As more people are getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and returning to work or going back to school, it feels a bit like life is returning to normal. But one thing on the mind of many people and businesses is this: What will our new normal look like? While that is still an ongoing discussion, one thing remains certain – now that we have seen increased efficiency and convenience from digitization, there is no going back.
The freedom of being paperless
Due to social distancing, many businesses have started replacing practices that involved in-person interactions with practices that can be done remotely. One of the changes I’ve seen in my industry is the growth in electronic accounts management and ACH transactions.
Businesses used to write paper checks, which were signed by the business owner, accountant, or chief financial officer. Additionally, someone from the business would come to the bank daily to make check deposits. This routine gave many business owners a sense of control and security. Since the pandemic started, we have seen a significant decrease in the number of bank visits made by businesses. Instead, many have switched their accounts payables and receivables to electronic payments such as ACH transactions. Even our ag customers, who have traditionally received commodity checks when they sell their crops, have started to receive those as ACH payments and have started depositing their checks electronically.
Although some of these practices were initially borne out of necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses recognize the benefits of switching to electronic payables and receivables such as ACH. The person who writes the checks does not have to be in the same locale as the person who authorizes them. Businesses can even approve transactions on the go using a mobile device. This means freedom of movement for everyone involved in authorizing payments. In addition, the amount of time spent signing checks can be better spent on growing the business. One of my customers told me that he now spends his mornings, which were once reserved for signing checks, on strategy planning instead. Digitizing the payment process has freed up time for many CFOs and accountants to work on higher order tasks, which is a more efficient use of their skills.
Digital solutions for non-digital practices
Businesses who still rely on checks or handle a lot of cash may not be able to easily switch to ACH or other forms of electronic payments. However, there are other solutions, such as remote deposits and virtual vault, which are safe and secure methods of depositing money without having to visit the bank. This means time spent traveling to the bank and waiting in line to deposit checks or cash can now be channeled into something more productive. Furthermore, the fewer external trips an employee has to make, the lower the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 at this point in time. And for many business owners, the safety of their employees is enough to encourage them to adopt digital solutions.
Stronger fraud protection
As business transactions become more digital during the pandemic, so has the risk of electronic payment fraud. This is one of the reasons why some businesses have been reluctant to digitize their payment process. Fortunately, current treasury management systems have protection mechanisms that are sophisticated enough to identify fraud and mitigate potential losses. Many fraud protection solutions have transaction filters, dollar limits and blocks to provide a robust layer of fraud protection.
Regardless of how you feel about digitization - whether you were excited to embrace it or were forced into it out of necessity during this pandemic, the benefits of digital solutions are clear. Digitizing your business transaction process can lead to increased efficiency, better use of talent, and overall convenience.