GE faced a challenge. A global expansion was leading it into new markets but it was still using a cumbersome manual invoice payment process for letters of credit and guarantees. This inefficient process generated 21,000 pages of paper a year and required an analyst to spend as much as one full day a week reviewing, reconciling and paying bills.
It fell to Lynda McGoey, manager-trade and project finance, to assemble a cross-functional team to develop an in-house automated system that would save hours--as well as trees--and prevent the need for additional staff.
McGoey; Dee Dobler-Palin, analyst-trade and project finance; Valerie Bothwell, senior business analyst; and Doreen Lyons, specialist-treasury, collaborated with bankers and business requestors to develop digitized technology. The objective was to create a system acceptable to bankers that would read each bank fee quote, calculate the fees due and convert them to a U.S. dollar-equivalent.
The automated payment module (APM) was born. It automatically feeds invoices into GE's internal billing system and cash system (Web Cash). It bills GE businesses for their bank fees and simultaneously pays the banks via wire transfer or ACH. APM also is a central repository for data available to GE businesses, treasury and banks.
GE obtained bank buy-in, despite initial opposition, to fix foreign exchange rates on a quarterly basis using Bloomberg-published rates. "It wasn't easy," says McGoey. But it worked. GE now provides bankers with passwords so they can run reports and check the status of any payment real time.
Savings have been dramatic. "In the second quarter, we processed 2,300 ACH fees to 30 banks supporting 35 businesses for 3,300 active instruments, and cut annual processing costs by $130,000," says McGoey.
What's more, with no paper waste and no defects--countless trees were saved in the process.