Here’s why the digitised payments world needs avant-garde testing

Kristof Van Doninck, Head of Products Open Test Solutions at FIS explains why radical testing is necessary in a new world of payments where trust is key to adoption.

Groundbreaking developments, disruptive innovations, technology evolutions… often just comparable techniques or congruent applications that are being used in a new context.

And in the payment world, the same thinking applies.

Digitisation is happening. It’s here. Nonetheless, whilst today’s payment innovations blur the lines between the card payments world and the ACH payments universe, end-user trust stays fundamental. Simple as that.

Consequently, payment enablers need to keep this essential end-user trust in mind while juggling with time, costs and features. Real-time payment is changing the essence of the ACH payments world and the impact of migration from batch to real-time processing can be dramatic. It brings with it significant costs and long-term changes to business models. And if this isn’t challenging enough, banks need to open up and allow third-party processors access to accounts and to initiate payments. Legacy systems, regulations and standards need to be taken into consideration to make such changes happen. Re-inventing the wheel is more likely to lead to higher costs than better solutions.


Undoubtedly, there’s a bunch of opportunities offered by these new technologies. While turning these into something more concrete can be challenging, there’s a lot to be learned from the analogous card payments universe.


Well, the card payments world has been processing in real-time for decades. Standardized processes and best practices underpin card payments and manage the balancing act between costs, quality and interoperability. The certification processes that form the basis of efficient card payments may be perceived as high-cost structures, but it’s important to understand that the cost of non-compliance or corrective costs post launch would be a lot higher. Add to that the potentially irreversible brand reputation damage and it becomes clear why those processes are regarded as imperative

ACH’s who are looking at onboarding multiple banks need to have confidence in a bank’s implementation before they connect to their payment system. On the other side, banks want to be sure that their new payments system is working correctly. They want a smooth customer experience with no hiccups and as few interruptions as possible. Besides connecting to the ACH’s and third-party processors via the open banking API’s, they want to ensure it integrates smoothly with their existing and/or new infrastructure. On top of that, how will they support and verify the quality of the third-party processors?

Facing the changes, proofing and validating systems

For a few decades now, card payment networks, payment processors and banks have applied a ‘black box’ methodology for validating systems. This implies that any adjacent system or device in the payment chain will be virtualized (or simulated). This allows quality assurance and certification teams to take full control of the payment system under test. The quality of simulators in the market varies, each one having its own features and built with a budget in mind. Different solutions come with a different level of technical expertise. The most advanced solutions will help and guide even non-technical users to create test scenarios quickly and easily, all whilst minimizing the amount of test case maintenance after format updates. Using simulators simplifies manual tasks, especially when cryptography is involved, such as with strong customer authentication. From a test solution perspective, this comes down to supporting the new ISO20022 formats or the API definitions. Typically, these are features which are not supported by generic test management software solutions. Specialist payment-specific solutions are the only plausible answer to that challenge.

Next to functional testing, performance testing is another key step…what if a payment system goes down just before Christmas? We expect to see parts of the e- and m-commerce traffic move to the new digital payments rapidly after introduction, and for the bricks-and-mortar world to follow. To ensure that new payments systems remain operational under a heavy load of payment transactions,  performance testing will become critical. The cards world is already familiar with this form of testing, ensuring the handling of peak transaction volumes.

Banks simply cannot accept transactions being declined due to slow responses. As with functional testing, load test solutions exist in various flavours, but in our crypto-loaded payments world it’s not always possible to use capture-and-playback tools. Specialist payments test solutions include wide-ranging automation features, enabling them to perform stress tests that emulate real-world situations with limited resources.

How much avant-garde do we really need?

DevOps and continuous integration are trending. This software/application development approach has automation at its core. Automation modules not only remove the repetitiveness of testing, often they also allow for an integration with third-party solutions, commonly used today. Having a test system with simulators shortens the development cycles, as development teams will have sparring partners available which give a clear visualization of the validation results and will provide guidance on errors found.

Thorough testing as part of a strategic, harmonized plan will enable today’s payment institutions to prepare for tomorrow. It allows them to work faster and smarter while simultaneously avoiding big impact failure.

For banks and ACHs it is important to understand that there is no need for new age testing – the building blocks are already available. To reap the benefits of the new payments age, it’s a question of knowing which ones to use to build solid, innovative payment solutions.

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