Fintechs launch a fresh attack on the paper in B2B payments

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Like plucking thorns off a flower one by one, Nvoicepay has incrementally built an automated B2B payments chain, this week turning directly to the guts of corporate technology to wring out lingering old-school processing techniques.

Nvoicepay on Tuesday announced collaboration with Inspyrus, a San Francisco-based company, to build a joint product called Inspyrus Total Pay. The companies will try to take advantage of Inpyrus' integrated links to enterprise resource planning systems that control most of the market, including systems from Oracle, SAP, IBM, JD Edwards, PeopleSoft and ERP Cloud.

"Procure-to-pay is mostly procure-to-get-ready-to-pay," said Karla Friede, CEO and co-founder of the Beaverton, Ore.-based Nvoicepay. "The invoice is digital, but then it goes into the accounting system, and that goes back into paper."

Nvoicepay is part of a race among technology companies pouring investment into B2B automation technology, giving the vendor hefty competition as it chases the "last mile" of business payments automation.

"There's a lot of investment going into that space," said Steve Murphy, a director at Mercator Advisory Group.

Mastercard has made an investment in B2B payments technology in Asia, where 90% of business payments are still made in cash—checks aren't even on the radar.

AvidXchange recently attracted a $300 million from Peter Thiel, Mastercard and other investors to expand its B2B automation business. Mastercard is working with AvidXchange to build a B2B hub to produce innovation to streamline accounts payable.

Ariba has also expanded its procurement technology, partnering with companies like McGraw Hill to expand digital B2B payments.

"AvidXchange started out a decade ago in invoicing but has expanded into payables and procurement to create an end-to-end solution," Murphy said.

Nvoicepay and Inspyrus are directly targeting ERP integration. The companies contend these integrations can make it easier to automate different payment types—such as checks, email attachments, web transfers, or electronic data interface—then transmit the information from the payment directly to the ERP system, removing the intermediate steps often required to match a payment to the accounting, sales, inventory, planning and purchase records that are contained in the ERP.

"For example, we have an approval workflow for payments," said Nilay Banker, founder and CEO of Inspyrus. "Traditionally, that sort of thing is typically done by a paper document. Someone runs down a hallway with a paper to find the right person to approve a payment. Through this workflow that's all done electronically and in real time."

The shared product's addressable market covers more than 30 countries and includes Nvoicepay's network of 500,000 suppliers and Inspyrus' clients, which include Amazon, Verifone and Salesforce.

For Nvoicepay, it's another brick in its attempt to build a fully integrated process that goes beyond the delivery of the invoice. Business payments automation efforts have been sluggish and long-lasting, dating to initiatives such as the Remittance Coalition, a working group with Nacha and some payment technology executives that formed three years ago to make B2B payments less paper-intensive.

Nvoicepay has entered partnerships and strategically built technology to address specific challenges to bringing payments technology to businesses. Nvoicepay has hosted a cloud platform for four years, and more recently added P2P-style communication to payments between business parties.

Another partnership with Viewpoint late last year was designed to improve automation for construction industry payments, again via an integration with ERP systems. Nvoicepay reports payment volume on its network is expanding at an annual rate of 105%. Industrywide progress toward automated B2B payments is slow. Nacha reports half of business payments are still made by check, a number that's expected to decline to about 33% by 2020.

"Getting to ERP saves a lot of time and improves control and visibility to the users," Friede said. "It's disruptive and a next-gen solution."

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B-to-B payments