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Pioneers of Now: Suzy Morris of Peoples National Bank on spearheading instant payments

Suzy Morris is Senior Vice President and Head of Treasury Management at Peoples National Bank (Off-site). Illinois-based Peoples National Bank is locally owned and operated, with locations spanning the St. Louis metro area and southern Illinois.

We recently spoke with Morris to learn more about her experience driving FedNowSM Service implementation across her organization.

Q: Let’s start with the big picture: Why is access to instant payments important to your business and customers?

A: “We knew the FedNow Service would be important early on. Since we were already offering instant payments services through the private sector, we were able to understand market demand, user activity and forecast growth based on the Federal Reserve’s widespread access.

“From a customer perspective, the current environment has conditioned them to expect instantaneous transactions. While our customers might think this happens seamlessly, we know there are many touch points and higher costs involved with direct deposit, ACH or even, wire payments. For us, the FedNow Service delivers on customer expectations while providing a better overall solution.”

Q: When you decided that FedNow Service access was important, where did you start?

A: “First, I presented the opportunity, potential business impact and benefits to our CEO and COO. This was important because our CEO led the way in broadcasting the plan and communicating with our board of directors. The second step was getting tech involved to prepare for upgrades to our access points. From there, it was a matter of bringing in operations and helping that team understand how to process instant transactions and create workflows through the organization. Instant payments touch so many parts of an organization — it’s very important to bring in each team early on.”

Q: With the FedNow Service launching this year, tell us about your implementation journey so far.

A: “Peoples National Bank has been part of the FedNow Pilot Program since the beginning, and we are working with our core provider to implement receive-only payments before adding send/receive as a secondary piece. We have ongoing internal meetings to build awareness across other parts of our bank. With our retail banks, for example, we are educating bank managers on business impact. There will likely be a reduction of check flow, which would help move money through the network much faster.

“We are also driving customer communications to bring our customers along for the journey and help them understand how instant payments can impact their businesses and make their lives more efficient as consumers.”

Q: Can you provide more insight on working with your service provider?

A: “Internally, we’ve been part of open discussions with our service provider once a quarter to talk about how we are planning to utilize the FedNow Service. I think preparedness has probably been our biggest advantage — knowing what we want and how to achieve it and being able to communicate that so our service provider can deliver on what we are looking for.”

Q: Why is it important for other financial institutions and service providers interested in instant payments to act now?

A: “The more financial institutions connecting to the network, the better the opportunity for the industry to transact on it — that’s one of the biggest takeaways. Customer satisfaction is also a huge driver. You also can start with minimal risk as a receive-only participant, which will allow you to take advantage of final settlement and create a more seamless customer experience.”

Pioneers of Now represent engaged financial institutions and service providers united by their commitment to early adoption of the FedNow Service (Off-site), which will launch in 2023. This is the fourth in a series of ongoing Pioneers of Now features (Off-site).