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This Week in B2B: Enterprise Metaverses, AI Accountants, Virtual Cards

b2b paymenst

Innovation is a key factor in any company’s ability to succeed in the long run. 

And so are the ways in which they pay and get paid. That’s why, within the B2B payments landscape, innovation plays a crucial role in enabling businesses to streamline processes, reduce costs, mitigate risks and enhance the overall efficiency and effectiveness of their payment operations. 

As technology continues to advance, we can expect further innovations to reshape the way B2B payments are conducted, ultimately driving global commerce to new heights.

That’s why PYMNTS continues to track the latest advances shaping the B2B landscape.

The top themes we heard this week were about how the incentive around transitioning to digital B2B payments is changing, particularly around the use of virtual cards by both buyers and suppliers.

But that’s not all — this week also revealed that firms are increasingly tasking automation and artificial intelligence (AI) with the accounting tasks humans no longer want to do, and also spotlighted a new crop of innovative solutions focused on making life easier for small businesses.

The Winning Calculus Around Going Digital

Financial institutions have a unique opportunity to bolster the resilience of small businesses by providing tailored financial tools and support, NCR Voyix Chief Product Officer, Digital Banking Doug Brown said in the new PYMNTS eBook, “The Implications of Uncertainty.”

And as the drumbeat of announcements this week showed, small businesses are being celebrated with a suite of new digital solutions. 

Loan origination platform Decipher Credit on Monday (April 22) teamed up with small business financial data provider Validis. The partnership will allow commercial lenders to extract financial and accounts receivable data in real-time, letting small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) go from “application to automated spreading” in seconds.

Margin multiplier company Coupa has launched a partnership with business payments provider Bottomline. The collaboration, announced Monday, is designed to simplify digital payment processes for businesses.

On Wednesday (April 24), card issuing platform Marqeta launched a partnership with digital bank OakNorth to offer small businesses commercial cards.

Also on Wednesday, PYMNTS sat down with Shilpa Dhar, senior vice president and general manager of commerce at HubSpot, to chat about HubSpot’s new partnership with Stripe focused on optimizing digital payments for small businesses.

Read more: Workflow Automation, Flexible Financing Top This Week in B2B Innovation

And according to a recent panel discussion of industry heavyweights that featured Robin Boudsocq, head of B2B Commercial Cards at CitiJennifer Petty, global card and comprehensive payables executive at Bank of AmericaChad Wallace, executive vice president of B2B Solutions at Mastercard; and Paul Christensen, founder and CEO of Previse, virtual cards are emerging as a source of payments certainty — for both buyers and suppliers. 

“There are trillions of dollars that are going to move to virtual cards in the next two, three, four, five years,” the panelists said.

The widespread adoption of electronic payments has transformed the financial landscape, with cash gradually becoming obsolete in many sectors.

“Where the big pockets still exist tend to be in the B2B realm. … But I don’t think it’s a hard sell to anybody at this point, the benefits of going electronic,” Jim McCarthy, CEO at Thredd, told PYMNTS on Thursday. 

Automating Away the Growing Account Shortage 

Observers believe the amount of time and effort required to pass the CPA exam, combined with a relatively stale level of income growth for entry-level positions, is having a ruinous impact on Generation Z’s accounting ambitions — particularly when they look at the starting salary for Wall Street and Silicon Valley roles.

In 2023 alone, over 720 companies cited insufficient staffing levels across key financial and accounting departments and noted that the lack of help meant there could be potential errors in their reporting.

And the situation is only more dire for smaller businesses where the loss of even one accountant is felt much more sharply across finance teams. 

That’s why PYMNTS reported on how, as the reality of scarce labor resources settles in for firms’ accounting departments, a surprising solution could be on the horizon: embracing automation and investing in innovation, including AI. 

But the marketplace is already responding with new innovations. On Tuesday (April 23), accounting and human resources and finance firm Countsy debuted an online platform designed to simplify back-office management by providing a centralized place for essential business tools and team collaboration.

And a day earlier, on Monday, Microsoft and Cognizant a new partnership to expand the adoption of generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) solutions by enterprises. 

Jumping With Two Feet Into the Digital B2B Space 

FinTech industry customers are no longer asking just for ways to accept online payments. Nowadays, they want “software-defined financial services.”

That’s according to Stripe co-founders Patrick Collison and John Collison, who made the remarks during an opening keynote of the company’s annual user conference on Wednesday in San Francisco.

Those services could even be coming to the metaverse.

On Monday, Meta announced it would be opening the operating system Horizon OS up to third-party hardware makers. The system powers the company’s Meta Quest metaverse headsets. The move includes a partnership with Lenovo focused on enabling greater enterprise productivity within the metaverse. 

That’s why PYMNTS unpacked how, as businesses around the world begin to explore the possibilities offered by Horizon OS and the broader mixed reality (MR) landscape, we are likely to see a significant transformation in how work is conducted. The ability to blend physical and digital workspaces seamlessly, enhance collaboration among remote teams and visualize complex data in intuitive ways are just a few examples of how mixed reality can revolutionize enterprise productivity.

Miscellaneous Market Moves 

On Sunday (April 24), instant money movement platform TabaPay announced its acquisition Synapse’s assets following the latter company’s bankruptcy.

On Tuesday, Standard Chartered partnered with Visa to facilitate cross-border B2B payments for the bank’s corporate clients, while cross-border payments platform Nium and payments processor Thredd have expanded their partnership, allowing Nium to issue virtual cards in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region.

At the same time, Uber for Business designed a new tool to make it easier for executive assistants to arrange corporate travel, the social economy platform announced Wednesday.