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Survey: Accountants Use Bill Pay Tech More at Home

Dec 9th 2015
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A new survey shows that accounting professionals use more advanced bill payment methods at home than on the job, often leading to cash-flow problems and a lack of security protocols.

The survey, Exploring the Invoice-to-Pay Process, was conducted by payment automation service MineralTree Inc. and featured participation of 161 accounting and accounts payable professionals. The research showed that while at work, 81 percent of respondents use checks frequently or exclusively. Alternatively, 48 percent said they rarely use paper checks in their personal lives, while 7 percent said they never do.

However, a large portion of respondents who pay invoices electronically (via ACH or EFT) said they store the bank account numbers of their billers in places that likely lack proper security. In fact, 17 percent said they store this sensitive information in a word processing document or a spreadsheet, and 11 percent weren't sure where it was stored.

The research also found that current payment methods are causing 24 percent of organizations to experience cash-flow problems because of unclear settlement windows.

“It's shocking to learn that so many organizations have experienced cash-flow problems and have opened themselves up to security risks by not having the proper systems in place,” said MineralTree CFO Bill Price. “Accounting professionals seem to prefer automated payment methods for personal use, but don't have access to similar options in the workplace, either due to lack of awareness or accessibility. This is a huge concern as businesses make far more payments to far more payees, increasing risk exponentially.”

The Cost of Processing and Paying
Most accounting professionals do not know how much it costs to process and pay an invoice, which, according to data from the Federal Reserve, typically averages in the $10 to $15 range. In addition, the survey found:

  • Seventy-five percent of respondents stated they did not know the cost of processing and paying invoices.
  • Only 20 percent of respondents gave an answer within the $10 to $15 range when asked to state the cost of processing and paying an invoice, or provide their best guess.
  • Credit cards are the second-most popular form of payment. Forty-nine percent of respondents use credit cards frequently, and 31 percent use them occasionally.
  • ACH and EFT are the next-most popular forms of payment, respectively. Forty-two percent of respondents said they use ACH frequently, and 33 percent said they use EFT frequently.
  • Eighty-five percent said they never use virtual cards, and 6 percent said they aren't sure if they have used virtual cards, revealing a large opportunity to educate accounting professionals on when and why they might be useful.

In general, respondents indicated they believe their use of paperless accounts payable and payment automation technology is more advanced than their competitors. They also believe it will take their competitors longer to implement this type of technology. In fact:

  • Twenty percent of respondents said their organization had already transitioned to paperless AP and payment automation, while only 15 percent thought their competitors had.
  • Among respondents who had not yet deployed automation technology, 16 percent said it would take their organization three years or more to do so, and 45 percent said it would take their competitors that long.

Additional insight and analysis on the entire survey can be found in the full report.

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