At Nvoicepay, a new president tackles B2B's most stubborn challenge: Going digital
Remote work hasn’t just moved people out of the office; in some cases it’s pushed entire B2B processes into disarray, requiring an almost total reimagining.
It’s hard for a transaction to become entirely digital after years of reliance on paper. For corporate billers, there are lines of filing cabinets, documents, bills and the transfers of thousands of pieces of paper among processors, suppliers, billing managers, executives and accountants. Even in a world of digital payments, at a business there’s still paper somewhere.
“I’ve been an accounting manager. I’ve supervised accounts payable teams. In my 20-plus year career I could not imagine an AP team working remotely,” said Josh Cyphers, Nvoicepay’s new president.
Cyphers, who had been vice president of product and strategy for Nvoicepay, takes over for Karla Friede, who Nvoicepay says is departing after 11 years to devote time to her work as an angel investor and board member. It's always daunting to take on a high-profile position — but the pandemic makes this a unique time to ascend to leadership.
The Portland, Ore.-based Nvoicepay now relies on remote meetings — nobody’s allowed to be in a room together. Speaking with CFOs at other firms, Cyphers said most companies have designated people to retrieve mail and to tend to paperwork that can’t be done digitally. These staff often rotate to keep the number of people on site as low as possible.
“It’s a challenging time for sure,” said Cyphers, a former CPA who has served in executive roles at Microsoft, Nike and several software companies. “Most companies have internal control processes that involve all people that use invoices in a building and have access to filing cabinets.”
Nvoicepay faces a field of competitors trying to automate business transactions, but also a market in which much of the payment process remains stubbornly manual. “When you’re validating stuff and moving stuff there are always elements of paper to engage with,” Cyphers said.
Companies are recognizing the need to go digital, Cyphers said, but the execution is more challenging than the concept. Housing accounts payable inside corporate offices is a way to secure the payments — to control the flow of documentation and funds inside an organization and to manage risk and liquidity. It’s harder to digitize these steps than it is to automate the presentment or transfer of funds.
The challenge pops up in small details, such as addressing mail. “How does a stamp signature work if everybody’s away and nobody has that stamp?” Cyphers said. “That’s an internal control that has to be moved out of the office. Who’s signing the checks and is it the right person?”
Before the pandemic, Nvoicepay expanded its range of tools to digitize business payments. It was acquired by FleetCor in 2019. That deal connected FleetCor’s Comdata data management and Cambridge B2B technology with Nvoicepay’s system — which captures a firm’s AP file and disburses funds in multiple formats such as checks, ACH, wire and other digital forms.
Just before Cyphers’ appointment, Nvoicepay entered a partnership with Beanworks, a Vancouver, B.C.-based firm that supports digital payment workflows for remote payment approvals. The integration is designed to address some of the manual processes related to approving transactions that have lingered in offices.
“That will be critical, and should make the whole onboarding and experience better,” Cyphers said.
Cyphers is taking the top job at Nvoicepay as other companies add technology to capture businesses that want to automate more of their billing and accounts payable. Bill.com has extended support and offered discounts. And Stripe in late June launched a billing portal, dashboard and options for pay with international bank debits to speed B2B payments through a SaaS model.
The Association for Financial Professionals estimates about half of businesses still use paper checks for about half of their B2B transactions, adding the migration to digital has leveled off — though these numbers predate the pandemic.
"There's a need and demand that is drawing a lot of technology into the market, there's a lot of mundane tasks that are still happening in the office," Cyphers said.