Real-time payments (RTP), the emerging standard in U.S. billing and payment processing, continues to gain traction among businesses, with nine out of 10 business leaders reporting interest in the network, according to Citizens Commercial Banking’s second annual Real-Time Payments Outlook.

The nationwide survey of 252 corporate decision-makers found that only 9% currently have no plans to implement RTP, which is the biggest upgrade to the U.S. payments system since the Automated Clearing House (ACH) in 1974.

“I’m encouraged to see the level of interest in real-time payments because it offers such tremendous advantages to businesses in terms of speed and certainty of payments,” Matt Richardson, head of product solutions at Citizens, said.

Customers using the RTP network can make payments electronically and the funds instantaneously move from one account to another. Information about the transaction also travels with the funds, so recipients know where the money is coming from and why.

A bank’s ability to provide RTP was cited by survey respondents as the second-most important determining factor in choosing a banking partner, ranking right behind a bank’s ability to provide solutions throughout the business lifecycle. In fact, RTP solutions were ranked as a more important service than knowledge or expertise in the business’ industry or the lowest-cost financing.

When respondents were asked to name the ways in which they anticipated using RTP, the two most commonly cited applications were to manage cash flow more accurately (cited by 52% of respondents) and to conduct general accounts payable activities (46%). Other common uses included payroll (43%), to facilitate payments requiring immediate receipt (42%), and to improve collection activity and posting to clients’ accounts (40%). Another common use, cited by 38% of respondents, was to replace check payments.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • 81% of respondents expect RTP to dramatically transform the way business is done.
  • 77% of respondents agree that digital currency will play a valuable role in the future.
  • 66% of respondents expect that they will stop making or accepting payments with cash or paper checks.

“The pandemic has disrupted many businesses and exposed the downsides to relying on paper payments,” Richardson said. “We will continue to support omni-channel solutions and serve our clients however they need us, but the crisis has demonstrated how resilient and reliable digital payment methods can be and has prompted many businesses to redouble their efforts to digitize their payments.”

The survey sampled a range of businesses in different sectors with annual revenue of $1 million to $25 million (32%), $25 million to $100 million (18%) and more than $100 million (50%). It was conducted in June 2020.