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FinTech: 5 Automation Trends That Are Impacting the Industry Right Now

FinTech

FinTech: 5 Automation Trends That Are Impacting the Industry Right Now

The FinTech industry is rapidly moving toward automation as a source of efficiency. The move to specific tools and software programs increases speed and accuracy of processes. It also keeps employers on their toes as they need to quickly evolve and learn. Many of these programs previously required specialized training and adaptability.
Automation helps with repetitive procedures and simplifies complicated tasks. It increases accuracy and safety measures, while minimizing human error. Expectations indicate that the FinTech industry will extend its tech integration significantly over the next four years.


Here are 5 automation trends that are impacting the Fintech industry right now:

1. Human Resources Management: This used to be one of the least automated components, but now software like Workday and 15Five are building platforms to assist workflow with related systems that support employee management. Finance companies increasingly recognize that their people are the most valuable resource and need to be managed more thoughtfully as well as efficiently.

2. Mobile: Finance companies now consider mobile oriented tech as part of the core work-flow. The industry relies heavily on its ability to get work done efficiently. FinTech continues to utilize software which speeds up communication and productivity. Mobile used to be considered a security risk by the financial industry. Now it is considered a way to enhance productivity as well as provide more flexible workflow for employees.

3. Customer Support: More automation is taking over customer service. This support has advanced tremendously with certain software programs that include internal systems to support customers. Software systems such as Fresh Desk and Zen Desk are cutting down on the head count needed for customer service departments in some companies. But more importantly these new systems are improving the customer experience and the lives of the people working in those departments.

4. Billing/Invoicing: Payments systems like Stripe, invoicing and billing systems like Freshbooks, and more advanced ERP systems Netsuite are examples of programs that continue to reinvent the way FinTech is automating business functions. Although many companies are still at least partially stuck in the past of creating manual invoices and payments, these automated systems are increasingly taking over. Both the customer and the vendor win with greater automation in this area. Vendors cut costs and get paid faster. Customers benefit from this greater efficiency of vendors with lower prices or higher value delivered for their purchases.

5. Accounting: Xendoo, Zoho, Quicken online and other systems automate are automating the accounting, bookkeeping, and tax filing functions of businesses. Traditional accounting software, and human bookkeepers and accountants, still have an important role to play in this area, but the accounting business is rapidly changing as well due to technology. The number of people involved with these activities is likely to shrink dramatically as automation takes over more of these functions. Ultimately businesses and their customers will benefit from this via lower operating costs that allow for better value to be delivered rather than spent on administrative functions like accounting.

It is crucial for companies of all sizes to be knowledgeable about this trend and keep their business updated as automation continues to reinvent Fintech industry jobs. You have to be able to adapt quickly to these changes. Our previous ideas and habits of doing business are changing, and we have to keep up with those changes or be left behind by competitors who will adapt more quickly

Automation is impacting Fintech employees in a variety of complex ways so it’s critical for employees to have a greater understanding of and training on different software systems to ensure they keep up with the automation and benefit from it rather than viewing it as a potential threat to their jobs. There is no way to stop technology. All of us need to work hard to stay on the right side of its inevitable progress.

intermediary banks

Connecting the World: The Importance of Intermediary Banks

Whether you are initiating electronic international payments through a fintech solution or buying physical currency, the chances are high that a bank will be involved. The relationship between banks, as well as the role of intermediary banks, often eludes the general public, who are content with the process as long as it works.

However, understanding how the sausage is made can provide valuable insight into the way you conduct your business. Let’s take a closer look at intermediary banks and their subsequent relationship with currency exchange.

What is an Intermediary Bank?

In layman’s terms, an intermediary bank is where funds are transferred prior to reaching their destination, the payment bank. 

To transfer money, banks must hold accounts with each other in the same way that a typical client would. However, there are too many banks for one to hold accounts with all the others, so instead, they strategically choose where to open accounts. The result is a fragmented network of financial institutions. 

When a bank needs to send money to a location where their bank does not hold an account, the bank instructs an intermediary bank to act as a “middle man” to pass on the funds on their behalf. Funds can transfer between multiple intermediaries, especially if one of the banks is not networked with many larger banks. If the payment bank is across an international border, the intermediary bank may also act as the currency exchange provider.

The Role of Currency Exchange

Currency exchange refers to the use of one currency to purchase the same value in another currency. It’s required any time one entity wishes to pay another in a currency different from their default option.

Each country has either a “fixed” or “floating” exchange rate. A “fixed” exchange rate—also known as the “gold standard”—means that all the country’s money has a physical equivalent in gold or another precious material. “Floating” exchange rates may not have a physical worth, but are influenced by the market and politics, as is currently the case with the Great British pound’s relationship with Brexit.

Breaking Down the Cost

For businesses, currency exchange is vital to a true international payment process. Some vendors may wish to be paid in their customer’s default currency, which would not warrant an exchange. U.S. businesses may experience this when working with vendors in countries like China or Japan, who often prefer payments in USD. This happens when a vendor finds it cheaper to open accounts specific to currencies other than their own in order to avoid exchange fees.

Some vendors have opened multi-currency accounts, which enable vendors to accept and store more than one currency in a single account. Because this method is still gaining traction, it’s good practice to ask if vendors have multi-currency accounts before sending them money. If they don’t, and their account cannot support your currency, the payment bank will likely reject the funds.

Other hidden costs to consider when working with international payments are:

The exchange. If your origin currency is weaker than the payment currency, your money may lose some value in the trade. However, the market is continuously shifting, so the exchange will also gain value at times. The more international payments you make, the likelier that this cost will even out over time.

Intermediary bank fees. Some intermediary banks shave off a fee for their services, which is usually taken from the sum – the net amount is deposited into the vendor’s account. Not all intermediary banks will charge this fee, and it’s not immediately obvious which banks will do so.

Payment bank fees. Similar to the intermediary banks, certain payment banks also charge a fee for processing international payments. Again, not every bank charges this fee, but those that do will deduct it from the payment sum before depositing the net amount into the vendor’s account. Vendors can discuss this charge with their bank if it occurs.

Disrupting the Status Quo

With all these nuances to keep in mind, it can feel like involving a fintech will only add another cog to an already-overwhelming process. However, a fintech can determine the most efficient route through an intermediary bank, and assist in locating missing payments. If funds are returned for any reason, fintechs also act as a holding account while you decide if you want to exchange the funds back or resend them. Following a process like this ultimately saves time, money, and hassle.

If you’re on the fence about using a fintech for international payments, keep in mind that you aren’t losing out by mitigating an overly complicated bank processes. You’re merely side-stepping the complications in favor of usability.

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Alyssa Callahan is a Technical Marketing Writer at Nvoicepay. She has four years of experience in the B2B payment industry, specializing in cross-border B2B payment processes.

Fintechs

Excellent Service is the Hero of the Fintech World

Customer service isn’t what it used to be—in a good way. The financial world has witnessed rapid technological advancements over the last century, but customer service remains a steadfast priority through it all.

Ensuring a good experience for buyers not only gives companies an edge over their competition, but it has practically become a requirement for company growth. With the increasing popularity of information-sharing websites and apps like Facebook or Yelp, reputations can expand or shatter within moments.

Fintechs are in a unique position as the liaison between customers and their suppliers. However, they tend to limit services offered to suppliers in favor of a more customer-oriented focus. As such, supplier support remains a well of untapped potential. How is this important, and why should fintechs care about suppliers?

Redefining “end-to-end”

“End-to-end,” from a B2B payment perspective, defines the customer’s processes from the time they receive an invoice to final reconciliation. Fintechs that prioritize customer-focused solutions risk their reputations by not providing decent supplier support. In reality, suppliers are customers too. Though they may not be required to pay for the back-end services that fintechs offer, they are just as capable of leaving reviews of their poor experiences on social media.

Nvoicepay recognized this long ago and redefined what “support” meant in the B2B payments space by dedicating teams for both customer and supplier assistance. Our daily interactions with suppliers act as a valuable means for us to determine the most beneficial improvements to our solution. It has paid off so far: The services we provide to suppliers who seek payment assistance have earned our support teams a consistent satisfaction rating of 98%. Clearly, the need for AR services within AP solutions is out there.

Suppliers: The new customers

Fintechs often completely disregard supplier support. In some ways, this approach makes sense: customers pay for the service. This often means that suppliers are reduced to a “commodity” status. Tales of suppliers being strong-armed into accepting certain payment types are rampant. To no one’s surprise, this method for supporting customers does not encourage stable, long-term business relationships.

To improve our own services, Nvoicepay has explored ways to make suppliers feel like more than just a cog in their customer’s AP process.

Nvoicepay’s vendor enablement services offer a medley of benefits that ease the burden from both AP and AR teams. When a supplier joins our robust network, they become immediately payable by all current and future customers. When the supplier needs to update their information, a single call or email to Nvoicepay covers all bases, thus limiting touchpoints and mispayment risks. Customers aren’t required to maintain extensive payment details for their suppliers—it’s all done in-house by Nvoicepay’s supplier support team.

Making payments is also a breeze. Suppliers who are used to being pressured into specific payment types are pleasantly surprised to be offered alternatives. Credit card—commonly preferred by customers looking to limit their payment file count—can be a hardship for some suppliers. Nvoicepay’s holistic approach enables customers to submit a single payment file for all payment types, letting suppliers choose from credit card, ACH, or check options without extra work on the AP side. This symbiotic process maintains healthy business relationships and improves workflows for all parties involved.

A new industry standard

By choosing a SaaS that treats your suppliers well, you’re getting the whole AP support package. Without supplier services, any payment follow-ups wind up in the laps of your AP team—not exactly the groundbreaking automation you were promised.

While it’s likely not the first thing on your mind when you browse for AP solutions, choosing one that also benefits your suppliers gives you an overlooked advantage, and will leave you with both a happier AP team and satisfied suppliers. Ultimately, a solution without a holistic approach to the “end-to-end” process is no solution at all.

Alyssa Callahan is a Technical Marketing Writer at Nvoicepay. She has four years of experience in the B2B payment industry, specializing in cross-border B2B payment processes.

Want In On The Fintech Trend? 4 Options For Funding Your Startup

Fintech companies are becoming significant players in the U.S. economy, with firms such as Credit Karma, Tradeshift and Plaid enjoying extraordinary success as they use technology and innovation in an effort to transform the financial services industry.

In 2018, for example, fintech investments in the U.S. reached $11.9 billion, a new annual high, according to CB Insights.

But despite the favorable trend, fintech startups also face the same reality that all startups do – raising the capital to launch a business is no easy feat.

The good news for fintech entrepreneurs, though, is that we are well past the time when investors might have viewed fintech as a fad that would pass.

“I think that most investors have come to understand that fintech is here to stay,” says Kirill Bensonoff (www.kirillbensonoff.com), a serial entrepreneur and an expert in blockchain.

“Finance is getting more and more high tech each year.”

Still, coming up with sufficient capital to start any business – whether it’s from your own savings, a loan from a relative, or cash from an investor – can present a formidable problem.

“One lesson I’ve learned over the years is that successful entrepreneurs must be persistent,” Bensonoff says. “You will face challenges and one of those could be raising capital. Perseverance will get you through.”

Options for raising that capital include:

-Venture capital. Venture capitalists might be inclined to invest in your startup in exchange for an equity stake if they think there’s a chance they can score a big return. But they will need convincing. “The failure rate for new businesses is high, so it’s only natural for investors to be skeptical about whether you can pull it off,” Bensonoff says. “Any investment is a risk, and venture capitalists know that. But smart investors want it to be at least a calculated risk, not a roll of the dice.”

-Crowdfunding. If venture capital is not an option, crowdfunding could be the next best bet, Bensonoff says. Online crowdfunding platforms allow you to make your pitch in one spot where a myriad of different potential investors can see it. Examples of startups that used crowdfunding are Oculus and Skybell.

-Angel investors. An angel investor is an accredited investor who uses his or her own money to invest in a small business. Not just anyone can be an angel investor, though. They need to have a net worth of at least $1 million or a minimum annual income of $200,000. Bensonoff himself has served as an angel investor for some companies.

-Self-funding or “bootstrapping.” For those who want to bootstrap their fintech company, relying on their own money rather than the investments of others, there are options. Some people tap into savings or retirement accounts. Many keep their day jobs and make their startup a side business until it takes off. “Bootstrapping has always been an important approach to my life,” Bensonoff says. “I had to rely on my own money and hard work to succeed, and I had to remain frugal. When bootstrapping becomes a way of life, it opens up new opportunities.”

In Bensonoff’s view, raising capital to launch a fintech company isn’t any harder – or easier – than raising money for any other type of business.

“I think a good company in any sector gets funded,” he says. “So for entrepreneurs who want to plunge into the fintech sector, the key is to develop something that’s useful and satisfies an economic want.”

About Kirill Bensonoff

Kirill Bensonoff (www.kirillbensonoff.com) has over 20 years experience in entrepreneurship, technology and innovation as a founder, advisor and investor in over 30 companies. He’s the CEO of OpenLTV, which gives investors across the world access to passive income, collateralized by real estate, powered by blockchain. 

In the information technology and cloud services space, Kirill founded U.S. Web Hosting while still in college, was co-founder of ComputerSupport.com in 2006, and launched Unigma in 2015. All three companies had a successful exit. As an innovator in the blockchain and DLT space, Kirill launched the crypto startup Caviar in 2017 and has worked to build the blockchain community in Boston by hosting the Boston Blockchain, Fintech and Innovation Meetup.

He is also the producer and host of The Exchange with KB podcast and leads the Blockchain + AI Rising Angel.co syndicate. Kirill earned a B.S. degree from Connecticut State University, is a graduate of the EO Entrepreneurial Masters at MIT, and holds a number of technical certifications. He has been published or quoted in Inc., Hacker Noon, The Street, Forbes, Huffington Post, Bitcoin Magazine and Cointelegraph and many others.

How to Find Your Way in the World of International Payments

Credit card, direct deposit, check, cash, e-pay… making domestic payments is a breeze these days, with enough flexibility to offer optimization based on your vendor’s payment preferences. International payments, on the other hand, are much more complex, and bring to mind painful images of cumbersome wire submissions.

Alternate options, such as fintech solutions, enable companies to submit all their domestic and international payments in one file. If the fintech also includes vendor maintenance as part of their services, then the payment file draws banking details from the fintech’s vendor network, eliminating the responsibility of maintaining that data from AP teams’ plates.

But before we delve too deeply into the process, let’s take a step back and explore nomenclature. Over time, companies have imposed their own internal vocabulary over common terms. Terms like ‘wire’, ‘direct deposit’, and ‘ACH’ are often used interchangeably, even though they operate differently. Let’s synchronize our understanding of these words.

What’s in a name?

International vs. cross-border vs. FX

“Cross-border payments” is a self-explanatory term—the definition is right in the name. These funds cross international borders to reach their destination.

“International payments” also describes cross-border payment activity, but carries other specific interpretations as well. For example, it may also refer to funds transferred within a single country through a bank or fintech located outside of that country (e.g. Canada to Canada, but through a U.S. fintech).

The term “FX” (Foreign Exchange) is occasionally thrown around to describe international payments, though it typically refers to currency exchange instead of the transmission of funds.

At the end of the day, as long as your company recognizes the nuances, the use of any term is fine. For simplicity’s sake, the rest of this article will refer to “international payments.”

Stepping out of history and into the future

Wire vs. EFT

Wire is the most popular and recognizable form of international payment processing. From a simplistic, yet technical standpoint, wire payments transmit account data from one bank to another. It’s sometimes the only method for sending money from one country to another, especially when working with specific currency exchanges or infrequently paid countries.

The term “EFT” (Electronic Funds Transfer) is quite a bit broader. It is a catch-all phrase used to describe any electronic payment process. Wire, ACH, direct deposit, and other methods fall under this umbrella.

Standardized codes

Codes are commonly used to determine various international payment factors. Use of the wrong codes can cause downstream payment issues, so it’s worth identifying each type, since they often appear to be very similar to one another.

Country Codes

ISO (International Organization for Standardization) country codes are country-specific abbreviations with varied uses.  Although three ISO country code variations exist—ISO Alpha-2, ISO Alpha-3, and ISO Alpha numeric—the ISO Alpha-2 code is used most in the international payment scope, in IBANs and SWIFT codes. 

As the name suggests, ISO Alpha-2 codes are 2-character codes assigned to each country for identification purposes.  For example, the United States is “US”, the United Kingdom is “GB”, and China is “CN.”

Currency Codes

Currency codes are 3-digit codes that identify currencies. Their resemblance to ISO Alpha-3 country codes may cause confusion, so it’s always worthwhile to make sure you’ve got the right code before adding it to payment instructions.

For example, the ISO Alpha-3 country code for the United States is “USA” while the currency code for U.S. dollars is “USD”. Similarly, “CHE” is the ISO Alpha-3 country code for Switzerland, while the currency code for Swiss francs is “CHF.”

Payment specifications

Information requirements for international payments are far less cut-and-dried than those for domestic processes. The details often vary depending on the payment type, currencies, and the countries involved.

SWIFT/BIC Codes

Veteran AP personnel are likely very familiar with the SWIFT system (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications), which is known as the BIC system (Bank Identifier Code) in some countries.

SWIFT codes were introduced in the ‘70s as a way to streamline the global money-transferring process and reduce the possibility of human error. SWIFT codes are a series of characters that identify the bank, country, and branch location to which a payment should be sent. Decades later, they still play a significant role.

Routing Numbers

While SWIFT codes are still essential to send international payments, the growing financial industry has highlighted the need for additional details.

Routing numbers are the collective answer, and play a fairly large role in the modern payment structure.

The caveat is that they may not always be called “routing numbers”, which is a U.S. term. For example, Australia has the “BSB Code”, China the “CNAPS”, and India the “ISFC Code”.

While it may seem redundant to provide both the SWIFT and routing details, it is an excellent way to clarify the payment destination.

IBANs and Account Numbers

IBANs (International Bank Account Number) arrived in the ‘90s as a way to further standardize banking information, and have been adopted primarily by countries in the European Union, the Middle East, and several countries in Africa. While IBANs vary in length depending on the country, they contain these common factors:

ISO alpha-2 country code

Check digits

Bank identifier

Branch identifier

Account number

Because IBANs often include the bank identifier (which shares digits with the SWIFT code), further account information isn’t typically necessary, which massively simplifies the payment process.

Countries that have not adopted the IBAN must still provide the SWIFT code, routing details, and the account number, as well as any country-specific requirements with their invoices.

Country-specific details

Additional details can include purpose of payment, tax documentation, and company phone numbers, amongst other things. Since each country requires specific information, it can be tricky to know exactly what to supply.

When in doubt, ask your payment solution provider—they can outline each country’s requirements, as needed.

Putting it all together

While international payment processes have evolved over time, the task is still nothing to sneeze at. Fortunately, fintechs like Nvoicepay have simplified the process, and store and maintain banking details on your behalf. That way, when you’re ready to pay your international vendors, you’re good to go in just a few clicks of your mouse—no more painful single-payment submissions through the bank.

Alyssa Callahan is a Technical Marketing Writer at Nvoicepay. She has four years of experience in the B2B payment industry, specializing in cross-border B2B payment processes.