Online banking, electronic bill pay, and mobile deposits are no longer seen as innovative offerings by consumers. They’re simply check boxes—a bare minimum set of tools and services that they expect their bank to offer. Despite the fact that this technology is considered table stakes in the battle to win consumers, business customers at most banks are still waiting their turn to benefit from this technology. And as the workforce skews younger and gets even more tech savvy, they’re going to get frustrated from waiting for comparable services—if they haven’t already.
Just last year, millennials surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. This is the first digitally native generation that grew up with computers in their homes and came into adulthood with near ubiquitous access to the Internet, social networking, and mobile phones. As they take over the workforce, they’re going to want—and expect—the same conveniences they’ve become accustomed to in their personal lives. But when it comes to banking technology, they’re not getting it.
The stark difference between bill payment processes of accounting professionals at home and at work is just one example of how a lack of adequate technology is holding them back. A study last year by MineralTree found that 81 percent of respondents use paper checks frequently or exclusively at work, whereas almost half (48 percent) said they rarely use checks in their personal lives and 7 percent said they never use them at all.
If banks don’t start providing business customers with innovative tools to do their jobs more efficiently, they’re going to start looking elsewhere for the technology they want. As JP Morgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon now famously noted in his 2015 annual shareholder letter, “Silicon Valley is coming.”
The Path to Business Banking Innovation
It’s not surprising that business customers have found themselves in this position. It makes sense that technology on the consumer side has paved the way for innovation in banking because it’s so much less complex to build and implement.
Take mobile deposits for example. Being able to take a picture of a check with a mobile phone and deposit it via a banking app is a significant advancement in mobile banking. But it’s much more realistic for a personal account holder to use this technology than it is for a business. For a company that might deposit hundreds of checks every day, taking photos of each of them with a mobile phone is simply not practical or efficient. Not to mention adding the complexities of a business’s need for increased security features like role-based permissions for different users, or integration with other enterprise systems.
Bill pay faces similar hurdles. On the consumer side, banks have proven capable of creating directories that include most of the vendors their customers regularly pay—companies like electric, cable TV or mortgage providers. But it would be nearly impossible for a single bank to create such a directory for all business payments because the size and scope of such a network is just too vast. And then there are complexities like supporting approval workflows, role-based permissions, and integrations.
Integration with other core enterprise systems is a major issue for business customers. Being able to seamlessly connect a bank’s bill pay technology with a company’s financial system of record—their accounting/ERP system—is a must have. But again, it’s a complex task that takes a high level of technical knowledge and expertise to achieve.
Innovations in consumer banking technology have made significant strides in moving the industry forward, but now commercial customers want their share of fintech innovation too. We’re at a tipping point where business banking technology needs to catch up, and the burden is on the banks to make it happen. They can either build the technology on their own or partner with companies who can. But if they don’t, they risk being left behind.