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Even as the world becomes increasingly digitized, many businesses are still handling payments through manual processes and paper invoices and checks. The downside of this resource-intensive approach was made clear when stay-at-home orders to limit the spread of COVID-19 forced companies to pivot to work-from-home mode. As finance departments adjusted to having limited access to the office to do manual invoice capture and approval, run billing, conduct check runs and reconcile payments, many sought to automate more of their accounts payable (AP) and accounts receivable (AR) processes so they could be done remotely.

This is a transition that has been a long time coming, but now has accelerated significantly as the need to do business in a safe and efficient manner is top of mind for business leaders. The number of checks written by U.S. consumers and businesses has been steadily declining since the financial disruption caused by the September 11 attacks, and one study by the Philadelphia Fed said paper checks would go away entirely by 2026.1 Similarly, over the past decade, consumers have increasingly embraced cashless payment, including debit, credit and mobile payments,2 as well as mobile banking.

Though workplaces around the country are reopening after pandemic closures, the need for systems to be more adaptable and flexible to a wide range of disruptions, from natural disasters to public safety threats, will endure. In this series of papers, the KeyBank Enterprise Payments team explains how implementing automation and increasing your acceptance of electronic payments can make your company more resilient and responsive.

How automation can solve your payment pain points

Beyond the challenges of adapting to remote work, automation makes your financial administration more efficient and secure, reduces errors, improves transparency and communication between departments and reduces the need for rework, saving time and money. It makes improvements across your systems:

  • AP Automation: Our cloud-based platform integrates with your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, allowing you to issue your supplier payments from anywhere and saving time and manpower. When coupled with automated invoice receipt and approval, you can receive, review and approve invoices remotely while retaining your approval controls and rules.
  • AR Automation: You can digitize the process end-to-end beginning with generating and sending invoices electronically, so incoming customer payments seamlessly tie back to electronic invoices and open AR.
  • Digital Merchant Services: This allows you to meet customers where they are by operating payments in a virtual economy, including online sales, digital invoices and accepting no- and low-contact payment.

Beating the barriers to contactless payment adoption

The challenge for many businesses – and especially small and middle-market businesses – to adopting payment automation and contactless payment has been feeling operationally ready to invest in and implement the right solution. You may think your business doesn’t have the framework to support a digital transformation to longstanding processes, but automation works with, not against, these considerations:

  • Technology: Cloud-based platforms are scalable, flexible and can be accessed from anywhere, and they don’t require the significant investment of building proprietary systems. Working with Key Enterprise Payments gives you access to our trusted relationships with leading FinTech providers – we do the vetting for you.
  • Integration: Digital AP, AR and merchant services mesh seamlessly with current controls and approvals and accounting systems, while cutting out costly and time-consuming re-work when extra information is needed or an error occurs. Account leads or customer relationship managers can easily check the status of an incoming or outgoing payment, and treasury managers have a real-time view of cash-flow.
  • Staffing: Reducing manual processes allows personnel to retrain and focus on higher-value and more rewarding work rather than labor-intensive invoice processing, check cutting and individual payment reconciliation.
  • Security: Automation can provide greater oversight of financial operations, helping to mitigate business risk by making it easier to identify fraud or atypical transactions. Using the most updated platforms helps assure that you are employing the most current security and compliance measures.

Any error or delay in the invoice-to-cash process impacts not only your customer and your AP/AR teams, but your entire organization from cash-flow to reputation. Considering the costly ripple effect of an incorrect invoice, a late payment or misapplied payment, the reward of making the transition to automation outweighs the necessary resource allocation.

Optimize your working capital with Key Enterprise Payments

The digital transformation begins with evaluating your organization’s existing procedures and developing customized solutions tailored to your business and industry’s unique needs. Key Enterprise Payments offers integrated treasury solutions that give you the control to successfully manage all payment functions, from the straightforward to the complex, including detailed reporting. Our integrated payable and receivable solutions will alleviate pain points, increase profitably and drive your success by helping you manage working capital.

Contact a Key Payments Advisor to schedule a needs assessment and demonstration.

2

“Is the U.S. on Its Way to Becoming a Cashless Society?” https://hbr.org/2019/07/is-the-u-s-on-its-way-to-becoming-a-cashless-society

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