Real-world, working applications of blockchain have begun to trickle into the payments market. As far as B2B payments go, however, the blockchain impact may take some time to hit, as many of the tools surfacing today focus instead on consumer and peer-to-peer payments.
Gary Markham, chief executive of aXpire, recently told PYMNTS that this is exactly where he predicts the immediate blockchain disruption to land.
“The take-up in the corporate financial world will be slower than in the retail and P2P space,” he predicted.
Corporate payments and FinTech are notoriously tricky spaces for innovators to gain traction. The latest MindShift survey from The Association for Financial Professionals (AFP), released last November, found that just 1 percent of corporates surveyed had already implemented some kind of blockchain tool, and 51 percent said they don’t have any plans to do so.
But Markham doesn’t believe that slow uptick of blockchain-powered corporate payments means that blockchain won’t have an impact on corporate payments and finance. With $20 million in funding announced last week, aXpire is using blockchain to tackle the issue of spend management and wasted corporate cash from a different angle: data.
Markham told PYMNTS that the biggest point of friction he hopes to address relates directly to financial data and, specifically, the manual management of that information.
“A lot of what we’re seeing is human, manual processes linked to disparate software [applications] that don’t talk to one another,” he said. “The pain points that go along with that, of course, are duplication of communications, double- and triple-checking other people’s work in a spreadsheet, re-keying in data, data errors that go along with human input and the cost of time associated with that.”
In addition to the implications of incorrect data entry on regulatory compliance risks, corporates are also losing out on savings because of this friction.
An aXpire whitepaper, citing data from the MIT Sloan School of Management, finds “the cost of bad data is an astonishing 15 percent to 25 percent of revenue for most companies.”
The company’s report notes that back-office spend leads to wasted funds because of inaccurate data entry, while blockchain and machine learning can automate data management and support more intelligent decision-making to enhance efficiencies and improve profits.
The lack of communication between software, systems and departments within the enterprise presents a huge hurdle for greater efficiency in data sharing, management and spend analysis, explained Markham. As spreadsheets and reports move up the chain of command from one department to the next, human capital must analyze and quality-check all of that information.
“If you’re comfortable with technology doing a lot of the legwork to ensure the document product is accurate, then your effort to check my work is much less,” the executive noted. “It’s this trusting relationship we’re creating by making blockchain technology that removes a lot of human, manual effort.”
Convincing the enterprise to make one giant leap from spreadsheets to blockchain won’t be easy, however.
With a slight majority of corporates telling the AFP they don’t plan to implement blockchain technologies, researchers examined why corporate professionals aren’t flocking to a solution that promises efficiencies. Fifty-one percent said the cost of implementing those tools is holding them back, while even more (58 percent) said lack of basic awareness of these tools is the largest hurdle.
Getting senior-level management to agree to procure these tools, as well as the on-boarding and technical integration of solutions, are also common issues, the AFP found.
“There is always hesitation and trepidation,” said Markham. “But I think once the financial benefits are well-articulated, that can resonate with senior management and we can get owners to champion the cause. That’s not an overnight hurdle. There is definitely some pitching that has to be done to articulate the value proposition for this to resonate with the right people who have the right authority and/or are influencers.”
In a nutshell, corporations have to want to make the leap. Convincing them to do so involves hard facts and statistics, the executive continued.
“If you can say that, typically, there is a 15 to 25 percent inefficiency programmed into the way you operate, and that I can get rid of that, you’ll start to open ears,” he said.
Support and participation from the traditional banking and financial services sector will also support corporate adoption of blockchain solutions, added Markham.
As companies like aXpire work to encourage corporate adoption of blockchain tools, they’re seeing a bevy of supporters in the form of investors ready to financially back their vision. In aXpire’s case, that came in the form of $20 million raised in a token sale. But that strategy, too, has its own hurdles.
“One of the issues a lot of projects struggle with is not just ‘tokenomics’ – how much money you’re raising versus the cost of the token – but also around token sustainability. Sustainability is quite difficult,” Markham said. “However good your company is, if the general market sentiment is running in a different direction, it’s very difficult to counter.”
In aXpire’s case, it took the company just 89 hours to meet its $20 million hardcap, which Markham said was “shocking,” and yet a reflection of investors’ support and confidence in blockchain. Just as disruptors must be patient (and strategic) in their efforts to promote corporate adoption of blockchain tools, they must also be patient in gaining a steady foothold in the market – and maintain faith in their initial vision.
“If people hold onto what they invested in the first place, then that gives businesses more of a solid footprint and foundation upon which to go about building business for the long term,” the executive noted.