When the pandemic hit, disruptive changes in the workforce meant chief financial officers needed new corporate payment solutions — and they needed them fast.
But for B2B payment solution providers, the need for speed was coupled with another challenge: Technologies had to be built to address new and emerging use cases as payment scenarios were rapidly altered, perhaps permanently.
Last month, Visa and Conferma Pay announced their strategic partnership and the launch of Visa Commercial Pay, a suite of B2B payment solutions. While Visa’s Head of Global Business Solutions Kevin Phalen said the offering was initially conceptualized with the corporate travel use case in mind, it became clear in the midst of the coronavirus crisis that CFOs needed solutions that solved friction beyond business trip payments.
Phalen, along with Conferma Pay CEO Simon Barker, recently spoke with Karen Webster about what today’s finance chiefs need in a B2B payment solution, and how mobile-based virtual card technology can address end-users’ demand for an optimal experience while also meeting CFOs’ new requirements.
Balancing Consumerization With Security
According to Phalen, Visa and Conferma Pay‘s newest offering aims to meet three key needs. First, thanks to a suddenly disparate workforce, organizations must quickly deploy remote solutions. Second, they need transaction security and control. And finally, they need efficiency.
Together, these requirements reflect a balance that today’s B2B payment technologies must strike in order to address firms’ biggest challenges. On the one hand, solutions should support the drive toward the consumerization of B2B payments, with Phalen emphasizing the value of an intuitive user experience supported on a mobile device.
“It just makes things a lot easier to transact,” he said, noting that as more professionals shift to remote work, the ease-of-use factor grows even more important.
On the other hand, tools need to address CFOs’ biggest concerns about managing cash flow and controlling employee spend, which becomes even more complex in a remote work setting. Both Phalen and Barker pointed to robust tokenization technology embedded within the new offering, coupled with a virtual card’s ability to centralize employee spend regardless of where workers make payments.
“It’s essentially a central payment account that CFOs have control of,” said Barker. “So they optimize working capital a lot better, and a lot faster.”
Phalen added that trust is paramount: “We had to make sure that not only was the network and all supporting infrastructure secure, but also that our clients were transacting in a secure way.”
The Need For Speed
B2B payment solutions that can meet the need for speed are more vital than ever in such a volatile market. According to Phalen and Barker, speed is now a requirement, both for CFOs and for the solution providers they work with.
That’s why it was imperative for Visa and Conferma Pay to roll out their joint solution quickly. There was a sense of immediacy in the context of the pandemic, as organizations suddenly found themselves in a position where they could no longer speak with colleagues face-to-face about the purchases they were making, nor could they step inside the office to collect physical checks from their corporate customers.
Looking ahead, this need for speed will continue to drive the way CFOs adopt new B2B payment solutions, even in a post-pandemic world.
“Speed is key, because the business environment is evolving rapidly in light of the current situation,” said Barker. “Customers now have to adapt a lot faster to new use cases.”
That means CFOs not only need to manage their working capital and control employee spend, but they must do so in a fast-paced environment. Finance chiefs need to be able to deploy solutions quickly, and those solutions must be agile and responsive to address the accelerated pace of doing business.
This theme will continue into the future for Visa and Conferma Pay as they work to rapidly scale the Visa Commercial Pay offering to financial institutions (FIs) and their corporate customers. It will also carry on into the business world in a post-pandemic market, as the way professionals work and travel for business will likely be changed for the long term.
As such, CFOs will seek B2B payment solutions that can shift along with a changing workforce that will almost certainly continue to work remotely. Whether that means arming professionals with mobile-friendly ways to pay while out of the office, or enabling accounts payable (AP) teams to transact electronically with their vendors, solutions must prioritize security and speed to meet the needs of both employees and their finance chiefs.
“We fundamentally believe the workforce is going to evolve,” said Phalen. “We may all be back at work once the vaccine comes out, but we believe it’s going to look very, very different — and we have to make sure we’re building out for that.”