Melyssa Barrett: Welcome to the Jali Podcast. I’m your host, Melyssa Barrett. This podcast is for those who are interested in the conversation around diversity, inclusion, and equity. Each week I’ll be interviewing a guest who has something special to share or is actively part of building solutions in this space. Let’s get started.
Angela Murphy, PhD. She’s a thought leader in B2B payments, fintech, credit cards, partnerships and innovation strategy. Angela brings an entrepreneurial perspective to create solutions for her clients and she’s commercialized one of the largest closed loop card products and invoicing networks in the United States. Currently works at the intersection of strategy and insight in the payments industry. Angela is currently the vice president of business development at Photon Commerce, the industry’s fastest and most accurate invoice and receipt capture solution. Her background in eCommerce and solutions integration informs her expertise in digital commerce and payments innovation.
She regularly provides guest lectures and webinars for the University of Berkeley and consulting firms around the world, and is a founding fellow of Coruzant Technologies. Her thought leadership has been featured on PCN, MPC and Versatile PhD. After earning her PhD, Angela built a partner program and a Fortune 100 company from the ground up, leveraging her global experience and relationships across the fintech sector. She knows that the best transformations are not based on numbers, but on people. Her unique academic and professional background includes international experience in Africa, Asia, and Europe.
She holds a PhD in Rhetoric from the University of Kansas, a Master’s in English from Northwest Missouri State University and a Bachelor of Creative Writing from the University of Missouri, Kansas City. All right, so excited to have Dr. Angela Murphy with me here this week. And we are going to be talking all about instant payments, real time payments and all of the things that Dr. Murphy has on her plate. But to start, let me just ask you how you even got here and what your… Because you have an interesting background, I know.
Dr. Angela Murphy: Yeah. Sometimes I wonder about the answer to that question myself, even though it is my story and that it’s my lived experience. But it’s something that comes up so often when I speak with people on podcasts or do webinars or even I’m on the conference circuit in the payments industry. It’s kind of this interesting thing where I don’t have a standard background for being somebody who was in payments and in financial technology. I have a PhD from the University of Kansas that I earned five years ago, defended my dissertation with Honors. And my dissertation was on international rights policy, which doesn’t necessarily translate one to one into the payments industry. And I really had a hard time when I left academia trying to figure out where my place was in the world because I didn’t want to be a professor. I wanted to affect change in a positive way and I didn’t know what somebody with my skill set could really even do in the world around me.
And I did a lot of research and I was lucky enough to have people that when I reached out to them on LinkedIn, were willing to do informational interviews with me about what I was supposed to do with my life now that I was 27 and had a terminal degree and very of little what people would consider to be traditional work experience. Because a lot of times what you put yourself through when you go through academia and go through graduate school just doesn’t seem to ‘count’. And so I eventually landed on the idea that I operate at the intersection of strategy and insight and I applied for a ton of jobs on LinkedIn that just had the word ‘strategy’ in the job title. And I thought, “If I could get somewhere in that direction, then I can apply my skill set.”
And I was lucky enough to get a job here in the Kansas City metropolitan area, which is where I live at a payments company. They had just decided they were looking for someone smart and my resume said that to them. And that’s basically how I went out of the frying pan into the fire in the payments industry. I basically had to relearn everything. I don’t know if anybody who’s listening to this has ever just completely pivoted and had no idea what you were doing. And that was definitely me for the first six months that I was working at a company that’s now called Trevor Pay. It wasn’t called that at the time. And I remember I used to go in early every morning and I had multicolored postcards. Not postcards, the little flashcards cards.
I made myself multicolored flashcards of all of the different terms, acronyms, phrases, key players. Anytime I heard a word during my workday or in something that I was reading in payments publications that I didn’t know, I wrote it down on a flashcard and wrote the definition and adjacent information to it. And I just studied that for the first six months, that would be the first hour of my day was reading payments all locations and making flashcards and testing myself. It was like I went back to school, but at this desk.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah.
Dr. Angela Murphy: So that’s kind of how I got into the payments industry. I fell in love with it. It’s something that I want to keep doing. I now work at a startup based in Silicon Valley called Photon Commerce and work with probably one of my favorite people who is our founder and CEO. And we’re kind of payments nerds, it’s really all that we are. So it’s a long winded explanation of how I got to where I am now. But I really appreciate the experience I’ve had so far because it’s led me to this place where now, we’re talking about real time payments and the role of artificial intelligence and data in payments. And that’s something that’s on the cutting edge of basically everything that we do as people. And I’m really excited to dive more into it and just educate more people about it.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. Well it sounds exciting. And since you’ve mentioned photon commerce, we may as well tell folks who they are, what they do.
Dr. Angela Murphy: Of course. So Photon Commerce is a company that is based in California, in Silicon Valley where all of the payments nerds and technology nerds like to hang out in the world. And we use artificial intelligence to extract, understand, normalize, reconcile all things that are payments data. So that could be invoices, purchase orders, receipts, anything that has a cheque, remittances, anything that has to do with executing a payment, a bill if you’re a consumer.
And just being able to read that information using AI and natural language processing like a human would and do that in seconds instead of spending minutes or, heaven forbid, hours. Hand typing that information into whatever your system of record happens to be. And then adjacent to that core product is our instant payments product. So giving people and businesses the ability to schedule a payment for a bill or an invoice down to the minute. So giving you a better sense of your cash flow and better control over your cash flow, whether you’re a business or a consumer.
Melyssa Barrett: I love it. I love it. And that kind of gives us a nice segue into instant payments versus time payments. And I know you’re doing some work in this area specifically. So tell us a little bit, maybe you can define what that means and then maybe tell us a little bit about what you’re doing.
Dr. Angela Murphy: Absolutely. So, real time payments is something that is relatively new to the market in terms of payment modes. Most of the time when you think of an instant payment, it’s in terms of a Zelle or a Cash app or a Venmo, which is great because that happens instantaneously but there are limitations on the size of those transactions. They’re peer to peer and you don’t have the wide ranging applications that real time payments can have.
And so there are a couple of caveats there as well with real time payments. Real time payments are a separate payment rail. So I’m assuming that most of the people out here listening in podcast land might have heard the term ACH, automated clearing house, maybe. It’s basically a bank to bank transfer. So any time you transfer money from one bank account to another or you have your rent come out of your bank account or anything like that, it’s an ACH, an automated clearing house payment. And those payments can take anywhere from three days to 10 days to process appropriately just because banks are kind of slow. And that can create some pretty significant issues in terms of understanding what your cash flow is.
And I’m going to use a personal example in my life because I think that examples really help us understand the complexity of the payments ecosystem. So for my part, I have a bank account, the chequing account where my rent comes out of every month. And it’s an automatic payment, everything is normally fine. I’ve made on time rent payments my entire life or mortgage payments like most people here. And my bank, around the time that rent was due this month underwent a system upgrade. So they basically tried to make the technology that they used for online banking better for everyone that banks with them, which was fantastic but in doing so, they didn’t account for people who had ACH payments going out during the system upgrade.
So my rent was supposed to clear during the system upgrade and it froze and showed that I had NSF, non-sufficient funds. So it’s like getting a return cheque, you know you see those little signs when you go to the grocery store and it’s like, “We have to return your cheque, we’ll charge you $30.” That happens when you overdraft your bank account as well. And so they basically… I clearly had money in my bank account, it was supposed to come out on time, it didn’t come out on time. I got charged over a hundred dollars in fees because the payment was bouncing back and forth over the ACH rail between my banking institution and then the institution for my apartment complex, their bank. And it took seven days for everyone to figure out what was going on and then I physically had to go into my bank branch to fix the situation.
That is not a good user experience for anyone involved. So that’s the reality of how many people end up paying their bills right now, is through an ACH or through a cheque, which is manual, it takes forever. And then you really don’t have clarity in terms of where your cash is in your bank account. And so what real time payments can help us do is, now we have this separate rail. So think of normal train that you see on the train tracks that’s moving goods and coal that you know have to stop at in your car and a high speed bullet train in Japan. That’s the difference in terms of payments.
And so what the real time payments rails enable people and businesses to do is to schedule that payment down to the minute and then it instantly transfers. So from the minute that you say, “Push this payment to this entity,” the next minute, it’s in that entity’s bank account, which is super exciting and has wide ranging applications. I will also say that there are two entities involved in real time payments. They are both establishing their own network and rails. One is the Clearing House and the other one is the Fed. So the Clearing House has real time payments rails. The Fed also has real time payments rails, but they call them FedNow.
Basically both of them have the same application. It’s just two entities trying to encourage banks to adopt a new payment rail and make payments faster, better and cheaper. Because that’s what real time payments are supposed to be. So that’s kind of like high level what real time payments is, but nobody knows anything about it. So that’s why I wanted to come and talk on this podcast because I want more people to know about it and to think about how much easier their life would be if they could pay their bills when they want.
Melyssa Barrett: Right. Well, and it’s interesting to me because when we start talking about underserved markets and people who may not even have a chequing account right now and how to access affordable banking transactions. Affordable being the key word here. You talk about cheaper, faster but there’s a lot of people in the world still paying for cheque cashing and things of that nature. So when I think about it in the broadest sense, you start thinking about, “Wow, if you change the way people are able to do business and commercial entities and bring those costs down, we have the opportunity to actually bring in a whole new market of people that are underserved or unserved,” which is also pretty awesome.
Dr. Angela Murphy: I definitely agree with that. Think of underserved or under banked markets where maybe you are an hourly or a gig economy worker and you’re employing entity, whether you’re 1099 or not, can push your pay cheque to you at the end of your shift. So you get done with your shift, it’s an instantaneous payout either to your bank account, to a debit card, to whatever way you access your earnings. And it’s instantly there at the end of the day. And then you as somebody who is under banked or underserved, you could choose how you handle that money. It’s an incredible use case for this type of payments rail that’s so far reaching.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah, it’s awesome for all those comedians out there, you can get paid right after you get off stage like that. So now tell us a little bit about… I know we’re talking here and yes, there are tons of people who probably have no idea about the details of instant payments, real time payments, ACH. And then there are probably lots of people from different networks that I know that actually do know a lot about it. So tell us a little bit about what you’re doing to educate people about this experience and maybe what you need or what you’re trying to do.
Dr. Angela Murphy: Absolutely. So, a couple of the things that I’ve been involved in to try to expand education about these rails is I’m actually… No offense to all my banker friends out there. I’m trying to step around the bank education piece. I don’t think that that’s the best way to promote adoption of this type of payments rail. Banks are pretty slow to innovate and anytime that I’ve talked to a banker about real time payments and the applications within their technology stack and within their services or managed services for consumers or businesses, they just don’t seem excited about it. And then when I talk to individuals or I talk to end users, that’s when people say, “Oh, this could work for pushing payments to gig economy workers. This could work for one click bill, pay for that last mile when we all know we still get the paper bills from our doctor’s offices or the dentist or whoever and it’s really hard to pay that bill because you have to go log into some kind of strange portal.”
Well, maybe you could take a picture of it on your phone and upload that bill into your mobile banking app and then one click, bill pay. Push through a payment, your bill is paid and that bill itself is now associated with that transaction, your bank account. So when you click into the transaction, you can see exactly what you paid for. So for me, what I want to do is educate end users. And part of the reason that I think that this is important is because when PayPal was early days and the same thing with Square, neither one of them… And I believe that both of them are the founders of financial technology as we see it today, particularly in startup land. They weren’t talking to banks, they weren’t talking to traditional financial players. They were going directly to end users via eBay, via the iPad, via small business education.
And I think that that is the way that we drive adoption. It doesn’t necessarily have to be with those core players that have been in the ecosystem for such a long time. And so the two things that I am doing right now, one, is I have a webinar coming up in October, and that is with Peter Davey from The Clearing House, who is lovingly known in the industry as the Payments Jedi and also Ryan Gullum from Protiviti Solutions. And that webinar is on October 5th, which is a Wednesday, it’s 2:00 PM Central time. And on all of my socials, you can find the link to register, it’s free. It’s going to be just a round table discussion about some of what we’re talking about here on this podcast, but then also some additional use cases.
And then Peter’s going to be talking a little bit about how TCH is building out their rails, what they’re seeing in terms of adoption challenges to adoption. So if you’re somebody who is really into real time payments and a lot about it and just want to refresher or if you’re somebody who has no idea what this is, this is going to be a great entry point to educate on those different areas of interest and just to help people see what the possibilities are for this new payments rail system. And then beyond that, and this is something I actually haven’t asked for everybody who’s listening today, and Melyssa knows this is coming, I am currently… because I have my academia scholar person hat on. I am putting together an edited volume, a book about real time payments, the instant payments paradigm and I’m inviting contributors to submit chapters to this book.
So a lot of times in academia, for those of you who know, scholars will get together and they’ll create an edited collection of chapters around a particular topic. And so they bring experts in the industry together, they submit their chapters and then the collection itself becomes a reference. Sometimes it turns into a textbook, sometimes it is a great way to get multiple perspectives or global perspectives on an umbrella topic. And I thought, “Why not apply that to real time payments and instant payments?” Let’s give the people who are experts in different areas of the instant payments paradigm like fraud or treasury risk compliance. Let’s give these experts the chance to talk about the key issues around realtime payments and instant payments and then put them all in conversation with each other in a way that’s accessible to end users. That’s what’s key to me. I’m a storyteller and I’m hoping that’s coming out in some of the remarks today, especially when I’m talking about my rent getting totally messed up three weeks ago.
But that’s what I want this book to be. And so if you’re somebody out there who is an expert on FedNow, who’s an expert on TCH rails or real time payments, maybe ISO 20022 or cross border, I have an entire outline for this book already together. Melyssa has it in her inbox so if you feel more comfortable reaching out to her and asking for it, ask for the outline, send me an email, email@example.com and tell me what you want to talk about and let’s include your voices. I’m going to try to get this published in Q1 of 2023, which is a little bold, but why not?
Melyssa Barrett: Well, and I have a feeling because I have seen the outline that this will be the first edition. So my guess is there will be more editions coming because there is a lot that you have outlined in the book and I’m guessing the depth on what you have is going to expand.
Dr. Angela Murphy: I really hope it does, I really hope it does.
Melyssa Barrett: Let’s pause for a moment, we’ll be right back. Now tell everybody when I think… Now if you want to publish in first quarter, then I’m assuming you want to get the written chapters done fairly quickly.
Dr. Angela Murphy:
Yes. If I could have chapters in my inbox by the end of October, that would be awesome. I’m going to be attending Money 2020. I’m in the Rise Up program, I will be there for four days. So the goal is by the time that I get back from Money 2020 and Halloween arrives, that I will have multiple chapter drafts in my queue and I will get to go through there and make some revisions or suggestions and do kind of the revision compilation journey through November. And then send, have the full draft of the book in December to send that out to a couple of different entities for comments.
And then try to get it to in front of a publisher for self-publishing in January is the goal. So it’s like a month for each step. And that may be wildly ambitious. And if you’re listening to this and you think, “Oh girl, you need some help,” email me that too. Because this could be just some pie in the sky idea that’s never going to work, but I’m at least going to attempt it.
Melyssa Barrett: Well, that’s how we learn. We just do it and then we take all the lessons that we need as we go.
Dr. Angela Murphy: Exactly.
Melyssa Barrett: So that’s awesome. No, I think it’s a fantastic goal to have and whatever we can do to help, again, she mentioned if you want to reach out to me, if you want to reach out to Dr. Murphy directly, please feel free to do so. And I know there’s a lot of folks from the WNET Women’s Network for electronic transactions, from Visa, from MasterCard, Discover. There’s all these people that are out there listening. If you have a thought process, if you’re from a financial institution, if you’re… wherever you’re from, if you’ve got education to give, please feel free to reach out.
Dr. Angela Murphy: And it can be something that you published before, it could be a blog post or it could be something that is already put together from your institution or from your own personal work. It doesn’t need to be wholly original content. I’m trained to take what the best minds in the industry are saying and centralize it because not all of us have the time to read through 1500 pages of TCH documentation. Am I right?
Melyssa Barrett: You’re definitely right.
Dr. Angela Murphy: I mean, I did it, but I don’t recommend other people to.
Melyssa Barrett: Definitely right. And who wants to? No. But I love the fact that you don’t-
Dr. Angela Murphy: Don’t tell Peter Davey I said that.
Melyssa Barrett: But I think you’re interesting is that you’re really trying to make it something that is digestible for people that maybe aren’t fully steeped in it and really want to get involved, understand it, understand what those impacts are and then bring them to the world. And I actually think what’s interesting about your background… I know you say it’s not a one to one connection, but I would be remiss if I didn’t talk to you about your thesis and your doctorate on international rights.
Because in my view, when you start talking about finance and payments and technology, those are all areas where internationally, whatever your ethnicity or… everyone should have the right to engage and to thrive and to be affluent. And so I just love the fact that you’re bringing that into this space, that perspective that allows you to give in a way that maybe other people aren’t necessarily able to see.
Dr. Angela Murphy: Definitely, I appreciate that. Yeah, I didn’t really think about it this way, but I think in our conversations, Melyssa and even with the comments that you just made here, I think some of my understanding in terms of international policy and access and rights, it may be part of why I’m so passionate about this project in terms of real time payments. Because to me it feels like a crossover between policy and practice in a way that can challenge some of the socioeconomic limitations across race, gender, ethnicity, global place and space. I mean, I was just talking to someone last week… Melyssa, this might have been you, I’m not sure. But I was talking about what’s going on in Puerto Rico right now and the tragedy there in terms of lack of access to power and water that’s drinkable and part of that is also monetary.
How do you access your liquid resources as an individual if your financial institution is down because there is no power, how do you solve for that? And so my CEO and I have been talking about our core video and our core marketing video that we want to bring out to everybody here in the next month or so. And I was talking to him about the impact of being able to… if you’re somebody who has relatives that are in a different place than you are, and being able to send money to them instantly and have them be able to access that so they can purchase what they need to purchase or get access to things that they need to get access to.
And I think that that’s something that is really important to me, not just from what’s going on in Puerto Rico now, but it’s also come a little bit from my background and spending time in Western Africa and in Southern Africa as well, working with NGOs and nonprofits who are trying to give women access to capital and liquidity. And looking at how we can take this technology that we are building out and apply it to make the world better.
Melyssa Barrett: Yes. Yeah and that’s the key, right? I mean, at the end of the day, what are we here for, right? We want to leave this world better than we inherited it.
Dr. Angela Murphy: Exactly.
Melyssa Barrett: So that’s awesome. I mean, I love to hear that you guys are thinking along those lines and kudos to Photon commerce and the CEO there for the vision. So, any last thoughts about what we can do to help affect not only the book, but really just the shift as we think about payments and payment technology?
Dr. Angela Murphy: I think having a healthy level of curiosity about payments is something that could be great for everyone to have, whether you’re in a traditional financial institution or financial services provider or you’re simply thinking of it in terms of your daily life or you’re a startup who is trying to serve under banked and underserved individuals. Having a curiosity around access to liquidity and how we can use technology to not only provide that access, but then provide the data to help people make better informed financial and cash flow decisions, I think that that’s key. So having a healthy level of curiosity, asking those questions. As we’re all going out on the conference circuit as well, rather than focusing on crypto, let’s talk about things that can actually help people. And please, I don’t want all the people with their pitchforks and the crypto side of things to come after me.
But I think that there’s some more practical applications in terms of real time payments that as we’re all going out on the conference circuit, I want us to start having those dynamic conversations because that’s how we’re going to reach end users faster and transform this new payments paradigm more quickly. I don’t want to see this being adopted in 2024, I want people talking about it next year. I want people to be engaging in real time payments and to have traditional institutions see that there is demand for this and to find ways to incorporate it into their core offering.
Melyssa Barrett: I love it. I love it, this is awesome. Well, I feel like this is the first of many conversations.
Dr. Angela Murphy: I agree. You and I have so much to talk about all the time. So, anytime you want me to come back and talk about any of our 70 other topics, I’m always happy to.
Melyssa Barrett: Well, and shout out to WNET because I would not have met you had it not been for WNET.
Dr. Angela Murphy: I know.
Melyssa Barrett: So, we kind of have this connected passion for diversity, equity and inclusion. And I’ve just been so grateful to have you on my committee to help with all of that. So thank you so much for being here, Dr. Angela Murphy. And please do remind people how they can get in contact with you.
Dr. Angela Murphy: Yeah, absolutely. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find me on LinkedIn. I’ve started doing a lot more posts there that are educational in terms of real time payments. I also write for Coruzant Technologies and you can find some of my more personal projects at angeladmurphy.com.
Melyssa Barrett: Awesome. Well, thanks again for being here and the door is always open, so when you’re ready to come back and talk about the book or another wonderful topic, feel free to do so.
Dr. Angela Murphy: Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me, Melyssa.
Melyssa Barrett: Thanks for joining me on the Jali Podcast. Please subscribe so you won’t miss an episode. See you next week.