U.S. Bancorp, which is frequently an early mover in payments technology, is upgrading its approach to business payments.
"We are trying to simplify what I would say has historically been a more complex environment that would take a large amount of IT resources for businesses," says Kurt Adams, president of U.S. Bank's Corporate Payments Systems. That group offers corporate, government, purchasing, fleet and aviation cards, as well as business-to-business payments. Health care payments also fall under the department's umbrella.
The bank's efforts include the July deployment of a payment application that allows clients to integrate enterprise resource planning software from SAP with the bank's payment origination service. SAP's Consolidated Payables Link for U.S. Bank is designed to process business payments faster and in more consistent manner for companies using different payment types.
"The client can consolidate a payables file for all payment types rather than have the need to develop disparate file formats," Adams says. "One of our biggest initiatives is to approach our corporate clients with less of a one-off product solution."
U.S. Bank did not disclose the uptake for the new SAP service. The SAP deployment is part of a larger project at U.S. Bank to streamline corporate and business-to-business payments, since many of the bank's clients use more than one of its payment types or channels.
"On one end the business has cash, ACH, checks and card, and they may also be moving from cards into a virtual solution. That is really the spectrum that we are bringing together, a connection of traditional treasury management products along with commercial payment products and new technology that allows businesses to transact any way their customer wants," Adams says.
U.S. Bank is the first bank to deploy SAP's downloadable consolidated payments application, which can be downloaded from the SAP service marketplace. "The client can configure that app to the version of SAP they are already running," Adams says.
The U.S. Bank SAP system executes transactions from the paying business. The payment file is sent directly from the SAP system to U.S. Bank for executionincluding ACH, wire, check and cardless payment accounts. U.S. Bank then separates the different payment types and processes them accordingly.
The bank then transmits payment information back to the business' SAP system, automatically updating positive pay services and reconciliation files. The reconciliation files are made available to the business, and that business' payment dashboard is automatically updated.
"We are making this easy to just simply map a payment capability to a system that the client has already installed," Adams says.
U.S. Bank has also launched a new electronic "precise pay" option that allows suppliers to authorize the exact amount of intended payments. If the supplier's authorization matches a payment, the transaction is processed, with an auto-reconciliation for payments that don't match the buyer's payment instruction.
"The buyer gains much more control over the payables process than they would have the manual reconciliation," Adams says. "We're trying to put more capabilities into the hands of the buyer."
Other companies are also bringing automation to corporate payments, where market-wide uptake of technology has traditionally trailed consumer payments. Bill.com, which offers a "command" center dashboard that tracks payments due and incoming for businessesand plugs its business payments technology into its bank clients' small business softwarerecently introduced a new security checkpoint system. And Citigroup recently added Turkey and other nearby countries to its corporate payment platform.