Seth Brennan, CEO of NorthLane, discusses how the complex changes triggered by COVID-19 have actually led to meaningful innovation that will last well beyond the pandemic. “The payment landscape as a whole has evolved with similar speed, enabling businesses and consumers to stay agile in the face of unprecedented needs,” says Brennan in “A Look Forward: What Executives Wish for America and the World in 2021.”
In my experience, businesses and people learn and grow best under pressure. But don’t just take my word for it — scientific research shows that constraints are actually conducive to productive breakthroughs and meaningful change. Budgetary restrictions or a tight timeline can push teams to leave the comfort of complacency and discover value beyond their previous expectations. But let’s be reasonable. 2020 posed more limitations on American businesses than many of us have ever had to — or should have to — contend with. When COVID-19 struck, organizations that were thriving just a few months prior temporarily shut their doors, found new ways of doing business and implemented austerity measures — all while offering support to employees grappling with the far more personal ramifications of this global health crisis.
This happened amid political turbulence and a nation divided in its attitudes regarding not just COVID-19, but also the critical issues of the day. At the same time, these complex challenges led to meaningful innovation that will outlast the pandemic — particularly in the payment space. Restaurants adapted their ordering and payment systems and changed their menus, making virtual and takeout-friendly options commonplace. Retailers found new footing on eCommerce marketplaces and adapted brick-and-mortar locations to serve as fulfillment centers. And making payments touchless, faster and more flexible has arisen as a top priority with benefits far beyond meeting the present moment’s challenges.
Here at North Lane, the extraordinary demands of 2020 led us to discover that we could deploy a custom-branded, payment disbursement program in a single day. Our client required immediate digital delivery of emergency funds to workers impacted by COVID-19. Necessity sparked invention and the drive to implement the program — from signature to launch — overnight. Frankly, we weren’t sure if we could pull it off — but we did. The payment landscape as a whole has evolved with similar speed, enabling businesses and consumers to stay agile in the face of unprecedented needs. The truth is, there’s no going back to slower-moving pre-pandemic times, and continued growth means embracing both the operational efficiencies and the new consumer mindset that has emerged from this crisis. It’s our job to keep building on these breakthroughs — whether that’s with faster digital B2B payments or simpler cross-border commerce.
In 2021 and beyond, my hope is that we will maintain the flexibility, agility and spirit of innovation we honed this year — removing constraints that aren’t conducive to progress, and making it possible for everyone to shop, pay and work anywhere in the world.