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Digitization in Finance: Utilities and Payments

November 27, 2018

By: Aldolfo Paredes | Business Development Advisor

More and more companies are adopting the digitization of their payment collection and finance processes, in activities such as billing, to the control of all procedures. However, it is also a reality that many businesses in this transition and, in many cases, outsourcing services seem a more viable option than in addition to helping optimize processes related to accounting, in addition to having the support of experts in the matter.  

A Clear Example: Utility bills 

As outsourcing and digitization specialists, we have seen direct, easy-to-identify benefits of digitization of payments and invoicing, with concepts such as e-billing (electronic billing). This is a very common tool provided by large vendors, and in industries such as Property Management, it is a regular topic when speaking of utilities. For the companies property accounting department, receiving paper utility bills to your managed properties or to your headquarters isn't much of a problem, until we begin speaking of hundreds of invoices! Handling hundreds of paper bills causes your AP team to be very susceptible to late payments to your vendors, but if an E-billing process is set up with your utility vendors, it can make a world of difference when receiving and processing bills for their payment. This benefit goes all the way to the payment of that utility bill, since it can be quickly done through that same online platform.

The reason this digital setup isn´t the most common practice with property managers is because you must invest time in migrating and setting up all your current and future utility accounts, a process that can be time consuming and tedious. If your utility expense management is outsourced, like many property management firms do, this migration into digital bills should be a must, in order to make them more efficient, and make your life easier as well with less paper bills; if that's not the case, you should start looking for a new partner.

Tenant Convenience  

On the front end of operations, providing residents with the means to pay for utilities alongside their rent all through flexible online platforms and apps has been a real value generator, and big fintech players in the industry are making this an easy integration to their properties. And let's face it, what tenant wouldn’t want to receive a single bill and quickly process a single payment every month? Residents are responsible for rent, as well as utilities, and sometimes parking fees and pet fees. Having a single, itemized e-bill allows them to quickly view each amount and process a single online payment. 

Saves Time, Money and Resources 

E-billing also saves valuable time in preparing invoices and calculating utility usage. It helps free up plenty of time for your AP staff that are normally required to carry out these tasks and also makes your organization more environmentally friendly. Not only are you able to avoid paying for materials like the software, paper and ink required for traditional billing, you’re contributing to environmental conservation by avoiding single-use paper for statements and envelopes. There’s also the cost of postage and delivery to consider, which can be a significant cost in and of itself. 

Correct Implementation 

Finance departments, and often property management firms, are by nature risk-averse, and this can result in a palpable level of cultural resistance to digitized processes, or simply that cost-benefit of time is not seen as a valuable option. However, when managed correctly, the benefits far outweigh any adaptation difficulties encountered along the way. We believe that even with concepts as simple as e-billing and providing online payment options, it can remove tedious work and repetitive tasks from the equation; it not only takes the burden off managers and encourages growth, but can inspire innovation and redesign a big part of your property management AP department. 

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