Have you found yourself in an accidental bill payment situation? Many firms start paying bills for a handful of key clients, never anticipating demand for a true bill payment service. Next thing you know, it becomes completely unscalable, requires hours of manual effort, and lacks the proper controls and workflows you need. No matter how you got to this point, chances are if you were initially planning to make bill pay a core service offering, you would have a different set up and infrastructure in place.
Here are five key questions to consider if you want to offer bill pay more broadly to your clients, or if you are considering adding this service for the first time:
1. What are the pain points with your current process?
This may seem obvious, but talk to everyone involved in the current process to get their feedback. Ask them:
· What makes it hard?
· What do they worry about?
· What is time consuming?
· What is redundant?
They might feel like they have outgrown your current QuickBooks solution, they may spend hours reconciling different bank accounts, or logging in and out of multiple ledgers and systems. Identifying and prioritizing your current pain points is a key first step in your buying journey. Be specific and quantify the key choke points that are impacting your operations.
2. What is my Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)?
Before you can go out and compare solutions, you need to have a good idea of how much your current bill pay process costs you each month. Once you have a sense of your current costs, then you can better determine if another solution/vendor is offering enough value to warrant a replacement.
For help in determining how much your current bill pay operations might cost check out our online ROI calculator. Also, take into consideration how much bill pay is currently costing your clients, and if money can be saved there as well. Some vendors charge clients transaction fees, which can really add up over time.
3. What does my ideal process look like?
You know the main pain points that you want to address in your current process, but what does your ideal process look like? What sort of controls does your system need in order to segregate? Do you need to control vendor set up and other key functions?
Map out your current and ideal approval workflows and have potential vendors model out these use cases.
Changing systems can also be an ideal time to re-organize your chart of accounts. For many firms these charts have become unorganized and new accounts may have been added over time without much thought to uniformity across the firm.
Finally, be realistic about how much historical data you want to bring over. In an ideal world, you would be able to bring over years of historical data, but these may have a significant impact on the implementation schedule. Discover what other options are available and how much history you really need to access on a day to day basis.
4. How do I ensure my clients' data is protected?
In today’s climate, data security is at the top of everyone’s mind. When considering a bill pay solution there are two types of data security to consider. The first is how the solution protects client data from an external attack, like a hacker or ransomware. The second is the risk of fraud coming from someone inside your firm.
To address an external attack, make sure you choose a company that is upfront and specific about their security protocols. Because Datafaction is an RBC company and is an affiliate of City National Bank, we are held to the highest standard of security protocols and safeguards. When looking for a new vendor, consider asking:
· Have you gone through a SOC (System Operations Controls) audit?
· If yes, at what level?
· When was the last time a SOC audit was completed?
· Can you share the summary results of the audit?
In addition to external attacks it is important to reduce the risk of internal fraud. In most offices you reduce risk by having a clear separation of duties. It’s important to demand the same from your bill pay eco-system by asking:
· What levels of controls does your system have?
· What do you need to prevent and detect internal fraud quickly?
· Can you prevent fraud through user- level, role-based permissions, with a multiple approval workflow, and/or audit trails?
5. What is the ideal implementation process you would like to experience?
Finally, an important consideration beyond the technology is the people and processes required to unlock the potential of new capabilities. Think carefully about your team and who should be involved in your implementation process, and then ask yourself:
· Is there someone that can act as the point person with the vendor to help ensure tasks are being completed in a timely manner?
· Is there a clear executive sponsor that can help clear barriers and hold people accountable?
· Are there the proper resources to take on the project and still complete the day to day work?
When choosing a vendor it is important to look for one that has the experience, knowledge and tools to make implementation as painless as possible. Also, cultural fit can be just as important as technical fit. Questions to consider as you are evaluating a potential vendor are:
· Does the vendor hold the same values that my firm does?
· Are they dedicated to a successful onboarding or are they more focused on the sale?
· Will there be a dedicated Client Success Manager during the implementation phase?
· What does on-going support and service look like once fully implemented?
We hope these questions helped you better understand your requirements of a bill pay solution and partner. If you want to see how AgilLink lines up to these questions, or if you’d like to see it in action, please fill out this contact form and we will get back to you within one business day.