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How Streamlining Payments Helps Build Vendor Relationships


How Streamlining Payments Helps Build Vendor Relationships

I’d like to dispel some common misconceptions about B2B payments. First, the misconception that vendors don’t want to be paid by check. Next, let’s dispel the notion that vendors won’t take card payments.

I’ve worked in payments for a couple of decades now. I’ve managed cash handling, check processing, and lockbox operations. I’ve spent the last 10 years or so in the Mastercard B2B space. Based on my experience, I can tell you what vendors really want: convenience and choice.

Doesn’t everyone?

New choices

It used to be that the customer could dictate a payment method and vendors had no choice but to accept. That has been slowly changing. We saw a lot more vendors raising their hands to ask for electronic payments during the COVID-19 Pandemic, but this shift began even before that. Fintech companies have introduced a lot of new payment options, and vendors are more aware that they have choices.

It now falls to buyers to give vendors the convenience and choice they want, without overburdening their accounts payable departments. That means using automation to streamline payment and vendor enablement workflows. AP can then easily accommodate all payment types and let vendors choose what’s most convenient for them.

Different definitions of convenience

When vendors want to be paid by check, it’s often because they have some sort of mechanism that makes it easy to process them. In larger companies for example, that often means using their treasury bank to do lockbox processing for them. Banks will often provide this service for free to win other, more profitable business.

The bank collects all the checks from the lockbox, keys in the data and deposits them. All accounts receivable has to do is absorb a file that has all of the check data. That is a pretty clean process, and a compelling reason to be paid by check.

What about ACH? There’s no paper to handle, and the vendor gets the money faster. Why wouldn’t they want ACH payments? Well, ACH fraud is on the rise, and not all vendors want to risk exposing their banking data to their buyers.

Vendors might actually prefer a single use credit card. The common wisdom against that thought is that vendors won’t want to pay credit card fees. The reality is that virtual cards are gaining in popularity because you get paid fast and fraud risk is low. You don’t have to expose your banking data, and the card number becomes unusable once it’s been processed. For some vendors, that’s worth the fee.

No limits

The point is there’s a market for all payment types. For a buyer to limit themselves to just one or two payment options is to potentially limit whom they can do business with. With all the supply chain problems we’ve been experiencing it’s incredibly important to keep your vendors happy. The best way to do that is to make sure they get paid on time, in the manner of their choosing.

The problem, as many AP teams learned during the pandemic, is that doing electronic payments at scale is a lot harder than it seems at first glance.

You need to have the resources to enable vendors for electronic payments, on an ongoing basis. That means continual outreach to find out which vendors will accept a card or an ACH. It means collecting and verifying their banking data when you onboard them, and having processes in place to verify any requests to change bank account information. It means having a way to know if a virtual card payment hasn’t been processed, and a way of dealing with a card that is still open.

You also need very strong systems and processes in place to protect your organization against ACH fraud. If you’re not up to speed on using technology to validate and secure vendor information, and fend off fraud attacks, you’re putting your organization at risk.

AP teams already tend to be short-staffed. Turnover is high, and the amount of process documentation they have is low. They don’t have the capacity to take on this extra work.

Here’s where it gets good: AP teams shouldn’t have to take on extra work to make electronic payments work. The whole process can be streamlined by working with a payment automation provider. Automation providers typically provide a single workflow for all types of payments. All the person in AP has to do is select who to pay, and the provider will pay each vendor by their preferred method.

More importantly, automation providers take on all the work of enablement, including outreach and safeguarding vendor data. They also indemnify their customers against fraud. It couldn’t be more streamlined–all AP really has to do is click pay.

Convenience and choice for all

Checks have been the prevalent B2B payment method for a very long time, and for some very good reasons. The COVID-19 Pandemic, and our current supply chain woes, have made many organizations reconsider check use.

Vendors are increasingly aware that they do not have to let the buyer dictate how they get paid. Vendors now know that they are able to come to buyers and say, “We’ve got three payment options for you to choose from,”.

Fintech companies are providing new choices for buyers, too. Payment automation lets them offer vendors convenience and choice, without inconveniencing themselves. It’s a win-win, and that is the best possible way to build a relationship.


Kim Lockett is Vice President of Customer Success and Services for Nvoicepay, a FLEETCOR company. She has more than 30 years of experience in payments, with a heavy focus on back-office operations and customer engagement. Prior to Nvoicepay, Kim held operations management and leadership positions with Comdata, Crestmark Bank, and Regions Bank.


Virtually Fraud-Proof: Why Now is the Time to Grow Your Virtual Card Program

One of the business stories coming out of the last year is the dramatic growth of electronic supplier payments. In Q4, Nacha, National Automated Clearinghouse, reported a 15 percent year-over-year increase in B2B ACH payments. The unfortunate sidebar to that story is the rise in ACH payment fraud. In all likelihood, we’ll see a corresponding 15 percent increase in B2B ACH fraud— possibly more, since remote working restrictions left many organizations vulnerable to attack.

As organizations work to improve their defenses against ACH fraud, they should also ramp up their use of virtual cards as much as possible since that is the most secure way to pay suppliers. Supplier objections to fees have always acted as the barrier between the status quo and advanced payment options. With the way the B2B payments landscape is changing, and in light of rising fraud, it may be worth revisiting those conversations with suppliers. Or, for some companies, possibly initiating that conversation for the very first time.

Not the Same as Plastic

Despite its decade-long presence, I still meet a good percentage of people who have never heard of virtual cards—or if they have, they don’t know how they work. Many companies today use a plastic card to pay their suppliers. Alternatively, they use purchasing cards when they purchase supplies. Those physical cards often get lost or stolen. The number can also be stolen even without possessing the actual card.

Virtual cards use the same networks as plastic cards, but they offer several layers of protection that make them fraud-resistant. They are sometimes called single-use cards because the 16-digit number provided can only be used once. That alone is significant. It’s simply not as attractive to fraudsters to steal single-use information. It’s far more appealing to get a regular card number or hack into a supplier system to divert ACH payments. Those are scalable, repeatable types of fraud, if you will.

When it comes to single-use cards, the card number is associated with an amount and a merchant ID number. Each piece of information must match the details provided for transactions to go through. This strict requirement makes single-use virtual cards very difficult to take advantage of.

Really, the most susceptible virtual card risk is employee misuse. You can even eliminate that risk by using virtual cards through a payment services provider—they usually have an indemnification process in place.

Fast, Guaranteed Funds

The big fraud protection benefit is obviously on the buying side, with the buyer receiving a rebate, which helps to defray AP costs. But what about benefits on the supplier side?

Prior to joining Nvoicepay, I sold into accounts receivable. The big concern there is to collect and reconcile payments as quickly as possible. Virtual cards can help on both counts. Virtual card funds reach their designated accounts in 24 hours from the time the payment is approved while checks and ACHs can take up to 10 and two days, respectfully. There’s value in being able to offer AR teams quick payments.

What’s more, these are guaranteed funds. Once they run the card, the funds are theirs. This isn’t always the case for ACH and check payments, which can fail or bounce. Wire payments are the only other payment type that is guaranteed, but they’re expensive to issue and time-consuming to set up, which is why they’re not usually used domestically.

When it comes to reconciliation, plastic cards are hard to reconcile at scale, but virtual cards can be wrapped into a technology solution like the one I used to sell, which automates those processes.

A More Nuanced View

When it comes to fees, there’s still a misconception that accepting virtual card is expensive for suppliers. I do think 2020 acted as a tipping point where suppliers are looking at fees in a more nuanced way. Fast, guaranteed funds are nothing to sneeze at in an environment where many of their customers might be struggling.

Suppose you scale your program and set up a portal for suppliers to receive virtual card payments. In that case, you can receive level two and level three discounted processing. That can often significantly minimize your fees. I’ve seen instances where fees went from 2.5 percent to 1 percent.

Volume and payment size are components of those discounts—if you make large volume payments, you might get a better overall rate and better rates on smaller payments. But access to data is another component. The additional data associated with virtual cards helps issuers mitigate fraud risk. Other data is transmitted with the payment—data that can be used for economic analysis and even for marketing.

It appears that in 2020, COVID-19 did more to move companies off checks and onto electronic supplier payments than all the sales and change management efforts of the preceding decade combined. While the initial response was to adopt ACH payments, companies maturing their electronic payment programs will find virtual card a strategic component that promotes fraud protection and supplier support.


Kristin Cardinali is Vice President of Regional Sales at Nvoicepay, a FLEETCOR company. Her experience in sales and sales leadership spans 16 years, and includes positions held with companies like Capital One and Billtrust. With Nvoicepay, she delivers scalable payment solutions to mid-market and enterprise companies. Kristin has received several accolades, including Sales Rep of the Year & Quarter, and multiple President’s Awards.