In the wake of the pandemic, B2B payments have struggled to keep pace with the demands of the digital age, which has forced companies to re-examine how they pay one another — and get paid.
In an interview with PYMNTS, Mary Beth Joiner, senior vice president, relationship management at Comdata Corporate Payments, said there had still been pockets of resistance in making the great digital pivot pre-COVID, as the focus was mainly on price.
However, in April, Comdata saw a shift focused on resolving the pain points with digital payments due to employees working from home across all manner of verticals, from healthcare to entertainment to manufacturing.
But there’s no “one product fits all requirements” approach to modernizing B2B payments across all markets.
Against that backdrop, companies are re-evaluating and redesigning their entire supply chains, cost management life cycles and other processes, across all industries.
In the past, there was a wide gulf between considering the great shift to digital B2B payments and actually making the leap. Now, as Joiner explained it, many executives are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of back-office demands and additional challenges in working from home, so quick decisions are being made to transition to digital payments. The sales process is modified, but it’s a challenge that can be met with “lots of meetings,” according to Joiner – the kind with which most are intimately familiar (Zoom interactions among them, of course).
In the bid to streamline payments, she said, companies such as Comdata can examine which ERP systems its prospective firms are using, “and we pull in existing customers that have those same systems, and have embraced FinTech organizations — and they can collaborate in a bid to transform how payments get done.”
She noted that some verticals, like healthcare, may have automated several functions — such as claims filings — but on the payments side, they were still highly reliant on paper.
All industry verticals are ripe for that migration, Joiner noted. The rise of contactless payments can also promote different approaches to B2B payments across verticals well-entrenched in using paper checks, especially as real-time automation occurs throughout the life cycle of businesses (AP, AR and reconciliation) with less human intervention.
When PYMNTS asked Joiner about forward-looking improvements or changes she is seeing in the market, she indicated that “the market is going to multiple modalities and currencies.” That has been part of parent company FLEETCOR’s strategy with the acquisitions of Cambridge and NVoicePay.
Asked about which B2B trends may be long-lasting, Joiner pointed to the increasing prevalence of one-time-use cards, where fraud protections are enhanced, as well as Comdata’s ability to customize unique rules governing spend based on industry and individual business needs.
“The rules you're going to do for a healthcare company, from a fraud and security perspective, are very different from construction,” she remarked.
Looking ahead, Joiner predicts that the B2B space will be marked by interchange optimization and continued modifications to cloud APIs, machine learning and customer service (via chatbots and other tools).
“You have to have a pathway for the different parties to adapt,” she told PYMNTS. “You’re going to continue to see M&A activity as different FinTechs and FIs partner together with emerging new companies to create the evolution of the B2B space.”