ACI Worldwide has launched the ACI Universal Payments Platform, throwing its hat into a busy ring of companies building technology to allow financial institutions, processors and retailers to keep up with the nimble startups and other factors that are reshaping the payments industry.

"It allows us to become much more scalable and combine capabilities much faster than before," said Scott Fitzgerald, vice president and head of marketing for ACI Worldwide, in an interview ahead of the product's April 22 launch at Nacha's Payments 2013 conference.

The Universal Payments Platform automates processing for a range of payment types, channels, currencies and networks.

"We see a lot of those kinds of payments emerging, person-to-person and mobile acceptance," Fitzgerald said. "If you look at the payment space now, you can see how quickly new entrants are expanding and making new announcements. They are moving on this space."

ACI hopes to sell banks and other clients on the speed at which they can apply updates. ACI's new technology includes prebuilt templates to allow adjustments to a company's payment structures.

ACI counts more than 1,750 financial institutions and retailers among its clients. The company also enables $13 trillion each day in payments and processes transactions for more than 255 of the world's largest retailers and 18 of the world's largest banks.

"Companies are looking for ways to allow people to move money around, and there is a latent need for innovation," Fitzgerald said.

Financial services technology providers and payment processors are chasing an opportunity to enable financial institutions to compete with startups like Square, adopt payments tied to social networking and dig deeper into mobile technology.

Several other vendors are also unveiling recent updates made to their payments technology.

Fiserv has rebranded its Accel payments network to reflect work designed to integrate its Popmoney person-to-person payments and SpotPay mobile card acceptance system.

"We get a lot of feedback on Popmoney, and one of the things we are hearing is, people have a desire to move money more quickly," says Tom Roberts, senior vice president of marketing for Fiserv. There is also a desire "to design around certain use cases, such as emerging payments."

In other examples, First Data recently updated its card management system to reduce upfront deployment to add new payments. Heartland Payment Systems and LevelUp extended their mobile-payment partnership and Fidelity National Information Services has updated its person-to-person technology to emphasize speed.

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