For many of us in the family office world, we’re no longer sitting in bustling offices or attending in-person boardroom meetings. We can’t request a physical signature on a check or hand our boss a packet of financial statements to review.
It goes without saying that COVID-19 has changed the way we do business and while there’s hope that many things will eventually get back to some version of normal, not everything should. As with any crisis situation, this global pandemic has exposed gaps in how businesses operate – even family offices.
As an award-winning accounting technology provider, one of the most disrupted processes we’ve learned about from our family office clients is their ability to manage the bill payment process.
The sentiment seems to be broadly shared across the family office space.
According to a recent blog published by Family Office Exchange addressing the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on family offices, family offices cited a need to improve their bill payment and document storage technology.
It’s apparent that with paper invoices still being sent to empty offices, verbal approvals still being required to pay bills and signatures still being handwritten on pre-printed check stock, there are multiple points of failure throughout the process. Pandemic aside, the inherent rigidity of manual processes can threaten operational efficiency, but it’s never been more apparent than in the absence of physical interaction.
Digital tools – like the bill payment functionality embedded in SEI’s family office software, the Archway Platform℠ – can help family offices efficiently manage their operations regardless of physical location.
By leveraging the built-in features within our accounting technology solution, your family office can:
As you evaluate your technology infrastructure, it’s more important than ever to look for technology you can rely on. Technology that eases the duty of physical distance. Technology that modernizes rudimentary processes.
As for digital bill payment tools, we recommend the following considerations:
Workflow – or process management – is the series of steps that must be followed in accordance with your internal process mandates. Related to bill payment, this can include invoice review, accounts payable data entry, invoice approval, payment settlement and even expense and cash flow reporting.
Automated workflow tools enable you to implement pre-defined accounting controls that enforce separation of duties and require authorized parties to electronically provide approvals based on your family office’s unique bill pay process.
An interactive client portal enables family members and family office staff to participate in the AP process regardless of their geographic location.
As a result, family principals can remotely access their accounts payable information, approve bills and view expense, cash flow and other financial reporting via their mobile device – whether it be their PC, tablet or smartphone.
Digitizing payment approval enables family members and family office staff to automate and execute those actions with no physical interaction.
Going beyond simple “approve” and “deny” functions, end-users of the Archway Platform can pre-approve and set dollar limits for specific vendors – like utility companies or credit card issuers – and set dollar limits to allow the payment process to continue fluidly by automating routine approvals.
Electronic signatures, or e-sigs, are a simple image of a handwritten signature that can be applied to checks, documents or forms upon approval by a designated representative.
When it comes to the bill payment process, creating and securely storing e-signatures allow permissioned system users to apply e-sigs to checks which can be cut and printed directly from the platform. This means that family members don’t need to be physically present in order to sign checks and complete the payment cycle.
Known by many names – document manager, document repository, document vault – this tool allows you to securely store and share digital files.
For bill payment, these files may range from vendor invoices and W-9 forms to bank statements, expense reports and other AP documents. Using the document repository, users can share, access and download relevant documents from a single, centralized location.
If you aren’t looking to invest in bill payment technology, but find the bill pay process cumbersome, consider evaluating outsourced bill pay services. At SEI, our financial administration team can assume the responsibilities of bill payment while still allowing approvals and oversight to come from your family office staff and end-clients.
Discover how your family office can leverage the Archway Platform’s accounts payable technology – whether it’s in-house, outsourced or some combination of both – in our Accounts Payable Functionality Overview.
Relationship Manager, Business Development
SEI Family Office Services