B2B Payments

Bottomline: E-Payments A B2B Boon For Banks (And Everyone Else)

Last week, Bottomline Technologies struck a deal with Fifth Third Bank to bring the latter into its Paymode-X electronic payments network. Since a 2010 launch (via an acquisition from Bank of America) , the Paymode-X platform now hosts more than 300,000 members. PYMNTS caught up with Jessica Moran, general manager of Cloud Payment Solutions for Bottomline Technologies, to get a sense of how the cloud helps transition payments to the electronic age.

PYMNTS: What are features of Paymode-X that might be most readily used for B2B payments – and by a bank, or any financial institution, such as Fifth Third?

JM: Generally speaking, Paymode-X insures that enterprises pay and get paid, and on the accounts payable side we recognize that there’s still an inefficient way of doing business, which is of course still by paper checks. But through a network of more than 300,000 institutions, large and small, Paymode-X is able to drive costs down, and bring rebates back to the accounts payable side of the equation – and in effect, what has traditionally been a cost center can now become a revenue stream.

One of the things that we do is make sure that in the relationship between the payer and the vendor we do all the work, as we keep the bank info, we keep the vendor data, and we keep all of it secure. There’s been, in the last couple of years, a tremendous focus on vendor value, on technology that makes sure that payments are faster, that there’s detailed remittance, checking when payments are made, and also how B2B participants can share documents, such as W-9.

For financial institutions, where Paymode-X has had and continues to have relationships with companies like Bank of America, Citizen’s and now Fifth Third, the usefulness comes as they can integrate the payments system directly into their treasury operations and into their technology suites. And that allows for the new revenue stream I just mentioned, alongside the ability to integrate more closely with their customers.

Consider the fact that, especially for financial institutions, inefficiencies can come with paper payments and checks. It’s been estimated that it costs $3 per transaction with checks, and with ACH, a range of 25 cents to 50 cents. That’s a significant cost savings when moving to an electronic systems for vendor payments. On the accounts payable side, in addition to cost savings, there’s the added benefit of ongoing rebates and cash back.

PYMNTS: What about ever-present concerns about security?

JM: On the vendor side, we have a three-step authentication system, and those steps have both automated processes and follow-up, with emphasis on security of bank account data and making sure that people are who they say they are – all areas of importance when you are processing, as we are, $157 billion worth of payments annually.

PYMNTS: Within your own network of Paymode-X users, are there any industries that are quicker to adopt e-payments, and why?

JM: Well, with a network of more than 300,000 users across Paymode-X, we do see all industries and sizes of enterprises, from smaller players all the way up to Fortune 100 companies. The industry statistics show that 50 percent of all payments across B2B are made by checks — more so, we’ve seen, in the United States than elsewhere. We have seen newer and increased interest in using electronic B2B from companies that are in industries such as health care, property management and also manufacturing. They are all looking for faster ways to get payments done with accuracy and with security.

A card may be a great solution for payments in these areas, but not everyone is doing payments this way. And ACH can be a painful way to do payments, one that many companies find cumbersome, because they have to take data from multiple vendors, and find ways to keep that data safe. And they have to do so, sometimes, using antiquated systems.

To bridge that gap, in technology and elsewhere, though we operate mostly in the U.S. and Canada, we have operations and payments processing ability across more than two dozen countries and two dozen currencies.

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