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Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, 2013/05/02 - Canada's business community ranks 28th out of 33 Western economies in terms of paper-cheque reliance, sustaining a competitive disadvantage in today's marketplace. New tech solutions offered by billee offer the opportunity for modernization - Billee.ca.
Canada Ranks 28th for Cheque-Reliance
In this digital age, Canada’s business sector continues to rely on an antiquated paper cheque method of exchanging funds. Canada ranks 28th amongst the top 33 western economies, behind Peru and just above Malaysia, for being the most cheque-reliant in business payments, according to a recent study by the Canadian Task Force for Payments System Review. European countries, with Germany and Austria in the lead, are the most innovative in terms of their use of technology enablement for business-to-business payment. The US similarly lags in technology enablement, ranking 20th on the list, one below behind China.
The task force found that Canadian businesses continue to rely on cheques because few alternative payment options exist.
So why is Canada so lacking in innovation for business-to-business payments options when it is clear that easier and safer means of transferring payments exist?
In stark contrast, the Canadian retail banking consumer is now heavily reliant on online bill payments, as well as credit and debit cards. These customers are accustomed to electronic purchase and payment methods, and technology for this purpose has been in place for almost twenty years. Personal cheques have gone the way of the “dodo bird.” However when it comes to paying suppliers, businesses still rely on paper-based Cheques, an antiquated, clearing-complicated, risky and expensive payment transfer vehicle.
The Payments System Review report goes on to explore what is needed to create more favourable conditions for paper-free payments, drawing on learning gathered by a 2011 report by the UK House of Commons Treasury Committee that tried to set a firm date for the elimination of cheques, only to have that decision rescinded due to public outcry.
The report notes:
The UK lesson is pertinent to Canada. Eliminating paper outright is a dubious initiative in the face of our reliance on cheques. We should instead pursue the necessary improvements to our B2B payments infrastructure so that those who are reliant on cheques can find alternatives that exceed the benefits currently offered by cheques, .. Under the most optimistic scenario, Canadians will still use over 300 million cheques in 2020. Reducing the use of cheques is not simply a matter of setting a target; it requires building alternatives and ongoing flexibility by administrators and suppliers, who can offer superior new products and services, to accommodate the cheques remaining in the system.
The report is correct on two counts: first, we need to increase our use of electronic payment systems for business-to-business financial transactions. Second, Canadian businesses need better alternatives to make that transition. Little innovation in the payments industry has led to stale payment vehicles and Canada’s low ranking amongst global economies.
So why has innovation in the business-to-business payments field been so lacking? In part, the lack of innovation can be attributed to Canada’s banking institutions’ rigid control over this industry,, who have little initiative or motivation to move away from the status quo. Cost also plays a major role; winding down Canada’s existing cheque-clearing infrastructure would be an extremely expensive undertaking
Canada’s poor ranking on the global payments stage also speaks to a larger threat that could further impede our competiveness on a global stage: our businesses will soon encounter competitive disadvantages when they face the high cost of business practices required by any well-managed company.
Payment efficiency and concerns related to the integrity of a paper-based process can undermine the trade relationship of any economy. For this reason Canada must accelerate its innovation efforts and find better, more electronic, ways to pay for the exchange of goods and services.
The technology sector is helping to guide Canada out of the payment dark ages by creating software-streamlining processes in accounting and by giving business the tools to create efficiency. Companies such as Checkfree and Billee are making it easier for businesses to pay bills online, while improving the controls, visibility, approvals, security and stringency required for auditing.
As more innovation emerges in this space, we will start to see efficiencies trickle down to a business’s bottom line, which in turn will contribute directly to Canada’s broader economic prosperity. It needs to happen soon. Our greater competiveness depends on it.