Earlier this year, Citizens Financial Group, Inc. expanded the reach of its point-of-sale offering for merchants with the introduction of Citizens Pay. Designed to allow consumers to finance large purchases in “pay-over-time” mode, Citizens Pay provides a virtual line of credit that can be used for repeat purchases. Andrew Rostami, Citizens Pay president, discussed the POS lending space, how Citizens Pay fits into it, plans for new retailer partnerships and more.
RIS: What is the general status of the POS lending space, and what makes Citizens Pay the next-level iteration of merchant financing?
Rostami: The POS lending space is a high-growth area, and there is tremendous competition with financial technology solution providers. Citizens Pay gives us an even stronger foundation to build upon to demonstrate the benefit of what we have and the innovations we introduce.
We continue to expand our own point-of-sale business by offering consumers an easier, more budget-friendly way to pay for large purchases in fixed monthly payments through a virtual line of credit, while enabling our retail partners to give their customers more flexible and transparent finance options. As we look to deepen our Point-of-Sale offering, Citizens Pay helps us create a distinctive identity that can be easily recognized in the market.
Citizens Pay also supports our digital transformation journey. Consumers are becoming increasingly demanding. Their expectations of exceptional digital experiences at every turn have grown greater than ever, and the COVID-19 pandemic is only adding fuel to the fire. Additionally, we know that consumers want simple and easy ways to make purchases. Citizens Pay delivers both — a frictionless, digital-first experience and a flexible way to pay for purchases without the need to open another credit card account.
RIS: How does Citizens Pay work?
Rostami: Through our retail partners, Citizens Pay offers customers a pay-over-time solution with fixed monthly payments through a virtual line of credit. Customers benefit from easy-to-understand payment terms. There are no hidden fees or penalties, and pricing is clear and up front. Based on the merchant, there may also be additional benefits, such as 0% or reduced APR financing.
All this gives consumers the power to upgrade their shopping experience and put their purchase aspirations within reach — for example, to buy a better version of an item they want or need, or to buy more items than they might otherwise be able to afford at the same time, but whose price they cannot pay all at once. We empower consumers to purchase what they want without overburdening their budgets — specifically, by spreading the cost of large purchases over several months, comfortably and responsibly.
Citizens Pay also lets manufacturers embed financing into their products as a “product-as-a-service,” offered through multiple retailers. We initially launched this state-of-the art capability in partnership with Microsoft for the sale of Xbox All Access using integrated Citizens financing at retailers such as Target, Best Buy, WalMart and GameStop.
RIS: How does Citizens Pay bring value to its merchant and retail partners?
Rostami: Merchants are battling to keep up with the pace of change set by other businesses, as well as with ever-increasing consumer demands. Citizens Pay gives merchants the power to make their products and services more accessible and affordable, while helping them to attract and build stronger relationships with customers.
We’ve seen evidence that the average purchase for consumers using pay-over-time financing grows by 25% to 40%. As I’ve already mentioned, this is good for the consumer because it enables them to finance a larger purchase in a way that’s responsible and simple. But just as importantly, it allows merchants to grow sales across new channels, such as online and “buy online, pickup in store” (BOPIS), in a seamless way. And if the shopping experience is easy and pleasant — which is what we’re trying to create — it makes it more likely that customers will come back to make another purchase. And that, of course, benefits the merchant.
RIS: How does Citizens Pay give its merchant partners a competitive advantage in the market?
Rostami: Citizens Pay leverages our many years of trusted financial experience and deep understanding of consumers and retail, with a comprehensive product set that others can’t match. We like to say we’re not just a “checkout option”; we’re offering a strategic tool to help consumers and merchants embrace a brighter, smarter future.
This is backed by a world-class team that supports our partners in how to upgrade their experiences, power sales, and increase customer loyalty in a holistic way. Our name gives consumers confidence that Citizens is behind the financing, and we are fundamentally helping leading merchants transform their omni-channel shopping models.
RIS: Where do you see much of the growth in new partnerships?
Rostami: We have historically been strong in electronics with Apple and Microsoft, and there is still a lot of opportunity in that market to finance “devices as a service.” In addition, we are expanding in areas where consumers have a need to finance larger purchases. These areas include specialty retail, home goods and improvement, and health.
COVID-19 has propelled some of this growth forward, particularly as more people have been staying home. As an example, we launched several new partners, all in the fitness industry, over the past several months, and we see much more growth in e-commerce categories. Virtual learning is yet another expanding market segment, as are market segments that involve the home and individuals’ well-being.
RIS: What’s next for Citizens Pay?
Citizens Pay is a core component of our national strategy to expand in a move to serve more customers. It also aligns with the bank’s strategy to grow digital payment volume and improve the overall customer payment experience.
We will be aligning with a number of new, major partners this year, and we’ll continue to build out the Citizens Pay digital experience and ultimately link it to Consumer’s broader national value proposition. Just as the bank is transforming, Citizens Pay signifies how we are evolving to meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s consumers and businesses.