Fiserv is betting its bank network and a user-friendly interface can make electronic payments appealing to small businesses, a frustratingly hard segment to reach with transaction automation.

"We feel this segment is underserved right now. These organizations have not had access to what I would call a feature-rich bill presentment system and have not had the ability to send electronic invoices," says Paul Harrison, senior vice president of bill solutions for Fiserv.

To plug what it sees as a technology hole, Fiserv has launched Biller Advantage last week. The product, which is targeting businesses that send between 2,000 and 500,000 bills each month, is designed to allow companies to send bills and accept payments through channels such as their website, mobile site, automated phone system or customer service center.

Typical offerings in the digital billing market have been too complex for smaller businesses to maintain, Harrison says. Small businesses have long been lost between larger businesses and consumers when it comes to financial services technology.

"While many [small-business] systems have the ability to take electronic payments in a rudimentary way, they haven't had the ability to offer a rich payment capability, where they can take debit, credit, ACH and other methods of payment, along with fraud control, recurring payments, and the other stuff you would do with a feature-rich system," Harrison says.

Biller Advantage enables billers to configure their own specifications, including payment limits, payment types, and methods of payment the biller will accept. Billers can also decide to charge fees; support one-time, future, recurring and auto payment options; and distribute electronic bills, customer alerts and reminders. Fiserv will soon extend the product to in-store payments for utility bills and other recurring expenses.

There's also a self-service dashboard that enables billers to deploy the product in a few days and make changes without using IT resources. These features are designed for users without a lot of technical expertise, Harrison says.

Fiserv will offer Biller Advantage directly to businesses, and will sell it through partners and its 9,000 financial services clients.

"It can be challenging to sell a payments solution directly to each business, though that can be aided by offering the product through banks," Harrison says. "We view this as an add-on product for banks to offer to their clients, to provide the bank with a recurring revenue stream."

Other companies that target the small-business billing space include Bill.com, Vantiv and Western Union.

There should be substantial market for small-business billing products, since the segment is underserved, says David Albertazzi, a senior analyst at Aite Group.

"These businesses are either looking to get an online presence because they don't have one, or are looking to get paid faster," he says. "There's an opportunity here for the tech vendors, especially the bill pay vendors or vendors that have an electronic billing and payment solution."

Fiserv's network of financial clients should prove useful, Albertazzi says.

"There aren't a lot of players that are using resellers to engage with small businesses in this way," he says. "It can be expensive to engage with all of those small businesses. You can't have boots on the ground and go knocking on all of their doors."

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