Westpac has moved decisively to enable corporate financials departments to wrest back control of procurement and invoicing transactions from ageing ERP platforms and invoicing solutions that have for decades hamstrung broader upgrades.
The institutional wing of Australia’s oldest bank on Tuesday revealed it is pitching a new cloud-based procurement solution at customers that could break legacy lock-ins and disintermediate stalwarts SAP and Oracle.
The move is a big one because it pits the bank against big software suppliers, often seen as too slow to respond to local conditions like single touch payroll, against more nimble suppliers
The key offer is to automate payments to suppliers, helping chief financial officers reduce risk, improve compliance, and save money through a tie-up with global business spend management (BSM) platform Coupa to complement the bank’s own e-invoicing, payments and reconciliation solutions.
Under the agreement, Westpac will act as a referral partner, shopping Coupa’s software-as-a-service offering to institutional clients who might be interested in integrating the BSM platform into their electronic resource planning (ERP) systems.
Actual integration of the platforms would most likely be done through one of Coupa’s channel partners, such as KPMG or Deloitte.
Westpac Institutional Bank’s general manager of Global Transaction Services, Di Challenor, said that while most corporates have invested heavily in improving the way they receive payments from customers, “we haven’t seen the same advancements in how payments are made to suppliers”.
“In many cases, the payables process remains inefficient, paper-based, and prone to errors,” she said.
The same argument was put forward in a consultation process by the federal Treasury in October last year, where it noted that Australian businesses process around 1.2 billion invoices a year.
“Paper and email based invoicing is manually intensive and prone to human error resulting in increased processing costs and payment times for businesses,” Treasury said, noting that e-invoicing “is a clear opportunity to streamline invoice transactions, saving businesses time and money”.
“Our partnership with Coupa is the first major step towards frictionless supplier payments and delivering end-to-end automation across the working capital cycle,” Challenor said.
She added the combination of the Coupa’s BSM platform with Westpac’s digital payments and invoicing solutions should give CFOs real-time oversight into their organisation’s spending behaviour, “allowing them to proactively identify and address small problems before they turn into big issues”.
Estimates by Deloitte Access Economics put the benefits of e-invoicing to the Australian economy at $28 billion over ten years.