Watch Nick Babinsky, Billtrust SVP and General Manager of Business Payments Network (BPN)
Why are AR professionals spending the majority of their day working within email clients? The simple answer is: that’s where the remittances are. The complex answer is: the financial tools and systems used by buyers and suppliers won’t agree AND implement a standard payment format, and buyers don’t have robust banking information for each of their suppliers – so they’ve defaulted to emails.
Paper check processes in the digital realm
To understand how we got here, look no further than the days of paper checks. A paper check represents a bank account-to-bank account transfer. If a buyer knows their seller’s bank account number, there’s no need for a check; they could do a direct transfer. But bank account numbers are not readily accessible public information – and physical addresses are.
So, buyers sent paper checks to business addresses instead of chasing down bank account numbers. Everyone accepts checks – no need to research how to pay their suppliers.
And the same thing is happening with digital payments.
Very few electronic payment processes have built-in integrations with supplier ERPs; the ecosystem is just too broad and complicated. And the payment types are diverse: you’ve got ACH payments requiring communication of remittance and virtual card payments that arrive in various formats – sometimes requiring bins, pins and other things.
Absent integrations with ERPs, banks and issuers have defaulted to the digital equivalent of a business address: an email box.
Opening emails all day long
Nowadays, AR professionals spend their working hours in email systems that were not designed as AR tools. They’re opening emails in one window, and ERP and bank / payment processing interfaces in another – and they spend all day doing manual data entry and reconciliation between them.
That’s the process the majority of businesses depend on for their cash flow – and it’s atrocious.
It’s error-prone, obviously. But it’s also just an enormous waste of time and resources. Accounts receivable (AR) professionals stuck doing data entry aren’t able to perform other value-added activities like customer service, reporting or analysis.
Plus, it’s slow. It takes time for AR specialists to open each email and transfer the data. Couldn’t a software solution do this faster?
Solving the email (and ecosystem) problem
Billtrust is working to connect every business to the larger payments ecosystem through our Business Payments Network. But rather than trying to rationalize or standardize payments across the entire business landscape (good luck!), we’re focused on interoperability as the north star of our solutions.
That means other players in the payments ecosystem can follow their own preferred formats and processes while our interoperable solutions can work with all of them.
To solve AR’s email problem, we’ve developed the Digital Lockbox: an email inbox where all of a business’s incoming payments are sent or rerouted.
The Digital Lockbox then opens emails in a secure environment, using robotic process automations and machine learning-powered technology to open links, download attachments and read payment and remittance information. Payments are processed, and remittance info is automatically standardized and entered into the business’s ERP. No human intervention required by AR teams.
There will probably always be payments by email. But email doesn’t need to be an ongoing bottleneck in the order-to-cash process.
Submerging payments is the goal
The payment acceptance process is thorny. It sticks out in the B2B world as a step on the path to cash. But for consumers, payment acceptance isn’t even a thing. The last time you got a Venmo payment from a friend, did you have to open an email, follow a link, do some data entry or log into your bank’s website?
You didn’t. Because, for consumers, payment acceptance has been submerged for some time now. Electronic payments just happen. The money hits their Venmo account, and they get a notification about it.
That’s the future that Billtrust is building for B2B payments. Even with all the stricter requirements of B2B, the need for security, compliance and flexibility, our goal is to submerge the payment acceptance process.
We’ll do it with technology that’s trustworthy, transparent and easy to understand. We’ll get you out of email and into AR-specific interfaces that really show you what’s going on with your cash and how to get at it faster.
Learn more about the Digital Lockbox
If you’d like to put the Digital Lockbox to work for you, please fill out the form. A Billtrust expert will be in touch shortly.
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