Shining a Light on Superheroes of Finance: Accounts Payable

Corporate Payments And Payables

Richard Ransom

Richard Ransom

Jun 13, 2024

I recently had the privilege of being asked to open the AP Leadership and Influencer Forum with the visionary founder of the Accounts Payable Association, Jamie Radford.

It was a day filled with collaboration and thought-provoking insights. I couldn’t help but be impressed and inspired by the strong sense of community and energy of this often-underestimated part of the finance team.

Accounts payable (AP) professionals play a crucial role in driving an organisation's financial health. In fact, they are akin to the oxygen of the economy.

The finance function has evolved significantly in recent years, with the expectation of ‘doing more with less’ becoming the norm for many companies. Gone are the days when AP teams merely processed invoices and remittances in the background. There is now a greater emphasis on the finance function to give businesses an accurate view of their balance sheet to make strategic decisions with agility.

Reflecting on insights shared during the forum, I would like to highlight a few key recurring themes.

 

Fraud Remains a Major Concern

In an era when tools and tricks from Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) to deepfake videos are becoming more sophisticated, and with fraudsters themselves using increasingly advanced technology, company-wide vigilance has never been more important.

Many AP professionals concurred that adhering to agreed-upon payment processes and regular company-wide fraud prevention training are significant ongoing activities for preventing fraud and errors.    

There is no silver bullet fraud fighting solution on the horizon. However, a layered verification approach to verify payee and payer data is a crucial step in making systems more secure.

Vetting vendors is an obvious step in the verification process, but many companies have yet to embrace solutions to help establish new vendors as legitimate. That leaves many vulnerabilities to be exploited -- and they will be. In addition to fraud detection and prevention tools, a closed-loop business payments network goes a long way in taking fraud out the equation. Having these and related capabilities available in a unified platform yields deeper insights, faster response times, and reduced incidences of fraud and error.

 

Strong Financial Communication and Collaboration is Essential

The finance function’s role has evolved in recent years, expanding to become a strategic business partner to multiple departments. This collaboration extends beyond the CEO and CFO to include the CMO, COO, CHRO, and others.

Effective cross-team communication is essential to ensure strategic business planning and decision-making. This often comes down to ‘soft skills’ (like clear communications) that may be lagging. As Harvard Business Review wrote in an analysis of changes impacting the C-suite, “The focus on social skills is especially evident in large firms,” and adding that “[these] patterns are consistent with the view that in larger and more complex organizations, top managers are increasingly expected to coordinate disparate and specialized knowledge, match the organization’s problems with people who can solve them, and effectively orchestrate internal communication.”

 

Technology and Processes

Many organisations continue to face challenges due to fragmented technologies and processes.

While some manual tasks are acknowledged as necessary, there is a need for internal awareness of the potential for automation and an understanding of how this technology is rapidly advancing and improving AP outcomes.

Interestingly, the topic of real-time payments sparked a debate. The sentiment expressed was that all payments should adhere to an agreed-upon process, so if a payment needs expediting using Faster Payments, it suggests that something has gone wrong in the internal process.

 

The Power of Community

It’s impossible to overemphasise the importance of community. Sharing experiences, challenges and learning is what made this APA forum so special.

I encourage learning from peers, from industry experts, from business partners, and from others to identify, discuss and overcome payment challenges and potential solutions.

Finally, a heartfelt thank you to the Accounts Payable Association for shining a light on the growing significance of invaluable AP professionals and corporate leaders.

Related topics

Fraud Payment Technology
Richard Ransom

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Richard Ransom

With 25+ years of experience, Richard Ransom has been involved in some of the most impactful innovations the payments industry has experienced. His specialties include ACH, real-time Payments, Open Banking, SWIFT, and emerging business payment methods and schemes.

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