In brief

In brief

  • Nordic banks may not see optimal returns from their payments modernization investments if they follow the path of their global peers.
  • Globally, a compliance-first mindset has led banks to react to regulation rather than see an opportunity for a full business transformation.
  • Fragmented governance and operating models have resulted in banks making piecemeal investments that compound rather than eliminate inefficiencies.
  • These timely insights can help Nordic banks, many in the early stages of payments modernization, to achieve differentiation, innovation and growth.

Disruption in payments is here to stay

The Nordic payments markets are among the most disrupted in the world. Disruption comes in the form of local, regional and global regulatory initiatives, growing expectations from digitally savvy consumers, and innovative fintech investments.

So far, Nordic banks have been able to keep pace with the disruption by offering novel payments solutions. But as technological complexity grows and disruption accelerates, if they want to be ready for the next wave of disruption—which is already on the horizon—banks will need to develop new strategies to modernize payments.

Payments modernization is an initiative to overhaul a bank’s payments infrastructure to cope with new customer or regulatory demands and take advantage of emerging innovations.

Globally, payments modernization is driven by regulations

In the face of disruption, it’s easy for banks to focus on regulatory compliance at the expense of other priorities. Our global research confirms this. Many of the banks we surveyed globally, view payments modernization as a technology and operations effort driven by compliance, not a coordinated enterprise-wide initiative to achieve competitive advantage and foster new revenue streams.

On the global stage, few banks base payments modernization on client needs or see it as an opportunity for a full, proactive business transformation. In fact, some told us they find it difficult to get funding for payments modernization unless the project is motivated by compliance or basic market relevance—even though neither of these is typically seen as a potential income driver.

The lesson here for Nordic banks is to look beyond compliance. If they don’t, they risk missing out on key opportunities for cost savings and revenue growth.


of banks are satisfied with their progress toward payments modernization. However…


revenue growth (CAGR) was achieved by 50% of banks in the last three years.


operating cost reduction was achieved annually by 76% of banks in the last three years.

Payments modernization: A bolder approach

The good news for Nordic banks, many of which are in the early stages of payments modernization, is that there’s still time to make the most of their efforts and earn a strategic advantage.

Here are three actions banks could take to gain a strategic advantage with payments modernization:

  1. Choose your role in the payments ecosystem. Consider using shared infrastructure to cut costs so you can focus on the customer experience and compete with distinctive offerings.
  2. Build flexibility into your payments modernization architecture. Modularization, APIs and loose coupling within the payments architecture will let you execute changes more quickly and easily, now and in the future.
  3. Challenge your payments modernization program to perform like a business. Clearly define your product offerings, monetization opportunities and models, business plans and target operating models from the outset.

Instead of reacting to regulatory change with point solutions, Nordic banks should focus more broadly on a business-led transformation to resolve needless complexity and inefficiencies—even if that means a total redesign of the payments architecture.

To learn more, read our Nordic report, "A smarter route to payments modernization". If you would like to talk through any of the topics raised above, please get in touch; one of our payments experts will contact you.

"In the future, banks will need to compete on their balance sheets, services and how they interact with customers—not on the core aspects of how they provide payment services."

– CLAUS RICHTER, Deputy CEO and Chief Operating Officer – P27 Nordic Payments

Harri Hurmalainen

Senior Manager – Nordic Payments Lead

Nanna Svahn

Research Associate Manager – Accenture Research


Payments modernization: Playing the long game
Disruption and opportunity in digital payments

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