In 2015, the world of B2B payments ramped up its ability to knock its reputation for being slow to innovate and unable to grasp the market’s attention. From commercial card mobility, to T&E technology, to small business lending development, B2B payments endured growing pains and enjoyed progress. Below are the top 10 stories in B2B payments from this year.
Think the B2B payments industry is slow to innovate? The travel and expense management space took aim at that reputation, and research from Deloitte backs up those efforts. Analysts listed its list of the Technology Fast 500, an aggregation of the fastest-growing technology companies today in North America. Seven of those companies, reports noted, were corporate travel and expense management innovators. Meetings technologies also took four spots on the list, while expense management firms took three spots.
2015 was the year Square IPO’d, but the company known for those little white card readers also pivoted its focus to other areas of running a small business than just accepting card payments. Namely, Square beefed up its SME financing efforts and other back-end tools, like payroll. But Square made our list for a less promising reason: The company has twice hiked fees for businesses using Square Cash, the service that acts as the corporate version of the firm’s P2P money transfer service. Payment processing fees are now at 2.75 percent, though reports note that this figure is the same fee rate charged to businesses using its card readers, too.
Salesforce continues its battle to maintain dominance in the enterprise SaaS space, and the company squeezed in one last effort to lock in its top spot only days ago. Salesforce revealed a $360 million deal to acquire SteelBrick, a company that provides quoting and billing services for B2B businesses. SteelBrick recently made an acquisition of its own with its takeover of Invoice IT to integrate billing services for the companies that use its quoting tools.
Salesforce may be the enterprise SaaS king, but coming in hot is Oracle, which told reporters earlier this year that it would actually dethrone Salesforce as the market leader by the end of 2015. The stats aren’t out yet as to whether Oracle has achieved this feat, but we’ll bet that early 2016 will come with some new data about where these rivals stand.
There was no shortage of “Uber of X” startups this year, from laundry services to finding freelance workers. But Uber itself had an exciting 2015, most notably in its efforts to embrace corporate travelers for its ride-hailing service. The company announced a new feature that allows users to upload commercial card information and toggle their profiles between personal and business use in an effort to ease friction for corporate travelers that will need to expense trips made via Uber. And with more corporations adding Uber to their lists of approved vendors, the company is likely headed towards tapping into a very lucrative market in business travel.
Visa managed to beat out its competition on this list with the news this year that it linked up with B2B payments firm Bottomline Technologies. Together, Visa and Bottomline launched Paymode-X with Visa Payables, a service that integrates Visa’s commercial card products into Paymode-X’s supplier payment portal. It’s a huge step towards gaining market dominance for Bottomline, whose CEO and President Rob Eberle said at the time: “Our aspiration is to be the way businesses pay and get paid. The integration with Visa is a big step forward to achieving that vision.”
The markets are seeing more and more unicorns — $1 billion valuations — and analysts are beginning to wonder if a bubble is about to burst. While investors wait to find out, one B2B payments company is taking a more conservative approach to a public listing in the U.S. Xero, which is already listed in its home country of Australia, had previously mentioned plans to debut in the U.S. But the latest reports suggest that the small business accounting service provider will hold off until it gains a bit more traction, on the grounds that investors in the U.S. care more about U.S. successes than elsewhere. “The difficulty of listing in the U.S. is that U.S. investors primarily look at the U.S. performance,” Xero Founder Rod Drury told reporters. “We have really been focused for the eight years outside of the U.S.” Instead, Xero is likely to see a U.S. listing next year — or even later.
We’ve already covered the enterprise SaaS rivalry between Salesforce and Oracle, but another competitor, SAP, is about to enter the race for small business market share. Analysts this year pointed to SAP’s Business One, its SME enterprise resource planning tool, as a key element of its offerings and a rising star giving SAP a new name for small businesses. The company acknowledged that Business One is its “most successful” ERP product at the moment, too.
General Electric decided 2015 would be its year to refocus on its core operations, and part of that strategy included divesting its corporate lending operations, GE Capital. A slew of buyers emerged for various assets of the arm, but perhaps the most high-profile were Wells Fargo and Capital One to acquire a collective $82.5 billion worth of assets. Other buyers emerged across the globe, including an array of banks in Japan seeking an acquisition of $5 billion worth of GE Capital. The selloff, plans for which were first revealed in April, is ongoing and is likely to stretch into a good part of 2016.
The markets sure love a good controversy. Our number one story of 2015 was the RushCard fiasco, an ongoing saga in which users of the Russell Simmons-owned prepaid card company RushCard were suddenly left without the ability to access their funds in October. Many of these users are considered underbanked, and many use the RushCard to access their paychecks, essentially using the RushCard as a payroll card. Simmons was quick to issue an apology on Facebook and assure users that their funds would not be lost, but the issue lasted for another several weeks, with the CFPB eventually getting involved.