Voices of the CFO: Digitizing B2B Payments From First Steps to Sprinter Vans

B2B payments, digital, automation, AP, AR

Chief financial officers (CFOs) have never been ones to shy away from a challenge, and so far this year, they’ve certainly had their share of them to contend with.

A slowing economy and rising inflation, geopolitical tension, lingering pandemic problems in the form of tight supply chains — and even tighter labor markets — have made keeping an eye on cash flow and keeping the business humming trickier than ever.

All the better reason to find digital tools to ease the burden, as three veteran finance leaders recently told PYMNTS.

Reachdesk’s Vic Russo, Klaviyo’s Amanda Whalen and DigniFi’s Mariana Coontz lead finance teams at companies in different verticals and at different stages in the digital journey, but they’ve all found that digitizing their receivables and payables workflows has yielded benefits that have helped them rise to any challenge — and lay strong foundations for growth.

Vic Russo, Reachdesk

PYMNTS found that many companies have embarked upon the journey to digitize B2B payments since the pandemic, but Reachdesk is an example of one that has only just begun.

The firm, which enables B2B companies to deliver the “moments that matter” at scale through data-driven direct mail and gifting, has brought Vic Russo on as its new CFO to help guide the business through the process.

Russo said currently, sources are paid manually, but that’s about to change. He noted that at Reachdesk, the biggest barrier to the transition to digitized payments may be simple inertia, and said the key is to find the perfect inflection point.

For many firms, that was the pandemic. Companies that missed that moment have some catching up to do.

Russo said the first step is getting the operation automation ready by defining the problem, mapping the workflow and identifying the data points that matter — and only then acquiring the appropriate FinTech solution.

Amanda Whalen, Klaviyo

It’s good to be the CFO at a company where the payments have been digitized from the start, but there’s always more that needs to be done to scale the business and prepare it for the future, according to Amanda Whalen, new CFO at Klaviyo (pronounced clay-vee-oh).

Klaviyo is a decade-old firm that began as a database company and evolved into a marketing platform that helps business use email and SMS messaging to drive revenue. According to Whalen, the firm’s database-driven roots set the tone for everything else, including payments.

“That did extend to our approach to [accounts payable] and [accounts receivable] in terms of how we bill customers and pay vendors,” she said.

While Whalen inherited a relatively clean desk due to the firm’s receivables and payables automation, her day is laden with challenges. As the business grows, it evolves, adding new products and services.

Mariana Coontz, DigniFi

Small auto service businesses haven’t exactly led the way when it comes to automating payments and providing consumers with new options to pay their bills, but DigniFi CFO Mariana Coontz told PYMNTS that’s starting to change.

According to Coontz, the auto repair industry’s reluctance to digitize has given the company she works for a greenfield opportunity to serve as a resource for customers who may be able replace the head gasket on a 1989 Mercedes E-Class with their eyes closed, but are just as befuddled by the intricacies of financing and systems integration as the next person.

In her part of the business, that means using every tool at the payables and receivables teams’ disposal to stay on top of credit innovation — providing accurate forecasts that give decision-makers all the information they need to make strategic decisions. That often means walking a fine line between innovation and adhering to rigid standards.

“You always have a risk discipline and a risk slant to how you think about things, so you must responsibly underwrite credit to offer the right sort of credit box to consumers,” she said. “You must manage it, but I think if you’ve got the right processes in place to be able to do that, it’s just something that comes with the territory.”

For all PYMNTS B2B coverage, subscribe to the daily B2B Newsletter.