Last month, Bank of America Merrill Lynch gathered hundreds of corporate executives together to discuss the state of the commercial card sector and where the industry is headed to make payments faster and easier for businesses.
The discussions held at the BofA Merrill Lynch Payments and Commercial Card Conference danced around the event’s theme of “Pay Everywhere: Extending Your Reach.” For BofA, this year will be one for renewed focus on challenging the dominance of paper-based B2B payments. For Bank of America Merrill Lynch, it was a chance to obtain direct feedback from corporate finance executives about what they want and need from a payments solution.
Following the conference, the Active Charter Investors Association released a summary report to take a retrospective look at what went on, and the lessons corporate treasury officials may want to take away from the event.
According to the ACIA, the bank concluded that “despite the growing emergence of mobile and electronic payment applications, many treasury departments across the globe are still struggling with the continued existence and enormous cost of paper payments."
Event attendees continually identified their goals of boosting working capital performance this year, and acknowledged that to do so, businesses must prioritize the conversation of their payment processes to electronic forms, reports said. Their second-top priority, the ACIA noted, was to strengthen their commercial card programs.
It was at this conference that BofA assessed how much traction the electronic payments industry has gained within corporations today. In a survey of the audience, the company found that about half had a formal payments strategy as directed by senior management – meaning that about half didn’t.
The survey also revealed that mobile payments will not be a top focus for them this year, but the majority – 60 percent – said that mobile payment processes are likely in the cards for their corporations at some point in the future.
[bctt tweet=”Mobile payments will not be a top focus for corporates this year”]
On the other hand, the executives also acknowledged that mobile messaging is crucial to their corporate cardholders, with more than half noting that mobile alert messaging is “extremely valuable” for their customers.
In a statement, BofA Merrill Lynch Head of Global Transaction Services Ather Williams called the insight “invaluable” as the company pushes forward with the development of its corporate card programs and products.
There is no shortage of financial advice and analysis from financial institutions on the commercial card industry, but a recent distinction could mean businesses will perk their ears up to Bank of America’s musings on the topic.
In early August – just days before the event – Nilson named BoA Merrill Lynch as the market’s top commercial card issuer in purchasing card volume, along with top rankings in other commercial card categories as well.
Analysts reported a 13 percent increase in BofA’s year-over-year p-card volume, and an even larger expansion (18 percent) of its corporate card volume. Prepaid cards also saw some growth, at a 2 percent year-over-year increase.
In response, the institution’s head of Global Card and Comprehensive Payables Kevin Phalen said the top Nilson rankings reflect BofA’s efforts to innovate and develop its corporate card solutions. “Over the last five years, we’ve made considerable investments into our platform, extending our capabilities in response to the demands of our clients,” he said.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch said that in the coming months, it will look to expand its travel and expense management services in new markets. It is unclear exactly how the company will react to the feedback from event attendees through product development, however.
Following the conference, Phalen released a separate statement to emphasize BofA Merrill Lynch’s continually focused gaze on the commercial card industry, and how trends in corporate payments reflect the broader payments market overall.
"We are facing dramatic shifts in the global payments environment,” the executive said. “We hope the dialogue generated among our clients and other industry participants will go some way to advancing preparedness and efficiencies in global commerce."