The way in which business payments are made and processed today is rapidly evolving. But much of the pain in the space today centers on payments processing. Unlike consumer payments, business payments involve more than a simple transaction. The paper-intensive, manual process that occurs before and after the payment is made is “time consuming, error-prone and expensive,” says René Lacerte, CEO and Founder of Bill.com. Over 80 percent of businesses, he says, still use manual processes to manage their payments, which calls for a “major industry overhaul.”
The chart below, based on results from the 2013 ePayments Survey, The Association of Financial Professionals, indicates that the use of checks for business payments reduced from 80 percent in 2004 to 50 percent in 2013. In addition, the likelihood of converting major suppliers’ payment method from checks to electronic was high – 48 percent of respondents said they were “very likely” to convert, while another 25 percent said they were “somewhat likely.”
Bill.com’s mission, therefore, is to “dramatically simplify how small and mid-sized businesses pay their bills and collect payments.” With its cloud technologies, it aims to turn endless hours of paper-based payment processing into a one-click experience.
PYMNTS recently caught up with Lacerte to find out why he thinks these cloud technologies will help to simplify, automate and consolidate B2B payments through the next wave of the digital era.
What are your perspectives in the state of digital payments today? While we see many examples of innovations on the consumer side, businesses are still lagging behind. What is really broken in B2B payments?
RL: Much of the pain is around processing for business payments. Unlike consumer payments, business payments involve more than a simple transaction.
As any business owner or CFO will attest, making the payment is only a small part of the overall process. The paper-intensive, manual process that occurs before and after the payment is made is time consuming, error-prone and expensive. Business payments require more document management, systems integration with accounting software, and collaboration with employees, vendors, customers and accountants.
While the process is complex, there is an opportunity to offer a solution that fosters collaboration across businesses, vendors, customers, and the documents and systems they use. Over 80 percent of businesses still use manual processes to manage their payments, so the industry is due for a major overhaul.
The relationship between buyers and suppliers can be very cumbersome. The delivery of data, for example, is still manual and very time consuming. What impact can automation have in streamlining the relationship between buyers, suppliers and banks?
RL: The cloud enables real-time collaboration across buyers and sellers, as well as vendors and customers. It eliminates the need for paper, mail, or checks and creates more transparency around the relationship that will enable business transactions with less stress. Ultimately, streamlining these relationships will move money faster, create more opportunities to enhance buyer/seller relationships, and will provide banks with more information to make lending decisions.
Bill.com works with a lot of small business owners to help them pay and get paid faster, but the fact remains that most SMBs still make domestic payments via paper checks. Germany is almost 100 percent electronic, so why is the U.S. falling behind?
RL: We have a very robust ecosystem for businesses with more than 600K users and manage over 15M bills – we also process over $17 billion in payments. Embedded into the business psyche in the U.S. is the notion that we can wait to pay someone until we are 100 percent satisfied. That dynamic will not change, and that means businesses want to control when they pay and are willing to accept when they get paid on similar terms. It is this need for control that drives some of our inefficient, paper-based processes. With the cloud, those inefficient processes can be digitized and become instantly efficient.
Where do you see the future of digital payments in 2015 and beyond? What role will Bill.com play?
RL: Once the workflow issues between paper, systems, documents and people (buyers and suppliers, employees and owners, accountants, and customers) are solved, the obstacles of moving to digital payments are eliminated. Payments are the mechanism for control today. When you automate all of these processes, payments can become completely electronic.
Bill.com will accelerate the shift toward electronic payments by solving the workflow collaboration needs that businesses have. With Bill.com, magically simple business payments are already here for some and will soon be in the hands of businesses everywhere.
To help organizations calculate the ROI of electronic payments (ACH) over paper checks, Bill.com offers a breakdown in a blog post of the costs of using ACH, and how its own costs compare to checks and manual ACH services.
A number of innovators in B2B payments offer outsourced check processing and/or ACH payments to drive lower transaction costs, reduce staff labor, and eliminate equipment, materials and postage costs. The figure below compares these major costs of checks, ACH and B2B payment services. Due to the diversity in the cost structures of using a B2B payment provider, the figure highlights the costs of Bill.com specifically.
CEO and Founder
René founded Bill.com in August 2006, bringing with him more than 20 years experience in the finance, software and payments industries. As a fourth generation entrepreneur, René developed the concept for Bill.com based on personal experience growing up in multiple businesses as a kid and then co-founding his first company, PayCycle, in 1999. As the CEO of PayCycle, he recognized the need to improve the lives of business owners by simplifying the doing in business. Bill.com simplifies, consolidates and automates all the critical data and transaction capability into a personalized cloud dashboard that works for all businesses.
Prior to Bill.com, René co-founded America’s No. 1 online payroll service PayCycle in 1999, which was acquired by Intuit in 2009. PayCycle received numerous five-star awards from PC Magazine and accounting trade publications. At PayCycle, René developed an industry leading customer service organization that provided an unparalleled customer experience.
René spent five years at Intuit, creating and managing the company’s bill presentment team and growing its bill payment and credit card businesses into multimillion dollar business. He also launched Intuit’s first connected payroll product, growing the team from two employees to 300 in 18 months.
René received a Masters of Science degree in Industrial Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Quantitative Economics from Stanford University.