With payments already trending towards automation pre-pandemic, a new virtual environment has pushed digitization into overdrive. In this episode, we speak to Gunita Bindra on how habits have accelerated and what this means for business payments.

 

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Why it Matters

Gone are the days of massive piles of paperwork - that can be automated and will save a whole bunch of time.

Announcement: The Payments Podcast from Bottomline Technologies.

Paul McMeekin: In 2020, nothing was left untouched by the effects of the pandemic.

Working from home just became working, and paying from home was something businesses across industries had to adapt to.

We entered the phase of what I like to call, the great acceleration.

Think of your own life. You likely shop online, Tesco groceries being delivered, and you definitely stream entertainment pre-pandemic.

As we look to exit the pandemic now and return to normality, those habit have been accelerated.

This is also true in the world of B2B payments.

With payments already trending towards automation and digital pre-pandemic, the virtual environment pushed digitisation into overdrive.

Hello, I am Paul Mc McMeekin, host of the Payments Podcast, and today I am joined by Gunita Bindra, Vice President of Product Strategy at Bottomline to discuss the current state of payments digitisation and what she expects payments to look like moving forward.

Hello, Gunita.

Gunita Bindra: Hello, Paul. Nice to talk to you.

Paul McMeekin: And thank you for joining us today.

And before we dive into it. A fascinating subject today. Can you just give yourself a quick intro, what you do at Bottomline and how long you have been at Bottomline for?

Gunita Bindra: I would love that. Thank you, Paul.

So, I am Gunita Bindra, as Paul mentioned. I oversee product strategy for Bottomline.

Bottomline is a large organisation, but I oversee the product strategy for the line of business called Paymode-X. That is AP Automation, focused on payments, helping our customers pay and get paid.

I am responsible for product road map, go to market strategy, pricing of the product. And at the end of the day, really responsible for making sure that the product does well for our customers that we are trying to serve for.

Paul McMeekin: Excellent. Quite a task you have ahead of yourself.

So, Gunita, as organisations across the globe take on new digital methods to pay and get paid, what has the process been like in the last 12, 15 months, pivoting from these archaic manual paper-based processes to digital look like? What has really happened?

Gunita Bindra: Great question, Paul.

Well, before we go into that, I really want to talk about the point you made earlier, “great acceleration.”

We have seen that in electronic payments. Growth that our industry expected in years to come came on to us very quickly.

The transformation, or this pivot, that you are asking me about comes first with an acknowledgement to automate and digitally transform your payment process.

We saw there were organisations that made this pivot very quickly, but then there were some organisations, Paul, that actually took a step back and took this opportunity to redefine their processes. They were more organised about their pivot.

These organisations decided to quickly adopt a payment software to manage all their supplier payments coming in and going out. Teams came together to map out their existing processes. They defined their must-haves for a solution like this that will help them transform their payments to digitally or electronically very quickly.

This pivot resulted in a universally accessible and strategically automated payments programme for the businesses that choose to do so.

Does that answer your question, Paul?

Paul McMeekin: It does, yes.

So, let’s dig into it a little bit further, right?

So, the pandemic happens, people probably panicked. Like, “Oh, are we sending cheques out or printing cheques?”

How were these companies able to adapt so quickly, and move from an in-person office to virtually, and have payments still going on, and businesses still paid and got paid?

Gunita Bindra: So firstly, we live in a world- thankfully so, where technology and innovation is top-notch. We live in a world where payment innovation is actually at its peak. There are cloud-based payment solutions available to help automate 100% of your payments, and that too very quickly. You can access those platforms from anywhere because they are cloud-based.

Secondly, I think what helped with the quickness- as we have talked about, is the collaboration and the partnership that occurred. And it wasn’t just internally. We saw buyers and supplier community really partner and collaborate during this time, discuss different net terms on how they wanted to be paid, and pay their suppliers.

And most importantly, I think it is the motivation, and I think any change is possible without people actually wanting it.

So, as human beings, I think we have displayed that we were versatile, we were agile.

We ran into unforeseeable circumstances, but our ability to partner and collaborate really helped us come through these tough times.

I would say the businesses used this scenario, you know, used this setback to actually make a comeback.

Paul McMeekin: You have touched on something very important there, which I think is kind of eye-opening to me, and it is the fact that it is not just technology, it is business relationships, so you said.

The businesses wanted to pay and get paid and they discussed net terms, they were more flexible. So, it is not just an answer about technology, it is an answer about business relationships.

But moving back to technology, how does Bottomline as a whole- or Paymode-X specifically, help businesses come through that and how do they help businesses become more flexible?

Gunita Bindra: Great question, Paul.

So, firstly, for folks that don’t know what Paymode-X is, I just want to quickly share what Paymode-X is.

Paymode-X is an AP Automation platform that helps you manage and process your invoices, the product also helps you make the payments to your suppliers.

Now, within this whole big product suite, what we do offer is the ability for the supplier to send the invoice to the buyer with different changed terms, if they needed to.

We offer early payment discounting capability within our product as well.

So, I think the collaboration that we saw through our product was using our chat functionality.

We saw reporting that customers could pull throughout of Paymode-X. That would help them make better decisions about their working capital.

So, I think that collaboration done through not just via phone calls, but using technology to really collaborate and talk about that particular invoice that you have an issue with, talk about a particular payment that you are not satisfied with.

So, I think that is where technology really comes into play in hybrid or virtual environments.

Paul McMeekin: No, that makes perfect sense, Gunita.

So, it is not just technology, it is a blend of the human communication to the technology which helps facilitate that.

Just moving topic slightly of introducing new technology.

So, traditionally, implementing new processes or implementing new technology takes time, right?

It seems to me things have changed, things have been streamlined. Why is this important to maintain this kind of sense of urgency, going forward?

Gunita Bindra: Again, I want to start answering that question, Paul, with an example.

So, I used to be a consultant. Like, five, six years ago, I was a software consultant. I would go on site actually to implement software.

A side story, I did stay in Paris for six weeks, which was great, but I would actually go on site and implement the software and help design best practices for my clients.

Fast forward today, I see cloud-based payment solutions are accessible from anywhere and everywhere. We will get our own implementation teams. We don’t have to travel.

Solutions are actually now coming with built-in accounting systems or ERP integration, which allows for faster implementation times and actually no IT resource is needed.

We have seen our implementations go from contract to live in less than 100 days.

And then last, Paul, you know, all about this implementing new technology for payment processing is great, but at the end of the day, we need a budget for it. And fortunately, payment types such as virtual card, Premium ACH offer rebates, offer the ability to monetise payments that actually help you offset the cost of any software or platform.

So, I think it is a win-win to really implement a solution that is fast and that really helps you streamline your payment processes.

Paul McMeekin: So, you mentioned a great buzzword there, “payments monetisation.” That has been thrown around the industry in fintech for the last, I don’t know, seven, eight years.

You have given two examples as I am listening to you here of in only payment discounts and rebates, right?

If I am a CFO, or if I am a treasurer, or an AP manager, do I look at the A P Automation system or the way I pay it as a way to generate new money? Is it to offset other IT expenses?

So, what I am hearing you say is that it is not a big costly IT project but something which is neutral, at worse, and potentially revenue-producing at best. Is that a fair summary?

Gunita Bindra: That is a fair statement.

I think CFOs or finance operational organisations- or departments, I should say, really look at automation.

I think after automation immediately comes security- the top of mind. And then comes the question, “How do we pay for it?” And that is where rebate and monetisation comes into play.

Paul McMeekin: This last topic, it is a big one, right?

So, we have all, not all of us, but the vast majority of workers in the US and across the world have went home. And depending where you are in the world, depending on where you are in the US, people are returning to the office either full-time or in a hybrid environment.

What does the future of payments look like?

I will span the lens from B2B payments to kind of all payments.

So, what does the future hold? Is it more digitation? Less digitisation? New technologies? More automation? Less automation?

I would love to get your insights there, Gunita.

Gunita Bindra: Yes.

So, for B2B, I would say there is certainly- I see two types of organisations.

Organisations that adopted digital payments in the last 15 months will come together to take it a step further. They will hopefully talk about reliability. They will start talking about security of their payment processes.

I actually expect those organisations to not just make payments anymore, but make smarter payments to optimise their working capital

The other types of organisations that maybe came up with a Band-Aid for the time being will come together to discuss automation.

So, to answer your question, you will see continued automation throughout next year, years to come.

When it comes to other types of- you know, let’s say consumer payments- or even in B2B. I think I want to see… Say that there is a re-innovation for faster payments.

So like, right now, ACH takes time. Card also could take time. Like, how do we deliver payments in, let’s say, five seconds?

We are going to start to see different types of cryptocurrencies come into play. So, not just in B2B, B2C.

So, I think we might even see invisible payments, a concept where once you have approved your payment in your ERP, it is already paid.

So, I think those are the kinds of concepts I feel like definitely would be coming up.

And then lastly, is the focus on green. Like, after what we have gone through, I don’t think any one of us wants to pay through cheques where it is going to get stuck in the US mail or have paper-based processes. And actually, let’s help our environment by cutting down the paper and then focus on the green.

Paul McMeekin: So, I agree with that, and you said something-

Gunita Bindra: There is a lot, I know. So…

Paul McMeekin: Yes, yes.

So, there are quite a few things to unpack, so that is what we will try and do here.

So, I want to dig deeper in this concept of being in control and having the flexibility to choose your payments.

So, throughout the conversation you have said virtual card. You have said ACH. You have said faster payments potentially in the future.

As a sender of payments, when will I be able to choose and kind of optimise the payment mix for me?

So, I may want full automation. I may want to maximise my rebates. And doing so, I may have leveraged different payment types.

When will I be able to optimise my payment mix, do you think?

Gunita Bindra: If you wanted to, Paul, that could be today using a platform like Paymode-X and other payment solutions out there- you know, you can really control how you are paying your suppliers.

We actually have a concept of intelligent payment routing. What that means is based on- you know, the invoice due date, or the vendor type, or the urgency of the payment.

We can make the decision on behalf of the supplier and the buyer, but we also give the control back to our buyers to choose how they want their suppliers to be paid.

But I think the time is now.

Paul McMeekin: And there you have it, everyone. So, thank you, Gunita.

As companies have been slow to adopt changes in the last five to six years, I think it is fair to say, things have rapidly changed in the last 15 months.

And, as Gunita has outlined, it is going to be more change coming in the next 12 months, 2, 3 years.

So, those who have not changed, they have missed out on the opportunity to monetise their payments- as she says, mitigate the risk of fraud, and improve the relationships with the vendors. And my own personal favourite is, boosting the employee morale.

So, gone are the days of massive piles of paperwork that can be automated and save a whole bunch of time.

So, speaking of time, unfortunately, that is all we have time for today.

But in the meantime, you can listen to more episodes on all things payments at the touch of a button using your preferred provider.

See you next time, and thank you.

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