And the survey says...
According to the second annual "Accounting Trends Client Bill Payment Survey," 63 percent of accounting professionals support the idea of an entirely paperless bill payment process, while nearly half say they wished they could completely eliminate paper checks.
In addition, the survey exposed concerns about bill payment efficiency and security. Respondents that relied on handwritten checks or computer-printed checks often spend more time on bill payment, and 66 percent of all respondents worry that clients do not have approval controls in place for bill payment.
The survey, conducted in July and sponsored by Bill.com, includes responses from 513 accounting and bookkeeping professionals handling bill payments. They represent firms ranging from solo practitioners to ones with more than 30 employees.
Paper Checks Still in Play
Many of the accounting professionals surveyed see the value of eliminating paper checks from bill payment and moving to electronic payments. One-third said that more than 50 percent of their clients pay bills electronically (compared to 29 percent in the 2015 survey). Furthermore, 15 percent said that three-quarters or more of their clients pay bills electronically.
When asked if they support moving to a paperless bill payment environment, 40 percent said paperless bill pay would make them feel more efficient, while 20 percent said it would make them feel more organized.
Paper Disrupts Efficiency, While the Cloud Can Support It
In today’s competitive and technology-driven market, many accounting professionals realize the importance of efficiency to grow their firms. Paper works against that strategy, according to survey respondents.
Twenty-one percent of the respondents that use handwritten checks spend up to 10 hours a month per client on bill payment. Additionally, 6 percent said they spend between 11 and 20 hours per month on bill payment. For computer-printed checks, 94 percent of large firms spend up to 10 hours a month per client on bill payment. A firm with 150 clients could spend 600 hours a month on bill payments.
However, 49 percent who use cloud technology indicate that it only takes between 1 to 3 hours or less per client each month to handle bill payment. Eight percent said they spend less than one hour per client each month.
When respondents reviewed features for bill payment technology, those that ranked the highest all addressed efficiency pain points. Eighty-eight percent wanted automatic, electronic audit trails; 85 percent requested syncing between systems; and 82 percent saw value in the ability for clients to view, approve and pay bills online.
Concerns Grow About Accounts Payable Paper & Fraud
It only takes one blank or stolen check to ruin a company’s finances. The survey exposes a legitimate concern for the link between bill payment and fraud.
Overall, 66 percent of the respondents worry that clients do not have approval controls in place for bill payment, while 65 percent doubt that the appropriate separation of duties is in place.
The percentages spike for larger firms, with 94 percent concerned about appropriate separation of duties, and 94% worried about clients’ approval controls. Likewise, a majority of respondents from larger firms (76 percent) said that paper related to A/P creates a serious risk.
You can download the survey here.