American Express has launched a new digital payment service that provides corporations with something that banks to date have not been able to offer—a consolidated offering that supports check, ACH, wire and credit card payments.
Companies using the new service, Payve, send a file to American Express that can include instructions for multiple vendors and various payment methods. American Express directs the payments to each supplier using the designated method, and Payve processes the payments to clients’ banks, allowing companies to maintain their existing banking relationships and corporate processes.
In addition, an American Express team will help clients add suppliers and support their transition to electronic payments, says Andrew Jamison, vice president of global corporate payments.
If American Express helps get suppliers to accept card payments, corporations benefit from the efficiencies associated with moving away from paper checks and by leveraging the float of the card cycle and incentives for early payment, Jamison says.
Banks have internal conflicts that prevent them from offering a service like Payve that consolidates check, ACH and card payment options, says Aaron McPherson, practice director at IDC Financial Insights.
“Cards were never part of treasury, so you’ve essentially got these two divisions which are competing with each other,” he says. “Banks have not been able to make peace between their different operating units to create a single offering with cards, ACH and check. But that’s what businesses have been wanting a long time. They want a single relationship manager and a bundled offering.”
Payve makes it easier for American Express to sell to corporations because it can offer all the payment methods that corporates want to use, McPherson says. “On the other hand, it helps grow the card business because once they’re in, they can offer the company greater rebates for more card business.”
McPherson says it’s likely that corporations will use EDI for payments to their biggest, tier one suppliers. They typically use checks for their smallest, tier three suppliers.
Companies do enough business with tier two suppliers to prompt them to gain efficiencies by automating the payment process but not enough that they want to spend money on EDI, McPherson says. That’s the space that commercial cards and a new generation of ACH products have targeted, he says. Card providers have also been targeting the small, tier three suppliers since a small business is more likely to be willing to accept cards because its real issue is cash flow. “If they can get paid faster by taking a card, they’ll give up the discount rate,” he says.
A larger supplier would likely rather be paid via ACH or a check, which clear at face value, McPherson said. “But since a lot of businesses have a 2% discount for paying within 10 days, it’s not completely out of line to charge 2% to take a card,” he says. “So over the last 10 years, there have been considerable inroads made in commercial cards. It’s probably the fastest growing card segment.”