Corporates need to 'be like Venmo' to boost e-payments

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CFOs want an electronic payments provider who understands how to make their lives easier and more pleasant, even more than they want one that saves them money, has a good standing or makes payments safer.

Payments processing companies, and the banks and fintech startups that also play in this space, absolutely need to have the technology innovation to make it easier, faster and simpler for companies to optimize their financial supply chain through electronic payments.

In 2018, digital payments is the new norm—almost three quarters of the folks we interviewed for our Payments Pulse survey said they’ve adopted an electronic payables paperless strategy for their companies, and almost all of those who are considering doing so are working to launch one in the next six to 12 months.

Two responses to our survey of CFOs were particularly telling: 82% said that “process improvement” had motivated or would motivate their company’s switch to an electronic payables initiative—more so than environmental concerns, reduced operational costs or security. Additionally, “overall user experience” influenced their payments platform decision more than any other consideration, including reporting analytics, speed of reconciliation and the vendor’s reputation within the industry.
But the largest imperative for in 2018 and beyond is to maximize buyer and supplier engagement by demonstrating that we understand what’s important to them. This can be done by “personalizing” the payments solutions.

Just look at Venmo, the mobile payments app that owes its spectacular rise to the allure of its very personal and often hilarious social feed. Sure, it’s for consumer payments, but what if we brought some of that same simplicity into corporate payments?

Consumers have come to expect this of transactions. John Rainey, CFO of PayPal and Venmo, recently told the Wall Street Journal: “People have to have a value proposition to switch whatever they’re doing. It’s important to make [electronic payments] a more frictionless experience.”

The fact that 79% of the CFOs we surveyed say they are still using checks to process payments indicates that we still have some work to do on creating an electronics payments experience for corporations. An earlier study from the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) corroborates this, finding that checks continue to be used for the majority of B-to-B transactions.

Approximately 70% of those companies that still pay their vendors and suppliers with checks told the AFP that it’s because there’s a lack of integration between their electronic payments and accounting systems.

While multiple solutions already exist to help businesses integrate the full gamut of their payment processing, accommodating vendors and suppliers of different sizes and sophistication, most payments processing companies are still delivering one-size-fits-all solutions rather than tailoring them to a company’s unique needs. In the years to come, we can expect more companies to step up their efforts to engage with their customers through digital payments.

Many will look to design thinking to differentiate user experiences with things like customizable analytics platforms that give you a holistic view of where your company spends money, on what and with which vendors. They will conduct transactions with technologies that recognize unique fingerprints, palms, retinas or faces. They will offer a modality-agnostic framework that streamlines payment execution by providing complete transparency and accountability to all supplier payments, including virtual account, ACH and check. In the process, they will reframe their offering as a strategic platform with the potential to drive bottom-line and top-line value for a business.

The most satisfying corporate payment solutions will be bespoke—co-created with a client. They will demonstrate an understanding of a company’s entire financial supply chain and of the people whose lives will be made better by the solution it offers.

That’s what the CFOs are trying to tell us, and we should listen.

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