Day by day, over the course of a month, spanning dozens of discussions and wide-ranging viewpoints, some common themes have emerged.
In the B2B realm, checks, manual processes, phone calls and even faxes have marked the way it’s “always been done.”
The month-long series PYMNTS just concluded offered myriad ways to “reimagine” the way commercial payments can, and indeed should, be done.
The reimagination has some urgency to it. The supply chain snarls that are dominating headlines and hitting just about every vertical show the depths of friction and pain points between buyers and suppliers.
At least some of those frictions can be solved by improving communications and linkups between accounts receivable (AR) and accounts payable (AP) departments, the two sides of the transactional coin. Platforms and marketplaces can bring those previously far-flung parts of the commercial commerce equation closer together. Crafting ecosystems electronically can also help buyers and suppliers find each other with speed and ease, which is crucial to introducing flexibility into supply chains, and keeping production and delivery flowing.
Bringing Buyers and Suppliers Closer Together
The overarching theme here, as Darren Parslow, global head of Visa Business Solutions, said in a closing keynote with Karen Webster, is that payables and receivables are no longer managed as separate jobs.
No longer are buyers and suppliers far-flung entities with differing goals – where, for instance, buyers want to pay as theoretically late as possible, and have had the power to dictate payment methods to suppliers. The tide is shifting a bit, through the aid of automated payables and receivables functions, to get payments done on mutually agreeable terms.
As buyers and suppliers work more closely together, the interactions are becoming ever more intuitive. And the shift toward streamlining payments takes a cue from the quick and easy interactions that are the hallmarks of online B2C commerce, and even P2P transactions: Browse, point, click, checkout. The potential to make B2B payments a bit easier is enormous – at $120 trillion, globally.
For the financial institutions (FIs) that serve commercial enterprises to enable those faster and better payments experiences, it’s necessary to address legacy infrastructure. A “rip and replace” strategy is simply not feasible in terms of time or cost. But providers, through APIs and software integrations, embedded payments and other functions, are making that transition realistic rather than aspirational.
Along with the flexibility afforded by technology and the collaboration between buyers and suppliers, a tailored approach to B2B is possible. Buyers can find credit where they need it, and suppliers may opt to be paid early in exchange for a slight discount. Virtual cards offer spend management controls.
And one common theme that marked all of last month’s discussions – better cash-flow visibility and management – benefits everyone involved. There are many paths to get there, as B2B payments are truly reimagined.