As costs remain higher for longer and inflation remains a key consideration as CFOs manage their firms through a series of challenges, Shep Hickey, CEO of Bryzos, told PYMNTS that executives can leverage a growing number of tools to streamline their payments processes.
And, in fact, he said, financial professionals are turning more attention to payments — a critical component of operations that, he said, ideally should function “as though a payment has not even occurred.”
That same principle should be a guiding factor in business payments, no matter if buyers are paying suppliers, or if the transaction is of the buy now, pay later (BNPL) variety or a line of credit is being established.
Technology has done much to make those ambitions more realistic and fully realized.
“FinTechs have been evolving so rapidly that certain components are beginning to standardize,” he said. The growing embrace and use of APIs, he added, is forging what he termed a “modular approach” to managing workflows and, especially, transaction flows.
“That makes things easier from a platform perspective,” said Hickey, whose firm operates as an online steel marketplace bringing buyers and sellers together. Bryzos, for its part, has a BNPL offering in place. And while the steel industry may prove more readily adaptable to BNPL (because, as Hickey said, so many of the players know one another), the familiarity and comfort level of using that payment option will extend to other verticals as well. Eventually, he said, the use of digital will become so commonplace that, as he put it “there will be a digital version of ‘open terms’ that exist between buyers and sellers, much as they way as has been seen historically.”
Asked by PYMNTS as to whether real-time payments will be a game-changer in the steel industry, he said the “standard case is that payments are not urgent.” He added that the “more expensive ways to pay” won’t be the choice of first resort, in most cases.
There remains room for advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning — which have been around for a while — to help improve interactions between buyers and suppliers and improve payments too, said Hickey.
“We’ve been doing this for a long time,” he said, adding that the rates at which the technologies can “learn” has been ramping up and remains truly impressive. And those technologies, he said, can help solve pain points tied to reconciliation, which can be, for many firms, “an absolute disaster … we can put a bow on digital payments at least and say that’s been handled.” In business, he said, by way of example, invoiced amounts and paid amounts may differ between buyers and sellers, partial shipments may get partial payments, and there’s “a misalignment that exists between what a firm is trying to pay for and how systems are created,” said Hickey.
Looking ahead, he said that for Bryzos, “2023 was a seismic year for us in that we had massive changes in our platform,” and the company helped foster an environment where procurement’s been sped up, and buyers can check out in 60 seconds or less. The focus for 2024 will be on “speed and accuracy,” as the platform already has a 70% repeat purchase ratio on a monthly basis.
“In 2024,” he said, “we’re headed in the right direction.”