Electronic payments up 5% in 2014
HERNDON, Va. — In 2014, ACH (automated clearing house) volume grew to almost 23 billion electronic payments, an increase of almost 5%, or 1 billion transactions, from 2013 volume. According to new statistics released by NACHA — The Electronic Payments Association, a total of more than $40 trillion was transferred via NACHA’s ACH Network in 2014, increasing more than 3% compared to 2013.
Reflecting the industry’s continued adoption and use of electronic payments, native electronic payments, or transactions that start and end as electronic, constituted 90% of ACH Network volume. In 2014, there were more than 16 billion native electronic payments, up 6.3% from 2013.
Specific categories of native electronic payments that saw significant growth in 2014 include online payments (Web transactions), business-to-business payments, and recurring payments such as direct deposit via ACH.
Web debit or credit payments made when authorization is provided via the Internet or a wireless network grew 10.2% in 2014. A total of 3.6 billion Web transactions were exchanged via the ACH Network in 2014. In total, Web transactions accounted for almost 20% of ACH Network volume.
In 2014, the ACH Network processed a total of 2.7 billion business-to-business transactions. This was an increase of 7.3% from 2013.
Recurring payments, which account for almost half of total ACH Network volume, grew by 4.4% in 2014. Direct deposit via ACH increased 3.6% from 2013.
In celebration of founder’s legacy, Publix organizes #PublixServes event
LAKELAND, Fla. — More than 4,000 Publix associates across the company’s six operating states will be volunteering Friday with more than 125 local nonprofit organizations whose focus is on youth, education and/or the plight of the hungry and homeless.
In the company’s first organized annual day of service, associates will be giving of their time and talents along with $1,000 — plus $85 for their anniversary — per district. The funds will help purchase items needed for food pantries, soup kitchens, backpack programs, beautification efforts and reading libraries just to name a few. See the activity by following the hashtag #PublixServes.
— Jenny A Harvey (@Jharv1972) April 17, 2015
The company launched Publix Serves earlier this month as its community program that unites its more than 175,000 associates in community service efforts.
“Publix Serves celebrates our associates and embraces our communities. We’re thrilled to have more than 4,000 associates volunteering today in the communities we serve,” said Maria Brous, director of media and community relations. “Community service is ingrained in our culture – it’s who we are. We serve our customers in our stores; we serve each other and our communities in times of need. There is nothing more gratifying than to hear and see the impact our associates make in our communities each and every day.”
Publix celebrates its 85th anniversary this year and is sharing with associates and customers lessons from their founder, George Jenkins. April’s lesson is Give Back. Jenkins was once asked how much he thought he would be worth if he hadn’t given so much away. Without hesitation he responded, “Probably nothing.” He believed in the importance of giving, and he set the example for being involved in the community. He felt giving back was an investment, a responsibility and a privilege.
Walgreens Boots Alliance has promising plan for future, analyst says
NEW YORK – Despite the recent 3% decline in share prices of Walgreens Boots Alliance following its analyst day – shares opened at $89.23 Friday morning, down $2.74 from Tuesday's close – there is a lot of potential upside for the three-month-old company, William Blair analyst Mark Miller suggested in a research note published Friday. "We maintain our Outperform rating and EPS estimates of $3.70 and $4.35 in fiscal 2015 and 2016, respectively," he said. "Our calendar 2016 projection is $4.50, rising to $6.00-plus in 2018. Given the challenges to find this type of growth among large-cap consumer and healthcare companies, we believe investors could frame a higher-teens multiple over the next 18 to 24 months."
Miller's projected EPS performance for fiscal 2015 exceeds WBA's guidance of between $3.45 and $3.65, but his fiscal 2016 projection falls in the middle of WBA's goal of between $4.25 and $4.60 for that year.
But the fact that WBA appears willing to substantially to evolve its business model and its increased engagement with payers are promising developments following the company's two-day analyst day. "Management said the right things about improving operations, and now the organization needs to execute against those aspirations," Miller wrote. "While some investors were disappointed by the absence of hard financial targets, we believe the team likely will get the benefit of the doubt based on the strong track record of Alliance Boots."
One of the changes WBA plans to implement across its U.S. store base is an improvement in front-end margins, something that is benefited by owned brands like No7 and simpler offers such as "3 for 2" and "5 times points." "Over the intermediate term, we perceive the company should be able to better use data from the Balance Rewards program, as it has effectively done with Boots in the United Kingdom," Miller added.
Better utilizing its Balance Rewards program to enhance personalized offer capabilities and to improve the frequency of transactions among the company's most valuable customers were some key themes emphasized by WBA executives over the course of the analyst meeting. It's especially key, noted Ken Murphy, Walgreens Boots Alliance EVP and president of global brands, because the digital channel has placed tremendous pressure on any pricing model by making prices transparent across channels and, because of the immediacy of delivery expected by digital consumers, it's a more expensive channel to serve.
Murphy identified six trends concerning customers' changing behaviors: authenticity ("If you don't stand for something you quickly become irrelevant."), brand me (personalized service), convenience (today and in the future, convenience will be measured in one hour or less), global village (products are travelling the world faster than ever before), cool austerity ("A Dollar General bag is now a badge of honor … you cannot insult the customer on price.") and always on (retailers need to be connected and online no matter the time of day because consumers take a zero tolerance policy against poor retail experience).
To help differentiate Walgreens, Murphy noted that WBA will be focused on being first to market and featuring product exclusives as long as possible.
Across the back-end, WBA acknowledged several headwinds facing the company, including pressure on pharmacy reimbursement and the growth of restricted networks. "In response, the company has a new mindset toward broadening access, untethered from a historical, singular focus on gross profit per script," Miller said. "While pharmacy margins may trend lower, the company aims to improve integration with marketing and operations to increase conversion once Walgreens is part of a pharmacy plan."
Increasing patient exposure to Walgreens' services was another key theme from WBA executives during the meeting. "The reality is we're no longer No. 1 in pharmacy volume," noted Alex Gourlay EVP Walgreens Boots Alliance and president Walgreens. "Nobody here is OK with that," he added. Gourlay said Walgreens' most important customer today is the baby boomer – they spend four-times more in the pharmacy and represent 64% of front-end sales.
Walgreens Boots Alliance's Jeffrey Berkowitz, EVP and president of pharma and global market access, identified three pressure points impacting profitable access. There is the cost of pharmaceuticals and generic penetration with the slowing down of the generic wave; there is pure reimbursement pressure from governement and a consolidating payer market that is fast becoming "the new normal"; and there is a shift in the pools of access.
To adress these pressure points, WBA will be focusing on increasing access across four segments: Medicare Part D, commercial, Medicaid/cash and health exchanges. "Our payers are already viewing our evolving approach with optimism," Berkowitz said.
"Walgreens is a great company with incredible assets and a solid foundation," Gourlay said. "We're just getting started."
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