Over the last ten months, the world has up-rooted and almost everything has moved online. Whether it is shopping for necessities or video calling work colleagues – the inability to meet with people, outside of your own household, has called for rapid digitalisation. This has meant digital adoption within organisations has taken a significant leap in a short amount of time. The most notable change for businesses is the increase of remote working, with 46.6% of the workforce in the UK working from home in April 2020. This change in behaviour to a decentralised workforce has created significant challenges for the way companies make B2B payments and, like many other aspects of our lives, corporate payment processes must modernise in order to continue successfully in the new digital world.
The most obvious challenge for payments whilst working from home is the logistical issue of the decentralised workforce. Without access to the office, traditional B2B payment processes such as writing a cheque, getting post and filling invoice paperwork have become extremely problematic. However, online payments have also become subject to complications with employees having to wait to receive plastic cards, using personal funds or sharing card details insecurely to complete orders. With B2B spending predicted to be the area of largest eCommerce growth , it is imperative for employees to be able to purchase online with minimal interruptions. Implementing a virtual card provider can help mitigate problems for purchasing teams as they continue to work remotely, giving them the ability to generate virtual cards quickly and easily. The accelerated innovation from payment providers due to the pandemic has meant that even suppliers who before were considered “un-cardable”, can now also be paid using a virtual card. This reduces the need for cash, giving purchasing teams the ability to pay from anywhere and improving the payment program’s accessibility.
Whilst the work-from-home digital shift has created opportunities for many companies to update their technology, it has left them to susceptible to cyber security breaches. Now lacking the robust office security systems, employees have had to become experts in making sure their network is secure. This paired with the growth of fraud on eCommerce purchasing channels during the pandemic , means that it is important that organisations try to alleviate the risk for employees. Virtual Cards single-use design creates a new number each time a card is generated; therefore, should an employee fall victim to fraud when purchasing online, the breached data cannot be extracted into any value. The extensive customisable controls around limit, number of uses and category restrictions also help to reduce the risk of internal misuse. Simultaneously, limiting the amount of transactions employees make via personal card further minimises the risk of fraud, out of policy spending and leakage.
Employees using their personal cards for business purchases can causes problems with reconciliation and cash flow due to the large gaps it leaves in financial data. Homeworking has exacerbated this problem, with data showing an increase in employee spending relating to purchasing home office supplies. This leaves finance departments with little insight into employee spending until receiving their expense claims, making it difficult to plan and manage budgets. Depending on your financial program, this could further extend the reconciliation process with employees having to input each claim manually. Not only decentralising company’s workforce, the pandemic has also made it more important for finance teams to remain in control of their spending, driving many to invest in digital payment solutions. Features like online portals and card controls can help departments manage their past, present and future expenditures giving finance teams the data they need in real-time. Furthermore, digital payment providers understand how the data exchange is as important to a finance department as the money exchange. Not only are Virtual Cards data rich, offering bespoke data field selection but also feed directly into your finance and expense modules automating the reconciliation process.
The reason virtual payments work so harmoniously with the work-from-home landscape is due to their flexible nature. They can be easily generated from anywhere with robust security measures and complete visibility on real time data making them attractive to B2B buyers. However, the process can be advantageous for suppliers as well. From a Working Capital perspective, using a Virtual Card means a buyer can expand their days payable outstanding (DPO), while reducing the days sales outstanding (DSO) for their supplier by paying them faster. Using a payment like this also means once the card network approves the transaction, the vendor is guaranteed to receive the money . This is unlike other payment methods, such as ACH, which include considerations such as claw-back provisions.
Virtual Cards are an excellent tool that can help companies pay suppliers quickly without minimising their DPO whilst still achieving: enhanced governance on spend, high levels of data and automatic reconciliation. Whilst the migration to digital B2B payments was inevitable, the effects of the pandemic have accelerated the timeline. Remote working has highlighted how antiquated payment methods no longer work in a digital world and companies must redesign their processes to fit the new normal. So, what happens when everyone returns to the office? Future Forum research found that the majority of workers never want to go back to the old way of working, with only 12% want to return to full-time office work . Whilst the future of office working is still unknown, the benefits surrounding virtual payments reach far beyond remote working. The AirPlus B2B payment solution can help streamline financial processes; minimise the risk of fraud and misuse; increase an organisations working capital whilst also building stronger relationships with their suppliers.