From October 2020 onward, there won’t be any blue and orange paper-bills anymore. Instead, there will be QR- and eBills. That doesn’t seem like the big digital push we have all been waiting for, but keep in mind that financial industry digitization will not happen overnight.

PostFinance is a financial services firm that offers payment solutions to banks and other financial institutions in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. So far, Postfinance offered blue and orange paper-based “Einzahlungsscheine”(EZS) to deposit money into a bank account or transfer money from a bank account. According to PostFinance, the use of these documents will stop on 30th September 2022; then the company will switch entirely to digital invoicing.

QR-bills to replace paper-format

PostFinance already introduced the new QR-format on 30th June 2020. The goal is to make payments faster, easier, and more secure. The QR-bill can be used completely digital or printed on paper, unlike the so-called “eBill,” which is sent directly to the receiver’s email account and paid through online banking. The printout of the QR-bill includes – besides the QR code – all relevant information such as the receiver, the account number, reference number, and the required amount. Thus, anyone who wants to pay their bills at the bank branch can keep doing so.

Wolfgang Strunk from Liechtenstein Post AG explains on a local news page: “If you receive the QR-bill electronically, for example, per email, you can print it out.” It’s also possible to pay it through online banking by typing in the reference number.

Digitalization of financial services has been slow so far

Getting away from paper bills will boost efficiency and is long overdue in many businesses. Payment services today make it possible to pay bills with just a few clicks, why would anyone still want to use paper-bills? “Digitalization is key for changing payment services. It’s the foundation for automated and efficient payment services with minimal errors,” says Strunk.

The challenge with digitizing and automating payment services in big banks and other financial services firms is that it takes enormous effort to change legacy systems that have been in place for many years. In many banks, the core software is so old that many engineers don’t even know the coding language in which it was written. So while it sounds simple to replace an old form with a new online format, it’s more complicated than most people realize. Thus, if financial services firms make small moves to digitize their services, more often than not, it’s already a big step forward.

Over the years ahead, financial services digitization will likely move faster than over the past years. The COVID-pandemic has changed the mindsets in banks and demonstrated the urgency of digitization – as well as the lack of digital tools today. According to a recent study, the good news is that Swiss and Liechtenstein-based banks are the European leaders in digitization strategy. Now it’s a matter of putting these strategies to work and unleash the powers of digitization. Even something seemingly small, like a QR-bill, is already a step in the right direction.

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