From XU Magazine, 
Issue 36

Accounts-payable-as-a-service is finally a reality – and firms are missing out

This article originated from the Xero blog. The XU Hub is an independent news and media platform - for Xero users, by Xero users. Any content, imagery and associated links below are directly from Xero and not produced by the XU Hub.
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Cloud accounting has transformed the scope of outsourced accounting – we can work with clients in a shared environment, automate data gathering and show our value in real-time. But the reality of a fully outsourced financial management has always run into one particular roadblock: payments.

Businesses run on payments – to suppliers, employees and authorities. And actually making those payments has remained a thorny issue for firms. Sure, we’ll gather your invoices, check approvals and put together a neat payment schedule for you, but when push comes to shove, it’s usually the owner-manager who sits up late on the weekend going through a spreadsheet line by line to get the money out of the door.

The alternative so far – a desk drawer full of online banking fobs – is risky, inefficient and unscalable. That’s why Sleek has been working with Nook, a smart, flexible payments platform, to offer an outsourced payment service that delivers on the promise of automation while maintaining full control, visibility and security.

Completing the outsourced financials package

Our business is built on providing a consistent, high-level of service to all clients, using the latest tools to combine value and scale. And that starts with delivering the essentials of financial management to a high-degree.

Much accounting conversation in recent years has framed advisory as the future of the profession, but the reality is that every business still requires core accounting services and most of them would rather a professional handle it. When it comes to growing a firm, these essentials can quickly add up to hours of processing and review, adding unnecessary expense for clients.

This was a particular pain point when it came to accounts payable (AP) – we could handle it up to a point, but we still relied on clients to process the payments in their bank account. We knew that AP was a huge opportunity, solving the twin headaches of supplier payments and payroll – we just needed the right tools.

Closing the loop on payments

We knew that the right solution would need to be able to not only handle the invoice capture, approvals and accounting software integration, but also enable the Sleek team to make payments in bulk, without needing to log into the client’s bank account

That’s how Nook came to sit at the heart of our AP process. By streamlining AP with a single data journey, we could not only reduce the administrative burden and the risk of errors, improving the efficiency and scalability of the business as a whole, but also offer a brand new product – accounts payable as a service.

The next service opportunity

With the addition of accounts payable processing through Nook, we were finally able to become a true one-stop-shop for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs. I’ve seen clients’ faces light up in meetings when we mention it. Instead of the halfway solutions owners are used to, we can offer a complete service with full peace of mind.

In a crowded accounting space, that full coverage makes us more competitive, more valuable for customers and more efficient in managing the clients we already work with. Clients don’t want to be making payments line by line from a spreadsheet every month – we’re now able to take that off their plate without the risk of making errors in their account. It makes us more valuable, gets us closer to our clients and makes businesses more likely to stay with us for the long term.

  • Payments are managed with strict roles and permissions through the Nook platform.
  • Clients maintain full control over who can make payments on their behalf, with approvals (as simple or as complex as required) and set roles for various levels of responsibility, all centralised and trackable within Nook.
  • Our team can ensure that there is always a relevant team member to work with clients on their payments, while controlling access in a structured, secure way.

Introducing any new app to clients is always a risk, but we’ve seen widespread positive responses to the Nook platform, with clients engaging quickly with its user-friendly interface and the range of features it offers.

Scaling Accounts Payable

With the success of the partnership with Nook, Sleek is now looking to scale its accounts payable services as a standard offering for new clients.  By taking on a larger part of clients’ business, we can develop new income streams and harness the opportunity to upsell other services, leading to higher monthly fees based on the increased value they can now provide.

By using a holistic solution, we’ve brought AP to the same level of convenience and visibility as the rest of our services, helping us remove a major headache for business owners. It means that we can do the work clients don’t want to do, but they still feel in control, with full visibility over processes, payment days and permissions. We deliver trust and convenience, all in one – which was always the promise of cloud accounting.

With Nook closing the gap between accounting software and payment execution, it’s now a reality – time for firms to catch up.

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