Breaking News

AP/AR, Payments Yield To Automation

There’s simply no longer the time or bandwidth for manual accounts payable (AP) and accounts receivable (AR). Since there’s no way back, the payments industry is now cutting new pathways.

“Companies are adjusting their AP practices to better suit work-from-home operations, according to recently released results of a survey taken from May to June. The poll of 325 U.S. financial executives found that 91 percent were investing in financial technologies intended to help with newly remote operations. The firms were especially interested in deploying automated and advanced learning technologies. Sixty-seven percent of respondents were actively adopting AI and machine learning or considering doing so, and 74.2 percent were considering or currently spending on AP and AR automation. Such modernizations could help financial departments process invoices more quickly and easily.”

That’s according to PYMNTS’ December 2020 Digital Shift Report, a CSI collaboration, which looks at the frictions driving businesses to digitize AP, as well as how artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are ideal for automating complex accounting functions.

A Digital Stampede

Digital is virtually stampeding across legacy terrain, and companies are making the switch.

“The Institute of Financial Operations and Leadership (IFOL) — an organization that provides training and certification in areas like AP and AR — recently released survey results that show a significant leap in the share of companies that had automated at least some of their AP practices between Q1 2020 and Q3 2020. Sixty-nine percent of respondents in Q3 had partially automated those operations, whereas just 49 percent had done so in Q1,” according to the new Digital Shift Report.

Moreover, the report said, “businesses that are automating their AP departments are showing an interest in using AI-powered tools to do so,” and that “companies are leveraging AI technology for processing vendor invoices at a faster pace than staff could do manually. The tools also can help firms make liquidity management decisions by projecting the amount of cash that AP departments will likely need to have on hand in the near future.”

CSI President David Disque said other things are also better when they are virtual/digital, telling PYMNTS that “many providers can only handle one network, or can provide virtual cards but can’t issue the cards. This leads to providers not having much control over providing their suppliers.” He added that CSI’s platform, for example, “offers flexible virtual card payment delivery options, such as straight-through processing, which improves the supplier’s days outstanding and greatly reduces back-office operations, bringing significant efficiencies for both buyers and suppliers.”

Everything Look Fine? Look Again

System upgrades require investments in money, time and resources. It’s not to be taken lightly. This is a time when spend management and assorted AI-powered solutions are crowding the marketplace – and with good reason. After the year we’ve had, companies need to wake up.

According to the new Digital Shift Report, “many businesses may think their AP processes — although not perfect — are working fine. This way of thinking can cost the business thousands, if not millions, of dollars annually. Buyers that pay their suppliers late can experience harsh consequences from suppliers stopping deliveries or services to costly penalties. Additionally, duplicate payments are just as serious and will impact the buyer’s cash flow.

“An inefficient accounts payable process can lead to the loss of potential volume discounts, require additional staff and drive up the cost of processing,” the report continued. “Automating AP processes will enable businesses to reduce costly human errors, pay their vendors on time and, with the right payments program, earn net new income.”

That’s one reason (two, really) that virtual cards are so popular now: control and transparency. “The flexibility and one-time nature of virtual cards make them particularly compelling for facilitating such payments,” per the new report. “Claims processors do not need to go through onboarding processes to pay each new provider and can instead generate a fresh card code to quickly authorize a transaction. Digital cards also offer a convenient and low-cost way of issuing funds compared to sending paper checks in the mail.”

Read More On Automation:

  • Automation to Work to Bring Much-Needed Credit Relief to SMBs
  • Exclusive: JPMorgan Debuts Digital Bill Payment Solution
  • 80% of Modern Shoppers Prefer Self-Service Kiosks for Faster Checkout
  • Automated Kiosks Out-Quick-Service the QSRs

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NEW PYMNTS DATA: DIGITAL BANKING STUDY – THE BREWING BATTLE FOR WHERE WE WILL BANK

About: Forty-seven percent of U.S. consumers are shying away from digital-only banks due to data security worries, despite significant interest in these services. In Digital Banking: The Brewing Battle For Where We Will Bank, PYMNTS surveyed over 2,200 consumers to reveal how digital-only banks can shore up privacy and security while offering convenient services to satisfy this unmet demand.

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