconciling transactions.

In short, using a payment infrastructure lowers the total cost of ownership tied to the direct and indirect costs of processing payments, which have increased markedly in many businesses over the past decade. As a result, it can provide substantial fixed cost savings, turn fixed costs into variable components of your P&L, and ensure that your business can scale at the right pace and with the right level of overheads.

Another often overlooked advantage of optimizing payments is the value it brings to investors and shareholders. For private businesses aiming to go public, investing in de-risking the payment stack and facilitating more effective and efficient treasury and account closing processes enhances governance and bolsters exit readiness. For public companies, an investment in payments can unlock additional shareholder value. 

The definition of a cost center is a department or function within an organization that does not directly add to profit but still costs the organization money to operate. That’s not payments. Payments is a strategic asset to your business that can boost top and bottom lines and enable you to achieve your top priorities.

Use our ROI calculator to see how using Primer to optimize your payments can reduce costs, increase revenue, and accelerate your business growth.See how

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Head of Payments