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Accounts payable on show at AccountingWEB Live Expo 2022
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Accounts payable tools move into the spotlight

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The steady stream of stories and news announcements about new accounts payable apps turned into a torrent at AccountingWEB Live Expo. John Stokdyk dived in to find out what’s driving this trend.

7th Dec 2022
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Against the backdrop of economic belt-tightening and corporate cost-cutting, the activity around accounts payable and expenses management tools was palpable at AccountingWEB Live Expo.

At accounting tech trade shows going back to last year’s Expo, fintech and Open Banking payment specialists such as Modulr, Crezco and Libeo monopolised the spotlight. While these innovators are expanding payment frontiers, they were accompanied at this year’s Expo by a new wave of accounts payable (AP) and expenses management specialists, including:

  • Aurelia – cloud finance toolkit with mid-market e-commerce receivables and spend management modules
  • Quadient AP by Beanworks – AP and expense management 
  • Findity – Swedish integrated expenses management app, with white label option
  • Moss – corporate card and spending management app
  • Pleo – corporate card and spend management.

Quick wins on payables

Speeding up how companies disburse their funds is a great quick win, but in the current climate, businesses appear to be looking for a broader handle on spending controls.

German spend management specialist Moss has been around for several years, starting out as a corporate card provider similar to Pleo, Curve and Soldo. Moss head of UK partnerships Keaton Halai explained that from those beginnings, Moss has expanded into invoice management, fast-track employee reimbursements and data analytics.

“Moss sits in the accounting mid-market, working with general business finance teams that want to speed up how they handle business expenses. We make it possible for them to do all the pre-accounting within our platform,” said Halai.

Originating from Estonia, newcomer Aurelia covers both sides of the ledger, with an automated e-commerce sales data module and an expenses management inbox that captures receipts, bills and e-invoices. The AP system suggests appropriate nominal expense codes and VAT rates for line items and passes them through to the accounting software. 

“Dext and AutoEntry don’t solve the complete problem, so you need three to four tools for accounts payables. As developers, we’ve solved it from a different angle with built-in workflows to connect the different parts and dashboards to give the user an overview of what’s happening in the business,” said Aurelia co-founder Jasper August Tootsi.

The messages from Moss and Aurelia are similar to what we’ve been hearing from mid-market accounting software vendors during the past year. Rather than looking for a string of add-on apps to handle complex processes such as accounts payable, consolidation or reporting, finance managers are now willing to invest in better spec tools that will take on and accelerate tasks previously done by hand.

Resourcing issues

As well as giving organisations better visibility on their outgoings, AP automation looks to be getting a huge push from the increasingly acute shortage of accounting staff and pressures on overhead costs.

Goldsmiths College Students’ Union finance manager Lisa Ronson gave an eloquent explanation for her decision to invest in the Beanworks solution in a recent AccountingWEB webinar.

Earlier this year, the union’s finance team went through a redundancy process, which meant that Ronson and her remaining colleague had “way more work to do”, she explained. 

She considered hiring a student to come in to print off email invoices and collate all the information to enter transactions into the system manually, but opted to look at automation options rather than hiring somebody else. 

The Beanworks system was up and running within weeks and has already provided a return in saved staffing costs. It’s also saving some of the finance assistant’s time and allowing her to do more useful work than data entry. As for Ronson: “I’m able to do my job in the hours I’m paid to do it rather than constantly cutting corners. I’m able to focus on things that need attention and other automation work I’d like to do.”

There was an unanticipated benefit among the budget holders and student societies that submit their expenses to the union’s finance team. “People are looking a lot more closely at the things they are approving and asking, ‘Is this for my budget?’” Ronson added.

Hotspot for system upgrades

Accounts payable may be a relative backwater within finance teams, but the Expo experience shows that it is becoming a hotspot for system upgrades and investment. Perhaps the penny has finally dropped for corporate business managers about the fundamental role their payables teams play in exercising control over spending – and how much time and resources can be eaten up by doing things the way they’ve always been done. If AP automation has become a key trend in 2022, it’s not before time.

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