The Treasury Update Podcast by Strategic Treasurer

Episode 230

B2B Transaction Modernization:
Real-Time Payments

In this episode, Craig Jeffery is joined by Jayna Bundy, the General Manager of Global Treasury & Financial Services at Microsoft. They discuss why faster payments matter, the goal and cost of faster payments, portals, and issues. What are “requests for payment” and how should corporations think about it?


Craig Jeffery, Strategic Treasurer

Craig - Headshot


Jayna Bundy, Microsoft

Christy Wright - Southwire

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Episode Transcription - Episode #230 - B2B Transaction Modernization -Real-Time Payments

Announcer  00:04

Welcome to the Treasury Update Podcast presented by Strategic Treasure, your source for interesting treasury news, analysis, and insights in your car, at the gym, or wherever you decide to tune it.


Craig Jeffery  00:18

Welcome to the Treasury Update Podcast. This is Craig Jeffery, and I’m your host today for this episode on the Treasury Update Podcast. The title is Business to Business or B2B Transaction Modernization, discussing real time payments. And I am joined with Jayna Bundy, who’s the general manager, Global Treasury and Financial Services. Janya, welcome to the Treasury Update Podcast.


Jayna Bundy  00:42

Thanks, Craig. It’s nice to be here. Thanks for having me.


Craig Jeffery  00:45

We’re in the fall. And there’s been conferences where people have been together in person. And that’s, that’s been a good change, I think for the industry. And we’ve had a little bit of a conversation about that. But you know, as we get before we get started on B2B, transaction modernization, if you could just give a quick intro, what do you do at at Microsoft, and just a little bit about your career and what you do at Microsoft to start us off.


Jayna Bundy  01:09

So I’ve been at Microsoft for about 18 years. And I currently oversee financial programs and analytics team. And then what that team includes, we have global credit and collections team, we have a Programs team, where we do customer and supplier financing. So supply chain finance, trade finance. And we also have a financial reporting and venture integrations team under the group.


Craig Jeffery  01:30

Microsoft is well known for not only their products, software solutions, Azure, even laptops and headphones now that that are used, you know, I think most of the audience should be aware that Microsoft is quite a leader in payments modernization, working with Swift, just a number of areas, a leading treasury group, and want to talk about payments and B2B, modernization, B2B payment monetization. When you think about that B2B payment modernization, what do you see as being included in that broader category?


Jayna Bundy  02:07

From a B2B payments modernization environment? I mean, one of the things is, I think it’s so manual between the buyer and seller, there’s so many manual touch points, but we consider it the end to end process. So modernization to us means digitization and acceleration of the end to end process, including invoicing, a faster payment, and importantly, the remittance data that’s needed to apply those payments. So if you think about it from invoicing to the reconciliation standpoint, we really believe that the process starts upstream. And so it was we talked about faster payments, a lot of times we just talked about that middle piece, and how do we accelerate payments. But I think what we forget about is the acceleration of collection, and a payment is dependent on the speed and accuracy of an invoice. So that’s been a lot of our focus is part of the modernization is looking at it holistically across all aspects. And I think there’s a real need and a tremendous value in modernizing B2B payments, just because of the highly manual labor intensive processes that go with it, which are prone to errors, and they’re super costly. And one thing I’ll mention is like today is part of the process. I’m surprised at how many checks still exist in the ecosystem, which is super cumbersome and creates additional risk. So we were looking at it holistically from various standpoints. Do you know to add the evolution, as we think about this, to help facilitate this transition from kind of a fragmented manual process between buyers and sellers, to a really automated one that includes full straight through processing throughout the process. And we think that while businesses gain efficiencies through this modernization, you know, there’s a lot of benefits to gain. So lower costs, better cash management, reduction in errors, and increased insights in the payments, activity and reporting. So we think those are really important.


Craig Jeffery  04:03

You’ve mentioned transaction modernization, and this comprehensive end to end look.  Do faster payments matter? Is that a minor component, is that an important component, is that the primary component?


Jayna Bundy  04:17

I think, faster payments matter. Certainly, it’s something we talk about a lot at Microsoft, whether it’s a pay out or a pay in, so a request for payment. And it’s solutions that we we definitely want to take advantage of. But we think it does rely on kind of the upstream integration and downstream integration as well. If we only solve for the path faster payment, and when I was think of it as a middle layer, it’s not going to achieve the full benefits of it. So when I think about if it takes me 30 days to get an invoice to the customer because I have to manually send it or I send it and it doesn’t get to the right place. It doesn’t really help me with faster payment necessarily. So we’re looking at the whole ecosystem together. But but we really do believe in the faster payments and all the initiatives that are going around that I think we just need to look at it holistically. And make sure it’s efficient end-to-end.


Craig Jeffery  05:10

You had mentioned remittance detail as part of that efficiency in the process. And I think that gets to the the other the other question about cost and efficiency, those things tend to be related. What are some of the goals here? And how would you look at the cost either costs in terms of financial cost or time delay? How do you look at that?


Jayna Bundy  05:31

Maybe I’ll just take just a really quick step back and talk about like how we’ve looked at this process, because we started a project about a year ago to really look at.  It actually started with the customer experience, you know, how do we make the customer experience at Microsoft better? And then as we began this, going down this road, we kind of uncovered some opportunities, and one of them was invoicing. You know, we realized that for us, we have multiple billing engines, and it can be somewhat fragmented process. And it could vary in terms of how we deliver invoices to our customers. So it could be like, you know, EDI, we could do emails, print and post. And then we were seeing a lot of requirements where we have to use multiple service providers to provide invoicing globally.  What we found is these disparate and fragmented processes have higher cycle times, and delivery of the invoices to our customers, we’re causing delays in the overall order to cash process. And we know invoicing impacts the time to collect. And so again, what we’re also finding is on our collections team would talk to a customer and find that the invoice hadn’t even gotten there when maybe we’re already at 30 days overdue. Each day collections are delayed it impacts our cash flow from collections and our working capital. That’s very impactful when we delay that. So we really realized that there needs to be a focus on accelerating that process and having full transparency.  We knew that it had to be digitized to achieve the maximum benefit. And one thing that probably isn’t talked about, we talk about costs a lot and process and efficiencies. But ultimately, the accounts receivables team struggling a bit with this, the manual invoicing processing has a real negative impact on our customers and our customers our greatest asset. And so we really realized we need to solve for the customer experience as well.


Craig Jeffery  07:21

Yeah, I like that solving for the customer experience, you know, in that that interrelationship. You know, I know some of the challenges some of the challenges that we talked about when we were just doing a preparatory call for this. We talked about the procure to pay systems, where there’s there’s a lot of initiatives and companies to improve their, their payables process, right. So they’re using procure to pay. So they’re, they’re looking at the process to some extent, and to a large extent, really, from the start of how do I buy something to how do I pay? And that doesn’t always translate into the other receiving side. And, you know, we we experienced that with a different procure to pay systems, you sign up on them, or that’s how you’re getting paid. And it’s a it can, it can sometimes be an efficient process. And it can also sometimes be a very unscalable inefficient process. Maybe you could talk about, you know, what you’re seeing there, how are you? How are you looking at, you know, solving those types of issues, if we’re looking at end to end.


Jayna Bundy  08:26

It’s a really good point. And what we’re seeing is part of our customers’ own digital transformation journey, we’re seeing an increase, and then in them choosing their own procure to pay systems. Some of them are third party and some of them are in house built the ask from them as they’d really like invoices delivered to them electronically and seamlessly in the system of their choice. Our goal is to say yes to doing that, in terms of how we think about the customer experience. The result is we have 1000s of customers now choosing to use procure to pay portals, what we’re seeing is it takes a lot of manual upload. So essentially pulling an invoice from a billing engine and then making sure you get it into the customers procure to pay portals. And sometimes that requires customization. You know, each portal is different, each customer may have different requirements within a portal. So Portal A, Customer, you know, A and B might look differently. We know this is growing. We know there’s additional demands. Today we support about 100 various portals for our customers. And we continue to see growth in these requests that we have, you know, our revenue running through the portals is growing as well as the the transactions running through them. One of the issues with it is that it’s an extremely manual process, subject to error, because there’s so much manual intervention, and it delays the invoice actually getting to the customer, which isn’t our goal. As we think about this. What we’ve seen also is when you have manual input, we’re seeing high failure rates for the first pass yield so we get it in and there’s something happening with the invoice so it doesn’t get accepted. You know, we have to spend a lot of time on triage. You know, what, why didn’t it go? Why wasn’t accepted. And so in order to scale, I think it’s really important that we move to standard connections to these various systems, it’s really critical for our ability to scale and get the invoices there quickly. We’ve always felt really strongly about, you know, standards. And we’ve been big in terms of as a big advocate, as you mentioned earlier, we were early SWIFT adopter. And so we really believe in being able to connect we’ve talked kind of agnosticly to various banks we work with, for example. And so when I look back at our even our cash management experiences, we kind of we backed away from various banking portals connecting through SWIFT in a standardized way. So I see invoicing, having a lot of capabilities to do something very similar to that. So how do we connect with our customers and their portals with common messaging? And how can we do it through an interoperable ecosystem? We want them to use the procure to pay systems that you know, are meaningful for their business. It just makes it hard unless we can we can standardize how we communicate and connect with them. So we’re really thinking about the need of, you know, this open network with interoperability for us to connect to multiple customers on multiple platforms seamlessly. And so they can use any system they choose, and we can still get the invoices to them seamlessly. One of I’ll just mention really quickly, like, you know, when we started this project, you know, we started thinking about our North Star. And it was like, what do we want this to look like? And it was both for statutory invoicing and non statutory invoicing. And statutory invoicing for the most part has more digitization.  What we’re finding is more of the nonstatutory – that there’s no requirement for electronic delivery of invoice – was less standardized. And so we kind of we started this Northstar to think about what do we want to achieve, and it was a scalable invoicing strategy across the company, a way that we can work to drive industry standards around automation, and then deliver efficiency at scale that was critical for us. whatever solution we wanted to build, it had to enable faster payments. So that was a critical component for us. And then again, I mentioned this earlier, improve our customer satisfaction and our customer experience. And so that’s really been the focus of some of the initiatives that we’ve been working on, for the past year or so.


Craig Jeffery  12:31

So you talked a lot about standards, you know, portals, supporting your customers, I can’t remember what the number of portals you said, you use. It was was it over? 100?


Jayna Bundy  12:41

Yeah, it’s over 100 right now,


Craig Jeffery  12:43

Well, I’m not gonna complain about the number of portals we use then. I was, you know, you know, we’re familiar with like Ariba, Coupa, Tungsten, etc. There’s a whole, you know, Bottomline has one, I mean, there’s a whole array of these of these platforms. Just just as a background, I mean, you you said this was growing.  How was that growing percentage-wise, compared to let’s say, regular revenue growth? Is it? You know, how is it taking?


Jayna Bundy  13:14

It’s actually about the same right now. You know, we’re seeing about, you know, 10 to 15%. I think it’s increasing, we’re getting more and more requests for procure to pay systems. And again, we don’t want to say no, we will want to be able to say yes to the customer in however, they would like to get invoices. But from a scalability perspective, it makes it really hard until we can digitize the whole invoicing process, because otherwise someone has to manually go into portals.  They kind of look similar to a banking portals where we’ve had to had tokens and you have to log in and have your password. And it takes time. And so what we found is that the end to end process in the volumes of invoices that were can take the team, you know, three to five days to get into a system. And we know that each day it takes us to get into the procure to pay portals is going to cost us because usually the clock starts ticking with customers when they receive the invoice. That’s their preference. And so we’re trying to accelerate that process so we can get it to them instantly.


Craig Jeffery  14:15

On another podcast, or maybe a discussion that’s not part of a podcast, we should probably talk about the history of portals. I remember some of the government portals that were on the earlier side.  People that have to put four people to to handle you know, several million dollars worth of invoices it was like this is this is unsustainable, things have certainly gotten better. But like you said, there’s there’s a lot of room for that. Jayna as we continue the discussion. I mean, I think that that covers a good part of the portals and your view of this comprehensive or holistic look. Maybe we could talk on the payment side right the payment side is the end part the exchange of the other part of the exchange of value and you provide services or software and how does, how does that work and then wanted to talk about real time payments. Maybe you could just give us a quick overview of real time payments. And where do you see, I guess the we could talk about issues or issues and opportunities with this, this faster payment method, right? We want to, well, maybe I’ll just, I’ll just leave it there. What are the, how would you describe real time payments and opportunities?


Jayna Bundy  15:24

We do receive real time payments today. So So we do see actually customer and uptick in customers, it’s, I wouldn’t say it was huge yet. Right? I think it’s still I think we thought there’d be kind of more adoption than than it is. And it could be partly because of some of our lines of business and the threshold amounts that can go through the real time payments rails today. But we are seeing send sending, or incoming payments coming through real time payments, one of the things we’ve talked a lot about is a request for payment, because on the collection side, we want to make it easier for the customer to pay us. And so we think a week, we’re always thinking about what solutions we can help, particularly on the B2B side for customers to pay us quickly. And as we think about elimination of checks, because it’s something that we’re retiring checks at Microsoft, but it’s a long process. And customers are still very used to paying in checks. And so we’re saying what alternative payment types can we offer as we retire and eliminate checks. And so request for payment has always been a very interesting topic for the treasury team, specifically on the receivable side to say, hey, so way we can get this request for payment out. One of the things they think we’re spending more time looking at however, is that request for payment doesn’t always replace an invoice. And so we got to also figure out, like, how do we still accelerate the invoice delivery contractually, or legally or whatever the customer requires, and then add the request for payment on top of it. So the team spending a lot of time there, it’s definitely a key topic for us. One of the things and I’m actually pleased to hear from some of the providers we’ve been talking about whether it’s you know, some of our banking partners or the clearinghouse or fed now is the remittance information that goes with it. We were an early adopter of ISO. And the reason we implemented ISO 20022 was for the enriched data that was going to come with the payments.  We haven’t really seen that as much as we had hoped. And we still are trying to kind of go deeper on is it that it’s not being sent is it not being received or kind of legacy systems kind of cutting the data off, because we find that we can still get the data in a banking portal, but we don’t always get it as we need through kind of our you know, our camped, you know, bank statements that are coming through SWIFT. So that’s been a big focus to just say, hey, like, faster payments, we want to make sure that if we do this, it also has the data to accelerate the reconciliation and the posting of cash. That’s also a challenge for us and an area of focus at Microsoft is the automation piece of being able to apply cash.  When we apply cash at a 99% rate each month, a big amount of that is manual. So when we think about automation, we’re looking to accelerate so we could say, hey, from an automation perspective, it probably hit 60. The team goes in and maybe add some machine learning on top of it. But there’s still a lot of manual touch points and like looking at a transaction and trying to get that remittance information that’s needed to offset the payment to the right customer account or to the right invoice. That’s kind of how we’re looking at it to make sure that we don’t just solve for a faster payment, again, we’re solving for the whole, the whole ecosystem.


Craig Jeffery  18:49

Yeah, a faster a faster payment without the detail necessary, or less detail makes a harder process.


Jayna Bundy  18:57

Yeah, absolutely. You know, and hopefully, you know, what we’d like to see is we know that there are other systems that you can achieve and get remittance information, but it kind of takes you out of your system, right? You say okay, well, I got my payment in, it’s sitting kind of in a in a holding queue. So I can apply it. And they’re saying, you know, oh, you can get the information here, or we can send you a separate file. And it gets tough because it takes you out of the process and adds another step. Ideally, it would come with the payment, and it would be able to auto post right into our ERP systems.


Craig Jeffery  19:29

Tell me if this is right.  I think the the implications of what you’re saying the background here is that you move to ISO 20022, a richer, Extensible Markup Language format, where the sender, or the banks could provide quite a bit more information with the payments with the you know, the message would be much more complete.  But not everybody sending it. Not every bank is forwarding it, like like you said, through SWIFT. So we’re losing information. And that’s really, that’s really critical. It’s, I don’t know if it’s more critical, but it’s at least as critical, the information is at least as critical as the payment. And in fact, the actual payment should decline in our emphasis compared to the information.  Information will be more important than the transaction for the efficient business process is kind of what I’m hearing you.


Jayna Bundy  20:22

Yeah, yeah, I actually believe that.  I think, again, it’s that other piece.  You can get the faster payment to me, but if I can’t apply it, it’s gonna sit there until I get the information, I need to apply it. And that takes a lot of manual steps, whether it’s going to another system to get the information or actually calling the customer.


Craig Jeffery  20:40

Yeah, and calling the customer is a defect on or an interruption on your side and an interruption on the consumer side, I usually refer to those as defects, right? It’s like everyone drops something to answer a call with a human and to people on both sides, it’s probably the least efficient way of doing things.


Jayna Bundy  20:59

Yeah, absolutely. And I just, you know, with so much good data in, in so many ways to send and receive it, I feel like there’s an opportunity to get better at.


Craig Jeffery  21:12

I’m going to ask some other future oriented questions on that too. Certainly things we didn’t talk about in our just our general prep session. So don’t be surprised if it’s not going to try to stump you. But just want to think about that together. From a real time payments perspective, from a broader payments perspective, you’re on the business payments coalition, or someone on your team is on there, what’s being done there, what’s what’s being worked on.


Jayna Bundy  21:37

Yeah, and this was great, like we found out is this the whole project we were doing at Microsoft, we found out about the Business Payments Coalition, we started at the e-invoicing same piece of it, because we’re like, oh, they have this initiative that they’re working on. But for a little bit of background. So the Business Payments Coalition is a volunteer group of organizations and individuals. So it includes corporations, service providers, there’s some there’s banking partners in it. And the focus is really working together to promote greater adoption of electronic business-to-business payments. And so they have various work streams. So they have an ISO work stream, they have a writtens work stream, believe a faster payments, work stream and many e-invoicing work stream, and you can join all of them, you can focus on one of them whatever is most important, one of the areas that that we focused on was the e-invoicing work that they were doing. And one of those main efforts was implementing and framework for invoice exchange. in the US. It’s a US-focused it’s, it’s it’s sponsored by the Federal Reserve of Minneapolis. And so they kind of help keep us on track with some of these initiatives were thinking about it’s not mandated. It’s just an exchange framework that buyers and sellers and service providers can connect to, I think of it, you know, a lot similar to kind of how swift would work with the banks connect, we don’t connect directly, but we’re able to send, you know, our, our, our payments and receipt statements through the exchange network of Swift. This is very similar. And so it uses a set of standards. It’s very, you know, XML based, it’s common, it’s based on some global standards that have been implemented across other countries, particularly Europe and the Nordics have been using Pebble, which is very similar. So it’s it’s standards, policies, guidelines. And really, the goal is to enable businesses to connect once and exchange invoices and data with anyone in the network. So independent of the platform or system they’re using. And so the the way that it works at a high level is that you know, think of for parties like Microsoft being a supplier, and I want to send my invoices, however, I want to send my invoices, and then you know, Microsoft has a buyer who wants to receive their invoices in the way they want to receive it. Each of us would have a service provider that would connect to the network, it doesn’t matter who we choose to use, we can use multiple service providers, but those are the connection points. And the great thing about it is standard, a standard schema if you will of how an invoice is and is exchanged. That reminds me of when I was working on implementing, you know, ISO years ago on the banking side for payments and for statements very, very similar. It’s like how does how do you feel the invoices mapped to a standard schema. So the team has spent a ton of time even before we joined, there have been a large group of participants who have subject matter expertise in these areas. And they’ve spent time working with industry standards across the world. There were technical committees that came in and and really worked on the schema. But the the big part of this pilot we were working on was to begin to test the schema and so would this work. And so we rolled it out in phases, test phases, so we could test kind of a simple invoice exchange and then we get more complicated Did as we go. And so we’re currently in phase three, or we’re calling it wave three, a market pilot.  We have about, I believe they’re about 90 participants in the pilot. And we test. And so we’ve been testing with a service provider we use, we send it to our end customer service provider, and its actual end customer, Microsoft. And then we kind of say, here’s a happy path, did it work? Did it load into your ERP system. And the good news is we’re actually exchanging invoices in a test environment end to end seamlessly. So the various waves that the pilot give us a chance to really test out the schema, throw a few things at it, like is this really going to work. And so we continue to test and I think the gold the market pilot would be testing through the end of December, at a minimum, we’ll probably do some more parallel testing, the exchange framework would look to go into production, and probably Q2 2023, would be the goal.


Craig Jeffery  25:58

So glad you guys continue to participate in these industry initiatives that help you know, all organizations, as you think about the way forward and any other thoughts that that you might have on it, I wanted to ask, there’s this, you know, we’ve got to get these newer payment formats, able to contain more data to the processes cleaner, there’s more visibility, it’s easier to repair. There’s a lot of these new payment rails coming out. There’s a massive number across the globe that’s happening is this iteration, like real time payments for the fed the request for payments, the ability to attach documents, is that the is that the end game for the next 10 years? Or are we going to have smart contracts where this information is embedded? Are we going to have payments that are smarter where we’re embedding invoice in the request that can be taken out and digitally passed? Is that going to be? Is that not going to be ISO? Is that going to be ISO plus other items that are embedded? Is that is that within 10 years? Or is this something we need to be thinking about over over 20 years?


Jayna Bundy  27:05

Oh, that’s a good question. I don’t know if I have my crystal ball. I will tell you that. We think a lot about smart contracts. We talk a lot about, you know, Blockchain solutions and digital currencies. And you know, where’s that? So it’s part of when we think of like payment strategy holistically at Microsoft, those are all the conversations we’re having about the future. I couldn’t really say the timing of it, you know, because I think we we still do a lot of like proof of concepts to test things out. I think one of the things with this that I see and it also applies to even the e-invoicing, exchange framework that we’ve been working on with the BPC is market adoption, right? It’s when we think about building some of these solutions, whether it’s smart contracts or in betting payments or digital. Do we have counterparties that can do the same with us. Right. So I think that’s a big important piece of it is market adoption and kind of Where’s everyone else in this process, but I definitely, we are prepared for it coming. We actively participate in conversations. And as I mentioned, think about the future and how we can start building for it now. But they usually come in the form of proof of concepts, maybe leaning into pilots, I will mention this is a little bit off this topic. But when I went to psychosis here, it was one of the things we talked about related to post trade FX settlement. Right, and what is the future look like? And I do see it kind of moving towards more of a blockchain smart contract settlement in the future, even if it isn’t digital currencies quite yet. Right? Because we still know that there’s there’s a lot of kind of regulation and, and risk around that, that we’re you know, we as companies are all think thinking through.


Craig Jeffery  29:01

Perhaps the settlement, whether it’s digital currency, like CtbC, or something else is less important in the in the scheme of trade over time. Here’s here’s another another question. Some of your comments. Were spurring me to think this way. You’re familiar with Swift, and they’re moving more towards this payments platform as opposed to a messaging platform I messages. One party delivers, it gets handed off handed off handed off, maybe it loses data by the time it gets the end. And we’re talking about why can’t we include all of that data, the camp T message the other XML formats can accept that that should pass through. And that’s one one area of growth for solving your core question to begin, that’s one, send the data and make sure it passes through. And then there’s the platform type solutions like this the Swift platform where it’s like, everyone can access it, but it’s like the data sits there and you can access it you can repair a problem with a payment which is one side why Wouldn’t this this type of platform whether you use blockchain or whether you use other type of technology for this platform, where what are you paying for? Here’s the invoice, the invoice. It’s their payment instructions or change instructions are sitting there where everybody can access it, or are those converging? Are they?


Jayna Bundy  30:17

Yeah, I think I think some reject. I actually think when you think about some of the data, blockchain solves a lot of it because of the transparency between the parties.  How we solve some of those challenges we have where we don’t have the data on certain things. It could be various it might be an invoice, it could be a payment, could be other things could be supply chain. Those are the scenarios where we really see the value in the transparency and data that goes with it. You’re not having to like go through separate processes, right? It’s on the blockchain, you have full transparency, and visibility. And I think now we did an early POC, around trade finance on blockchain. And it was really, I mean, really knew at the time and so now we see so much more visual layers on top of that, where you see the data. And so I’m excited of where that is heading from a user experience. So we know what’s happening in the blockchain behind the scenes, but sometimes you get intimidated if I’m not like a technology person, do I know how to interpret this, you know, a lot of visual layers over it, that are built right into your systems that you use every day, will I think be critical.  But I think I think that solves a lot of the problems about the data if we think about a blockchain solution in the future.


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