Data protection, employee development, and creating greater efficiencies are hot topics for today’s aspiring AP team.
Accounts Payable (AP) teams are tasked with more every day. Protecting against fraud, attracting and retaining quality employees, and fostering vendor relationships are critical to the modern credit union. Consider these findings from the recent Member Driven Technologies (MDT) and AvidXchange™ webinar, attended by more than 30 AP professionals representing 18 credit unions.
Trend #1: Credit unions increasingly rely on their AP teams for enhanced compliance and data security.
Now more than ever, AP teams are responsible to the C-Suite for critical reporting, enhanced compliance, and vendor and risk-management measures. “Whether it’s the NCUA, outside auditors, or internal compliance, credit unions must be proactive to meet their data protection and compliance requirements,” explains Doris Wofford, VP/Finance and Controller for $410 million Greenville Federal Credit Union. “From an accounts payable aspect, we need to ensure payments are made to legitimate companies for the correct amount — without succumbing to fraud,” Wofford continues.
Vendor management has also become increasingly challenging, requiring collaboration with internal compliance and all departments and branches. “A phenomenal amount of data is collected, recorded, and managed by AP,” notes Shea Adrian, Learning & Development Specialist for AvidXchange™, a software provider and vendor partner of MDT. “Many AP professionals still wonder how to best collaborate with internal compliance to prevent fraud — while implementing best practices and expediting payment processes.”
Two questions emerge:
Should internal auditors have access to your workflows and data? Or do you create more reports when questions arise?
Adrian believes the better answer is enabling auditors to access vendor management and bill pay workflows as needs dictate. “Scams like invoice fishing require AP teams to implement appropriate risk assessment and risk management techniques — and pinpoint the risks in their own AP systems. These risks may include fraudulent payment requests or late payments to legitimate companies,” Adrian notes.
Bottom line? Collaborating with compliance and ramping up security measures require constant attention, and AP teams need talent, technology, and time to address a rapidly changing accounts payable environment.
Trend #2: Technology can enhance AP employee development.
Along with technology, expectations have evolved, and employees have made no secret they’re evaluating and taking ownership of their career choices. “We have to change with these expectations,” stresses Adrian. “People have stepped back and asked, what am I doing here? Where do I want my career to advance? And let’s be honest; most people are not looking to spend their day keying in information.
“We must evaluate our technology and be in tune with team members,” she continues. “If we implement technology, how can this help them achieve evolving career goals? Savvy CEOs and CFOs want their employees to have opportunities to do jobs they haven’t been able to do before. We can improve efficiencies and employee morale by using technology to take over those manual processes.”
Wofford shares the lift technology has given her own team: “We are a staff of three, including myself. Both of my employees are tenured, one 25 years, another 16. They love what they do, but we’re always looking to automate — and this desire for automation isn’t dependent on how long a person has been in their role. We agreed that everything would need to be centralized with our chosen technology partner: the workflows, OCR, and compliance management.”
By adding the right technology, Wofford has seen once-manual tasks fully automated, enabling her to delegate more of her work and devote time to strategic issues. The technology has also supported her team’s hybrid work approach, which includes rotating in-office and work-from-home schedules. “It doesn’t matter where you’re working,” she adds. “When dealing with a web-based program, payment approvals can go through, and whoever is at the office can take care of it. Everything works smoothly, we save time, and employee morale improves.”
Trend #3: Technology creates efficiency in unexpected ways.
Whatever system you choose, it must offer the automation your AP team needs. This includes eliminating paper, better auditing history, more reporting efficiency, and centralized processes. “If you do all of those, you’re improving efficiency,” notes Adrian.
“However, we’re all trying to be more efficient in our daily tasks,” she continues. “We want to reduce time-consuming duties, like keying information, cutting and mailing checks, shuffling invoices, and more. But our goal is not to simply eliminate paper; we also want to strengthen vendor relationships with accurate information, paying them quickly and on time.”
Over the years, approving and paying invoices proficiently has been AP’s primary headache. “We continually moved paper invoices (or later, email attachments) amongst departments,” Adrian reflects. “That was the verification process, without any true evidence other than a signature. The right automation solves these issues, not only from a compliance standpoint but for time-savings.”
Wofford notes that at her credit union, more than 100 bills are paid monthly, a task that previously took up to five hours each week. Now with its automated system through AvidXchange (AvidPay), payments have become completely automated. “What took multiple hours each week now only takes minutes,” adds Wofford. “One unexpected benefit is the growth seen in our team while enabling us to take a strategic approach to bill payment. We’re also exploring other ways our department and processes can grow.”
Efficiency means more than time-savings and paper reduction. “Automation has freed up my employees, enabling them to actually learn more accounting,” Wofford reiterates. “Accounts payable is one thing, and you must pay your bills. But you must also keep moving; no matter how long an employee has been at your organization or how tenured we are, there’s always something to learn, and automating our bill payment has given us more than just time back in a week.”
Learn more about automating your AP systems via the MDT-AvidXchange recorded webinar.
AvidAscend from AvidXchange™ is an automated accounts payable system handling every AP component, from invoice receipt to bill payment, with seamless core integration.
- Invoice Capture (images received via Invoice Inbox)
- Invoices are emailed from the vendor to a unique, dedicated email address. Once an invoice comes through, it’s automatically captured and plugged into the software.
- Invoice Entry (software populates invoice)
- The system then creates an invoice from the image, populating five fields.
- Approval Workflow (individuals can review and approve invoices electronically)
- The Approval Workflow module enables a credit union to establish approval workflows for one person or groups of people based on amounts, GL numbers, branch codes, and more.
- Bill Payment (via automated payment or paper check)
- AvidPay creates and finalizes the paperless invoice to pay.
“All components interface with the core and general ledger, simplifying daily tasks,” Adrian concludes. “Payments are automated, or a paper check is cut and mailed remotely. You gain efficiency without creating more paper to manage.”
AvidXchange is a leading provider of accounts payable (“AP”) automation software and payment solutions for middle market businesses and their suppliers. AvidXchange’s Software-as-a-Service (“SaaS”) based, end-to-end software and payment platform digitizes and automates the AP workflows for 8,800 businesses (our buyers) and we have made payments to 965,000 supplier customers of our buyers over the past five years.
AvidAscend was built specifically for financial institutions and seamlessly integrates with a credit union’s core processor and general ledger. AvidAscend allows credit unions to save time and costs by transitioning from antiquated paper-based systems to streamlining the AP process via one automated, cloud-based solution