Tipping the Scales Toward Electronic Payments - Finally

New technologies are increasing the demand from vendors, as well as payers, for corporate e-payments

Apr 23, 2013, 10:00 ET from RBS Citizens Financial Group, Inc.

PROVIDENCE, R.I., April 23, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- "People have been talking about the 'demise of checks' for years in the payments space, but paper-based payments have been holding on for dear life despite all predictions to the contrary," says James Gifas, head of RBS Citizens Treasury Solutions. "Finally, however, the ground is shifting."

"The pain points that have kept companies using checks – long past what many predicted – are now disappearing," says Mr. Gifas. "There is a fundamental change underway in the way banks and technology providers are approaching the corporate payments equation."

"Traditionally, the focus has been on the 'supply side' – the companies making payments. Their accounts payables departments have done their best to implement the latest innovations for payments – through ACH and corporate cards.

"But the real influencer of adoption rates in the area of payment innovations has been the vendor side. Until recently, many vendors continued to accept only checks for payment, with sporadic acceptance of ACH depending on their systems' ability to process and apply payment – so the demand just wasn't there.

"Now, with, the emergence of new technology systems and electronic payments networks, the focus has shifted to the vendors receiving payments – and their pain points. This shift is finally creating the tipping point the industry needed in order to change."

What were the primary factors preventing an earlier move away from checks?
Mr. Gifas explains several:

  1. Onboarding challenges – "Companies felt that migrating to electronic payments networks in the interest of e-payments was a huge hurdle. Who was going to take care of this logistically?"
  2. Bandwidth and cost issues – "For many companies, the thought of having to implement new accounts receivable systems to accept e-payments was daunting. How was this going to be managed – or paid for?"
  3. Reluctance to "be first" – "Before significant numbers of companies signed up for payments networks, there was apprehension about being one of the early adopters. Who knew how well the e-payments systems were going to work?"

Now, says Mr. Gifas, changes in the technology have addressed these concerns. "The initial reluctance to move away from checks has almost completely disappeared."

What are the factors driving the shift toward e-payments?

  • "First," says Mr. Gifas, "payments networks themselves, such as Bottomline Technologies' Paymode-X, have mitigated the corporate burden of onboarding suppliers by assuming the process on their end, and making it easy for companies to enroll. The process becomes a lot smoother than companies expect.
  • "Second, companies are realizing that they don't have to overhaul their internal operations: they can keep their current invoicing systems – and this is often the most complicated piece of the picture. So they don't have to spend money to revamp their invoicing.
  • "And, finally, with thousands of suppliers enrolled in these payments networks, the scale is there. Paymode-X alone has more than 200,000 companies on board, with 3,000 new members each month."
  • "Vendors are also recognizing the significant advantages that come with e-payments, including reduction in error, fraud, and the time needed for funds to clear. These benefits are creating a demand, incentive, and significant opportunity for a payments change in a way that we have not seen before."
  • For companies making the payments, he says, there are bottom-line benefits in paying through a network. "Companies issuing payments through e-payables networks see this as a dollars and cents equation. Instead of the traditional model of paying a fee to issue payments to their vendors, companies can actually get paid."

"This is an exciting time for the payments space, with substantive change in the way both accounts receivable and accounts payable are approaching the transaction. The 'demise of checks' is no longer just a long-running cliche, but a reality for companies big and small."

James Gifas is the head of RBS Citizens Treasury Solutions, which recently launched the accessPAYMODE-X e-payments service for its corporate customers. Mr. Gifas was named to Global Finance magazine's "Who's Who in Treasury & Cash Management." He spoke recently at both the McKinsey Cash Management Forum in Atlanta and the Mobey Forum in San Francisco.

For more information, please contact Davia Temin or Suzanne Oaks of Temin and Company at 212-588-8788 or news@temin.co.

About RBS Citizens Financial Group, Inc.
RBS Citizens Financial Group, Inc. is a $127 billion commercial bank holding company. It is headquartered in Providence, R.I., and through its subsidiaries has approximately 1,400 branches, approximately 3,600 ATMs and more than 19,000 colleagues. Its two bank subsidiaries are RBS Citizens, N.A., and Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania. They operate a 12-state branch network under the Citizens Bank brand in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont; and the Charter One brand in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. RBSCFG has non-branch retail and commercial offices in more than 30 states. RBSCFG is owned by RBS (the Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc). RBSCFG's website is citizensbank.com.

SOURCE RBS Citizens Financial Group, Inc.