The New York Clearing House has published a market research study that identifies five key barriers to electronic payments across large, medium and small companies.
The survey of one hundred fifty-five companies targeted treasurers and other financial professionals in charge of the payments area within their companies. This survey was followed by nine focus groups of executives and senior managers responsible for company finances and accounts payable/receivable.
While company representatives agree that the trend is toward electronic payments, for many there is little incentive to move quickly in this direction. The results tally with research conducted by the Federal Reserve and Nacha which show that paper-based payments still represent 84% of all US corporate payments.
Most company representatives stated that lack of information with payments was a key barrier to be overcome, although they varied in the amount of information they need. Currently, one seventh of all payments are accompanied by enough electronic remittance information for automated reconciliation. The survey also found that across the revenue segments 65% of companies were "likely" to "certain" to adopt a service that integrated the remittance information with the payment.
Companies have shown they are more interested in receiving payments electronically than in sending them, says Nacha. This is partially due to the perceived loss of cheque float associated with making electronic payments. Since ACHs and wires settle within one or two days, funds are moved earlier than with cheques, unless the terms of payments are renegotiated.
Furthermore, there is often an assumption that the electronic payment was a debit transaction initiated by their trading partner. Results show that while they do like using direct debits for collections, businesses do not like being debited by other companies as a form of payment. Instead, they prefer to control the timing and amount of payments. Direct debits are primarily used out of pressure from large customers or limited to well-established business partners, due to the lack of security and the difficulty in resolving issues.
The beneficiary’s bank and account number must be known in order to initiate electronic payments. Many companies said they were reluctant to give out their account numbers, which is required to initiate electronic payments.
This points to an overriding security concern that many companies have with their accounts, says Nacha. The survey showed 38% of large revenue companies had experienced unauthorised debits to their accounts in the past six months.
Another barrier is the lack of functionality and integration in cash management and accounting systems. Existing business software is not designed to easily send or receive payments, nor is it integrated with the payment systems in other parts of many companies.
The Clearing House says it is addressing these barriers by enhancing its payments systems and working with accounting and cash management software providers, as well as its eleven owner banks. As part of this work, The Clearing House has developed the Universal Payment Identification Code (UPIC), which allows companies to receive electronic credit payments from trading partners while masking sensitive banking information.