Five ways to help you talk payments with your CFO

As payments professionals, you see clearly the benefits of payments optimization.

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Céline Dufétel
March 11, 2024
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Five ways to help you talk payments with your CFO

As payments professionals, you see clearly the benefits of payments optimization. These include not-so-small matters such as increased revenue, decreased fraud, stronger customer loyalty, cost reductions from removing manual operations and optimizing fees. Why then, is it so hard to convince other stakeholders and business leaders of the return on investment in your payments strategy? Why do so many leaders, including your CFO, see payments as a utility, a commodity, and a cost center? Effectively communicating the business impact of payments, and persuading busy CFOs to invest in your payments strategy can be a challenge. You must clearly establish the problem, quantify the impact, and then discuss solution options with your CFO. 

I’ve been a CFO for a Fortune 500 Asset Management firm and then CFO, COO, and President of a global digital payments business,, here are my top five actionable tips for making a powerful business case to your CFO, and hopefully get you the approval and support for your payments strategy.

1. Quantify the revenue opportunity, correctly

While Acceptance Rates are a key data point and metric for you and your team, this metric will be less important to your CFO, and will be dwarfed by quantifying potential profit lost due to false declines. Therefore, my suggestion is to use Acceptance Rate data to present a compelling picture of exactly how much money is being left on the table.

An important but little talked about detail regarding Acceptance Rate data is how they are measured. Sadly, there is no industry standard, and different payments service providers (PSPs) may actually exclude different response codes from their calculation. This is important to note for two key reasons:

  1. Tailored numbers are skewed numbers, and while filtering out certain response codes can be very helpful in specific scenarios, it is always best to start with the whole picture, when trying to ascertain how much money could be left on the table. 
  2. When you remove certain variables, you miss out on crucial strategic information. For example, removing “insufficient funds” from your overall Acceptance Rates may seem a fair call in a performance discussion, but you miss opportunities to optimize since various retry methods could be within your control—like contacting customers and recommending they try an alternate method of payment.

Nuance aside, an uplift by a few percentage points can mean a significant boost in revenue. A company with revenues of $1 billion, with an uplift of just 0.5%, could see an increase of $5 million! 

Here at our diagnostic tools and technology have helped our customers increase online Acceptance Rates. In one case, by using Intelligent Acceptance, a prominent fintech merchant achieved 0.89% AR uplift which, in the scale of this particular business, equates to 97k transactions and $4.4m in recovered revenue in just the last seven days alone! Intelligent Acceptance uses sophisticated AI and is trained on more than 20 billion global network data points, to help improve Acceptance Rates.

The numbers are impressive and will get the attention of your CFO. For example, in only a matter of months, Intelligent Acceptance has protected more than $2 billion of additional revenue for our customers. What would a 0.5-1.0% uplift mean for your business’ revenue? That’s a number your CFO will care about and can form the headline for the business case at the heart of your payments strategy.


  • Determine how your PSP calculates Acceptance Rate
  • Get the entire data set for full analysis
  • Quantify the potential profit that is being left on the table due to false declines
  • Determine what is attainable by each of element of your payment strategy
  • Calculate the size of the revenue uplift opportunity for your business

2. Identify and explain the cost-reduction opportunities 

In addition to revenue and profit, your CFO conversations must include return on investment (ROI) analysis. Obvious statement, you can’t talk about ROI without talking about cost! In our recent survey of buyers in the payments space, the number one trigger for changing payments providers in 2023 was cost. 

We know that payments leaders place optimizing costs high on their list of priorities when looking at investing in payments. But sadly, too often, it's a complicated matter. Even with the transparency of an Interchange (IC ++) pricing model, and detailed payments knowledge, tracking the ups and downs of scheme and interchange fees can feel like an endless task. Forty-one percent of merchants don’t even receive a clear breakdown of their payments costs from their payments partner, so it’s no wonder that CFOs can struggle to understand the cost and pricing presented from your payments partner. 

Importantly, your payments partner should not only provide a detailed breakdown of costs but also help you optimize them. That’s a priority for us here at Reporting on individual transaction costs across the payment lifecycle allows our customers to identify card or transaction types that are pushing up their processing fees. It empowers them to calculate the cost vs reward on specific transactions.

Such a practice is imperative for online businesses that expect to sell globally. All too often, poorly optimized cross-border sales come with various expenses that have a significant impact on profit margins. Where card payment is involved, a key cost is interchange fees: without local acquiring, you’ll pay, on average, 1% to 3% more per cross-border transaction. To combat this you should consider routing payments locally through local card acquiring.

Other costs can be avoided if you are receiving highly granular response codes. These would help you to understand which transactions you can retry and which transactions would actually incur fees if you retried, so they’re a really important guide.


  • Get the full detail of costs from your payment partner
  • List interchange cost-saving opportunities and where local acquiring can save fees
  • Know how your payment partner plans to optimize your fees
  • Action a plan to avoid scheme costs such as incentive fees

3. Show how you’ll protect against Foreign Exchange (FX) fees and volatility while supporting cash flow

We can grab CFO's attention on the issue of FX and the impact on cash and liquidity management. data finds consumers are keen to pay in their local currency when shopping cross-border. However, allowing customers to pay in local currency can be incredibly expensive if businesses cannot settle in the same currency. We must consider that the transaction has to happen between consumer and PSP and again between PSP and merchant. And it has to happen all over again in reverse where refunds are processed. Even incremental FX cost increases can force businesses to realize less revenue or pass costs on to customers.

Any company trading internationally can benefit from close examination of FX, in one extreme case, our merchants’ FX costs have decreased by 400% since switching to us from previous payments providers. This was achieved as they were able to take advantage of over 150 supported processing currencies while also being able to settle in their commonly preferred currencies. These capabilities allow them to minimize foreign exchange costs in their most important markets. 

In another case, took advantage of’s Scheme Rates to bring calculations used for handling clients’ transactions to a better accuracy level. Thanks to this, their customers were able to see more realistic FX rates when initiating a transaction, greatly improving their user experience. There is now far less risk of a transaction going into a loss because of incorrect exchange rates. Overall, this means increased volumes of transactions and revenue.

FX volatility is ever-present. While domestic payments often settle in a day, international transactions (without local acquiring) can take up to five days to settle. And that can leave a business vulnerable to market fluctuations. Again, local acquiring can radically cut your settlement times and reduce volatility exposure. This is a good news story for your finance and treasury teams because it secures cash flow and liquidity. It locks in greater predictability, which may remove the need to turn to expensive short-term funding solutions to plug any gaps. Gaps that your CFO hates!


  • Study your common currency pairings and stack rank them
  • Discuss local acquiring opportunities with your PSP and/or evaluate other payment providers in certain markets
  • Map any planned optimization of transactions and the impact on settlement and FX fees
  • Highlight the importance of faster settlement times and if possible, model any improvement in cash flow predictability and control

4. Highlight the need for stronger fraud protection and regulatory compliance

Sixty-six percent of CFOs report being concerned about upcoming payments regulation mainly due to the fact that failure to keep up with these regulatory evolutions, can result in fines or legal challenges. It's a difficult area because the sophistication of fraudulent attacks, and the rules set up to defend against fraud, are evolving constantly. 

It will be an important criterion in a CFO checklist, that the payment strategy you choose, is powered by a partner that puts compliance at the front and center of their solution, everywhere they operate, not just in their home or core market.

Payments professionals intuitively know there’s a balance between risk and reward when identifying which transactions to block. Modern payment systems make this balancing act much easier by applying AI and machine learning—ensuring genuine customer payments can be identified and accepted, while fraud is accurately blocked. This means reducing financial losses from lost revenue as well as from fines, chargebacks, and disputes. And because fraud is such a dynamic issue, something like shadow mode testing—which allows you to test and validate rules before deploying—can be very useful for ensuring the best results. It's exactly what we had in mind when we built Fraud Detection Pro, allowing businesses to test and iterate for peak performance without impacting their customers.


  • Detail how your PSP manages compliance and how they will keep you updated on regulatory changes
  • Test and fine-tune your fraud strategy to reach optimal performance
  • Use AI and machine learning to optimize the risk / reward equation of your payments
  • Regularly review fraud monitoring tools

5. Position payments strategy at the heart of broader business objectives 

With all the basics in place, it's time to demonstrate the wider strategic advantage of better payments. Payments technology has transformed sectors like ride-hailing or food delivery, leading to new business models and enhanced user experience. Too often, payments systems are the last thought in delivering optimum user experience. However, they are often the most restrictive and constrained parts of the process. Businesses wanting to deliver optimum user experiences should consider the payment process first, then build the software experience around it. And those doing just that, have unlocked smart new payment models for the world’s most successful businesses. Can you identify how payments innovation will meet or even shape your company’s growth strategy? Have you assessed all of the companies stakeholder requirements for desired or target customer experience.

Obviously, demonstrating an investment’s value across various teams makes it more compelling— and given that your payments strategy impacts so many of your colleagues, it’s arguably more important for payment leaders to build a broad base of support.. From experience, I can tell you that when your CFO sees broad base support, it will help them support your payments strategy as they recognize the potential for significant impact across the business. 

Engaging other departments like Treasury, Marketing, Sales, and IT to gather insights on how payments optimization can benefit their functions (because it can!), creates a holistic business case where the impact of one change multiplies across functions.

We often engage with teams who are looking to expand into new markets (expansion to new markets was the number two driver for payments leaders seeking new PSPs in 2023) or who are consolidating their payments platform following acquisition. These initiatives are likely to be very high on your CFOs priority list. They will often carry KPIs or targets around expansion and / or deliver the revenue and cost synergies from acquisition investments.


  • Ladder the company strategy throughout your payment strategy
  • Connect with a list of stakeholders in the organization who impact customer experience
  • Map how the payment journey affects the target customer experience
  • Look for expansion or integration efforts that you can accelerate and quantify the impact
  • Where possible, qualify the impact in People, Money or Time that your payment strategy will have on other teams

Find a partner that helps you build your business case - with all parties, including your CFO!

We believe that payments have a huge impact on business. Of course, without it, you cannot collect revenues for the brilliant things your company does. A holistic payments strategy can accelerate the goals of your business - expansion, realization of M&A synergies, delivery of the target customer experience AND it can deliver a reduced cost footprint and safeguard you against fraud. It’s an ever- changing world, yes. But one thing is for sure, the right payments strategy grows your business and it’s imperative that your CFO and business leaders across your organization understand and support the goals of your payment strategy.

Your payments partner should help your drive alignment in your strategy. It starts with providing you with the data that helps you quantify ROI and build your business case. Your payments partner will be able to support you in delivering the right pitch to the CFO - one based on actionable insights. 

CFOs are all wonderful people (!). They care about the top line, bottom line, profit, cash and ultimately growth of your business. A well devised and articulated payments strategy, will help form a real partnership with your CFO. We hope this checklist is just one little helpful step towards that partnership.

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March 11, 2024 15:00
March 11, 2024 15:00