Want to help small business members manage finances more effectively and securely? For some credit unions, the key has been adopting an integrated receivables and payables solution.

“It’s important to us that we not only have great products, services and lending options, but tools and resources that help support the needs of businesses of all sizes on a daily basis,” said Dan Munro, chief operating officer at Community Choice Credit Union in Farmington Hills, Mich. “This includes keeping up with the technology available in the market.”

In mid-2016, the $1 billion-asset CU – which supports nearly 99,000 members, 3,237 of which are business owners – adopted Autobooks. The Detroit-based fintech recently partnered with Jack Henry & Associates Inc.’s JHA Payments Solution group.

“Adoption has occurred among our small businesses that are less than $3 million in assets and range from dog walkers to construction companies and consultants, all the way to property management companies, lawn care services and skilled tradesmen,” said Munro. “We’ve seen all types of businesses make use of Autobooks in their own unique way, with a common theme that they all seem to get paid faster by their customers once they use Autobooks to send their invoices.”

Autobooks CEO Steve Robert
Autobooks CEO Steve Robert

Community Choice is one of six CUs currently using the solution, though Autobooks CEO Steve Robert said “about a dozen more” are in the pipeline. The solution allows small businesses to electronically send invoices, collect payments and automate aspects of accounting and reconciliation, while supporting budgeting and cash flow forecasting. He added that it can “aggregate and streamline financial activity” from multiple institutions.

“Invoicing is heavily utilized. The ability for business owners to simply invoice their customers and accept payment via credit card, ACH and lockbox is very valuable and convenient to business users,” noted Robert. “The business owner does not have to enroll in multiple payment acceptance solutions, as they are boarded in all three when they accept the terms and conditions.”

Receivables-based solution

Traverse City, Mich.-based 4Front CU launched Autobooks in August 2017. The CU serves 77,151 members of which approximately 3,000 are business owners.

Tracey Zywicki, VP of treasury management at 4Front Credit Union
Tracey Zywicki, VP of treasury management at 4Front Credit Union

“The solution is built into the credit union’s business online banking platform. Once a member accepts the terms and conditions of the service they are immediately enrolled in the base Autobooks program,” said 4Front CU’s Vice President of Treasury Management Tracey Zywicki. “At this point they may choose to enroll in the invoicing option which takes 48 hours before it is accessible.”

Zywicki explained that the start-up process – everything form signing the contract to rolling out the solution, including a three-month beta-testing period – took about eight months.

“Credit union employees are educated on the benefits of Autobooks via monthly team meetings. They use their education to generate referrals to the business team for members that fit the type of industry that benefits the most from a receivables based program,” she said. “Members receive education from the credit union’s business services and from the Autobooks team. This may range from a customized demonstration of the product to training once they have enrolled.”

From a technology back-office perspective, Robert said, “very little” is required of the credit union. In most cases, a CU can be up and running in 60 to 70 days and after implementation the process is streamlined, he noted.

“Just a 30-minute coordination call every week is needed. Autobooks is already integrated into Symitar, NetTeller and iPay,” said Robert. “Additional online banking platforms are also supported.”

Since launching Autobooks, Munro said the number of “new enrollees” has increased monthly, including new members from “top 10 banks” who joined specifically because Community Choice CU offers Autobooks.

“Two other businesses who had exclusively loan relationships with the credit union moved their deposit relationship to the credit union because of Autobooks,” said Munro. He added that the CU’s initial member group has signed into Autobooks almost 500 times, paid 566 invoices totaling over $1.3 million and have received roughly 500 payments that total over $820,000.

“Our member center managers have a renewed focus on meeting and establishing relationships with businesses in their community and we have an experienced team of commercial lenders prepared to grow larger business member relationships,” said Munro.

While Zywicki conceded that 4Front CU has not, at this time, experienced “an increase in new business relationships,” her team has realized “more engagement from members utilizing Autobooks.” Members enrolled in Autobooks are accessing online banking 25 to 30 times a month, compared with five to 10 times a month for those who are not enrolled, she said.

“Credit unions in general have to primarily engage the consumer, and now that we are entering the business world this is a great way to make an impact and show our members we are looking out for them and providing them with services that will make their lives better,” she said.

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