How to Optimize Partner Onboarding for the Digital Economy
For your payables team, onboarding involves the business-critical function of gathering the information required to ensure a partner is payable. The problem? Your finance team might not have the proper processes in place to efficiently collect and verify this necessary information—often leading to faulty gaps in the onboarding process.
Why Partner Onboarding is Crucial
Not paying a partner can have detrimental effects—a delay in payments directly puts the customer experience at risk. Late payments can also cause partner attrition and ruin the reputation of your marketplace or network. For partner payments, complexity and scale are the primary obstacles. Every payment must be assessed and might involve additional communications with the partner. A single typo can cause havoc deep into the payment cycle—even after funds have left the bank account. Typically, since partner payments are considered backoffice, improvements to resources or systems are limited. But a lack of systems introduces errors that contribute to more inefficiency and higher operational costs. Hours are spent manually keying in data, verifying and correcting partner information, validating tax forms, logging into bank portals for payment, and reconciling payments. And the risks are far worse—partner attrition, payment errors, failing tax and regulatory compliance, and payment fraud.
Building a Partner Onboarding Process
Having the right information about a partner is crucial to streamlining payment processing, but individually collecting this from partners is not scalable or efficient.
To ensure a partner is payable, you need:
Basic Contact Information
Identify the person asking to be paid and a method to contact them. This data will help to identify if the potential partner is on any blacklists such as the OFAC SDN.
Multiple electronic methods help partners by offering options that land easier into their bank accounts. However, providing a payment method choice requires a way to gather and validate account data associated with that method to avoid potential errors.
Tax Identification (IRS or VAT)
Given IRS FATCA requirements and the growing need to validate the entities you’re paying, it’s a best practice to gather tax identification upfront rather than waiting for the end of the year. Onboarding is an ideal time to do this because partners may move or dissolve, making them harder to reach if you wait for tax season.
It's challenging to build a comprehensive solution in-house—your team's proficiency isn't global partner payment operations. A custom-built portal may solve basic payment issues, but this isn't a one-time development project, and the solution will rarely pay for itself. In short, if you decide to build an onboarding solution yourself, be prepared to commit time and budget to it for the long haul.