From the November 2010 issue of Treasury & Risk magazine

Corralling Payments


Given the impact of the financial meltdown on corporate liquidity, treasurers are looking more closely at the accounts receivable process and exploring ways to integrate receivables. Companies today receive payments from many different places and in many ways, says Nancy Atkinson, a senior analyst at the Aite Group. "They may be mailed-in payments, Internet payments, voice payments, mobile payments--they may even be in person." That makes it hard for companies to geta good view of receivables, and payments for business-to-business transactions are even more convoluted. A single B2B payment often covers multiple invoices, Atkinson notes, and can include exceptions and discounts the payer may--or may not--be entitled to. "The idea of the integrated receivables hub is one whose time has come," she says.

Such a hub gathers payments and remittances in the form of checks, wire transfers, ACH, cards and mobile payments. It automates the consolidation of internal and external data to resolve exceptions, and provides reporting and analysis across payment types.

In fact, a recent Aite survey of treasurers and senior receivables managers at large companies found that three out of five are dissatisfied with their receivables processes, and 54% are adopting or plan to adopt an integrated receivables hub within the next two years.

Banks such as J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of New York Mellon are rushing to meet that demand. J.P. Morgan's Receivables Edge is a Web browser that lets companies view a spectrum of receivables and match remittances with payments. BNY Mellon's Cash Application Exception Management Services helps companies match exceptions to checks and remittances, notifies them about select transactions via e-mail or a wireless device, and gives them intraday access to exception images via the Web.

Beyond efficiencies, a receivables hub gives treasurers a better handle on working capital and liquidity. The goal, says Craig Vaream of J.P. Morgan Treasury Services, is to provide a global hub so finance executives can "sit in New York and be able to view their receivables in London, in Hong Kong, too."

BNY Mellon's Blaine Carnprobst says hubs are still "evolving." How far are we from the day when all receivables data reside in a central location and technology matches payments with remittances?

We're getting closer, says Aite's Atkinson, and that's good news for credit managers. Not knowing who has paid means wasting time tracking down good customers, she says. "So this data is essential, especially for the B2Bs."

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