Annual Outlooks

Click links below to access 2021 Outlook Documents:


2021 Outlook: U.S. Payments

The judgment to make about the pressure exerted by the COVID-19 virus on the U.S. payments business hinges not only on which changes are important, but which changes are permanent, or portend permanent developments beyond their implementation. The virus affected much, but from the standpoint of payments professionals it acted as an accelerant to processes and trends that were already in place.

Each year, Mercator Advisory Group discusses top trends anticipated for the coming year or two in an Outlook by each of the practices except for Primary Data. The present document summarizes those Outlooks in the context of the larger themes we are studying in 2021.


2021 Outlook: Commercial and Enterprise Payments

Automation of financial operations is the primary focus.

In a tumultuous year, the financial services industry has done a very good job of keeping their organizations focused on clients, whose priorities are rapidly evolving to digital first.


2021 Outlook: Credit

Thanks to adequate government support, delinquency metrics remain strong, with plenty of loss reserves in bank coffers. The first half of 2021 is a critical time for regulators to position consumers and lenders for a successful recovery.

The effects of COVID-19 will extend deep into the current decade, as the world awaits a solution for the global health crisis, and an effective plan to help businesses and consumers get back to normal, or at least a new normal.


2021 Outlook: Debit and Alternative Products

The events following the onset of the global pandemic helped to crystalize consumer attitudes regarding payment habits.

The progression of digital payments, contactless options and the momentum achieved by faster and real-time payments shone a light on the path these payment types would take as they leapfrogged in development and use by two to three years in the span of just a few months. The pandemic gave users a reason, beyond technology for the sake of technology, to adopt these payments.

2021 Outlook: Emerging Technologies

Faster adoption of API’s, PaaS, Cloud, and other technologies is driven by the shift in consumer behavior and by investments and acquisitions of fintechs.

The pandemic has shifted consumer behavior, and as a result operations of financial institutions must also shift. Processors, networks, and financial institutions are making decisions to either add more online oriented technology partners for key functions or to fully embrace the cloud. These decisions may slow the adoption of technologies that are not central to this dilemma.

2021 Outlook: Merchant Services

Online is king and digital ways reign.

Five years compressed into one. That’s how Mercator Advisory Group estimates the accelerated pace of online sales growth brought on by COVID-19’s impact on merchants in 2020. The stay-at-home lifestyle has transformed the scene at most Main Streets and malls into empty storefronts and silent restaurants. As essential retailers, groceries and big box stores have thrived, but they also owe their success to having pivoted smartly to e-commerce at a rate and scale that ensured their survival. Post-pandemic era merchants will leverage digital ordering, payment, and fulfillment as preferred ways to engage and maintain their customers. As the calendar turns to 2021, this Merchant Services Outlook peers into the future, looking for what proactive merchants and their payments partners should do to increase their chances of success.

2021 Outlook: Prepaid


COVID changes everything, with the government and EWA leading the way.

While the effects of the CFPB’s Prepaid Rules in 2019 in no way constitute a minor event, their overall impacts have been buffered by the advent of the COVID-19 virus, impacting each segment of the prepaid business in the U.S. This report gauges those effects and seeks to explore the prepaid landscape post-pandemic.