Article – Onboarding

Managing vendor information entails risk. The vendor master file is the key to vendor payments. Errors in the vendor master can lead to costly mistakes, and the master file is a prime target for fraud. There is also a risk of non-compliance with particular government tax, sanction and exclusion programs. Further, some of the vendor information, such as social security numbers and bank account numbers, is sensitive and subject to theft and exploitation. Policies, processes including internal controls, technical protocols and encryption, and staff awareness and understanding are all necessary to mitigate the risks. The breadth of vendor information and vendor onboarding represents a challenge to risk management. Guardianship of the processes and information falls to frontline staff—most commonly accounts payable staff. All this raises two questions. The first is: Does your organization have adequate controls? The second is: Do the people responsible for managing vendor information understand the control policies, their reasons and do they follow them? Like many things, what looks simple on the surface is not. The list of controls and precautions is longer than one might suppose. How well does your organization manage the risks associated with vendor information management? Financial Operations Networks (FON) wants to help you find...

Criminals Steal $650,000 from Non-profit Organization. It was a heartbreaking discovery. A non-profit organization paid out an amount equating to 26 percent of its annual revenue over a month in what the organization thought was legitimate project payments. When the executive director later spoke to the group that was to hire architects and engineers for a low-income housing project, she expected confirmation that things were underway. But the contractor had not received any of the payments made—only an email from the non-profit the previous month stating that it had to delay payment. The three payments had gone elsewhere. By the time the executive director reported the loss to the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s office would not investigate. The trail was already cold, and the amount was relatively small. After all, the FBI received 19,300 such reports in 2020. The non-profit managed to recover only a pittance remaining in a shell account in a bank in another state. How did it happen? The bookkeeper, in this case, a third-party serving the non-profit, was the initial victim of business email compromise (BEC). Once the hackers had gotten into the bookkeeper’s email system, they infiltrated existing email chains. Then they gathered the information needed to imitate...

Hackers continue a relentless barrage Last December, the U.S. government announced a major cyber breach by Russian hackers. Before we even have fully understood the impact of that attack on 18,000 organizations and government agencies, we learn “holes” in Microsoft’s email software have led to the compromise of 30,000 U.S. organizations. This latest attack is by Hafnium, a group operating from China. But cyberattacks are not all by foreign actors, nor about espionage. Financial gain is the motive in 86 percent of breaches, according to the 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report by Verizon1. And in the majority of cybercrime, the perpetrator and victim are located in the same country. Further, due to error and “privilege misuse,” 30 percent of cyber breaches in North America stemmed from people inside an organization. That 30 percent includes inadvertently "leaving the door open" as well as malicious intent. Hackers of all kinds continue a relentless barrage of attacks on everyone. According to a University of Maryland study2, hackers attack computers connected to the internet every 39 seconds. On average, your computers are under attack 2,244 times a day. In the first half of 2020, data breaches exposed 36 billion records. It seems there’s nowhere to hide. Do you doubt...

Your vendor master file constitutes a critical set of dynamic data. It continually changes through additions, modifications and expiration of active records. Safe practices include getting complete information from a new vendor and adhering to internal controls on access and changes to the vendor master. Because vendor master files are ever-growing, like a garden, they need pruning and weeding. Safe practices also include search and elimination of duplicate and deactivation of unused records. Smart companies manage their vendor master files ongoing as one part of their financial operations. Regular maintenance keeps the file under control. However, if an organization neglects the vendor master file, it exposes itself to the risk of mistakes and fraud. There are two common problems. One is having duplicate records in the file. Adherence to policies and procedures combined with regular maintenance should prevent most and catch any duplicates. But if you have not cleansed your file in a while, unnoticed duplicate records set you up for duplicate payments. The other problem is that vendors “age out” – you no longer need or use them. Besides cluttering things up, having unused but active records is dangerous. With a quick change to an address or bank information, a perpetrator can execute...

We may not be out of the pandemic woods, but the way forward is clear. In the upheavals of the Coronavirus, financial officers regret not having invested more in automation, AI and robotics a few years ago, according to a survey by AppZen. Within weeks of shelter-in-place orders last year, experts forecast that automation would accelerate out of the pandemic. Mark Maurer in the Wall Street Journal wrote, “Finance chiefs are considering hastening investments in automation initiatives to better manage their companies’ finances and operations despite facing revenue declines.” Arun Shastri wrote in Forbes, “Lost revenue means leaner workforces. Lean workforces drive the need for automation so that smaller teams can accomplish more with fewer people.” He added that as the economy comes back from the COVID-19 recession, companies will find that automation technology is mature and “ripe for deployment.” Where are we now as we close in on a year of living remotely? The long-term impact of the pandemic remains uncertain. Some predict that work-from-home will continue, despite the challenges and acknowledgment of missing the serendipitous collaboration of the live coffee break. Companies are at least rethinking the physical location of workers. One notable organization has already announced a radical plan. Ninety-six percent...

Vendor Fraud Risk Scientists have detected mutations of the Coronavirus in the U.K., South Africa, Nigeria and Brazil. These mutations can change how rapidly the disease spreads. So far, it does not appear to increase its virulence. For the finance personnel, there's a parallel in the arena of financial fraud. In the realm of business email compromise, or BEC, a new variant has emerged from a criminal group in West Africa: vendor email compromise (VEC). In this case, the potential virulence is greater. The VEC variant of BEC is insidious. It is sophisticated, its perpetrators are patient, and the payoff is worth it. How does it work? As with BEC, email vulnerability provides the initial entry point. But this time, it starts with the email of one of your vendors. And VEC is different from the urgent requests for action common in "spoofing" attacks. Once perpetrators get access to your vendor's email, they patiently and quietly begin gathering information. They take time to learn about the vendor and the vendor's customers. Unnoticed, they quietly study the vendor’s communication about invoices with you, learning invoice amounts and timing. How does the vendor usually follow up with you? What language does the vendor use in an...

Vendor Information To do business with a vendor, you must have information. Vendor onboarding is the time to gather and validate the particular information you need. All organizations require the same basic information. Likewise, everyone must do certain validations. But some information requirements and validations depend on your organization type and perhaps even on your customer type. What is your charter? Commerce? Health care? Education? Government? There may be particular information needs you have or validations you must do those others don't. If you are in health care, for example, and receive funds from federal health care programs, you must check vendors against the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) of the Department of Health and Human Services. You may be a private company doing business with the government. If so, in addition to the basics, you may need to know if your vendors have certain business statuses. Maybe your organization is small—your information item list might be smaller too. Following is a comprehensive list of items of vendor information that includes the basics along with some that are specific to certain types of organizations: Vendor name Business name if different (DBA) Parent/subsidiary relationship(s) Ownership, principal owner Address: street, city, state, zip, country ...

Have you ever received an invoice from a vendor you’ve never heard of? Of course. You check the master file, but it’s not there. And it’s due in 30 days. Just kidding—it’s due by the end of the week. Last week. If you're lucky, the buyer's name is noted on the invoice. Or maybe the buyer is the one that forwarded the invoice to you. Employee buyers mean well, but their focus is on getting what they need for the job they have to do. It's not on the details required to pay the vendor. That there are 12 tasks involved in onboarding of a new vendor eludes them, even though you explained everything in a  Zoom meeting last month. They don't have time to think about payment reporting, compliance issues, bank verification or even the need for a correct address. If they need authorization to purchase, that's as far as it goes for some. Others may go a bit further. And a few conscientious ones try to get everything that's needed from a vendor, but their own work deadlines interrupt their seeing vendor onboarding tasks through. Control, efficiency and timeliness are lacking in many of the purchases made throughout an organization. Employees do...

With all our attention consumed by the shapeshifting new normal, you probably want to hear that payment fraudsters have taken a holiday. But they haven’t. A new AFP survey on payment fraud shows 80 percent of organizations experienced attempted or actual payment fraud last year. Payment fraud remains at a high level, having jumped up 11 points in 2015 to 73 percent of organizations and rising to 81 percent in 2018. The target areas? Checks (at 75 percent of organizations), followed by wire transfer (40 percent), commercial credit card (34 percent), ACH Debit (33 percent), and ACH Credit (22 percent). As the AFP report states, “ACH payment methods appear to be of interest to fraudsters.” Business email compromise or “BEC” has boomed, the study says. It is the first year that BEC has taken the lead spot among the sources of payment fraud. Fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated in their BEC technique. NACHA’s Michael Heard, SVP ACH Network Administration, points out that checks “not only have the highest level of reported fraud, but also an increasing rate of fraud during a period when check use has dropped substantially.” At the same time, he continues, “The report also shows that fraud rates remained nearly flat for ACH during a...

How do you collect your vendors’ W-9 information? What about bank information for ACH payments? Here is an instruction that one organization includes on its ACH Enrollment Form on which the vendor is asked for their bank account information: “Please email the completed form along with a copy of a VOIDED CHECK to: … ” What’s wrong with this picture? Email. Email is not a safe means of transmitting sensitive information, such as W-9s or bank account information. Why? Email is not secure. It was never meant to be. It’s one tech tool that is—in internet-age terms—ancient, having been developed in the early 1980s! Its protocols were designed when there was hardly anyone on the internet, and there was a high degree of trust among the few people that were. Despite its antiquity, email is a power app, heavily used for communication and as a convenient method to send attached documents. Email simply was not originally designed with either privacy or security in mind. And while there are efforts to make it more secure, the way it works is not conducive to high security. But of course both the internet and email are ubiquitous and there are armies of ne’er-do-wells seeking to exploit others...

Stop Calls and Emails, Enhance
Service and Increase Profit!

InvoiceInfo saves labor hours and cost by helping suppliers and internal staff easily and instantly get answers online to their invoice-payment questions.

If you are like many finance leaders today, you are being challenged to reduce costs more quickly. InvoiceInfo delivers real bottom-line results almost immediately, allowing you to deploy your customer service staff to focus on more productive, bottom-line oriented tasks.

Let us show you how InvoiceInfo's vendor self-service portal can help your organization eliminate invoice inquiry emails and calls while enhancing service to your accounts payable customers.

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Get Up and Running Quickly and Seamlessly

InvoiceInfo and VendorInfo are standalone applications that can be up and running in as little as two weeks, with little or no IT resources required.

The faster your online portal is up and running, the sooner you will start reaping the benefits. InvoiceInfo and VendorInfo are dedicated solely to helping AP and procurement departments slash the time and expense of servicing vendors, while improving customer service for their suppliers.

InvoiceInfo and VendorInfo are simple solutions with big results. They are easy to implement and easy to use. Here’s how one customer described the process: “You give vendors a URL, provide instructions about what they need to know and tell them to go use it.” It really is that easy.

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Improve Productivity with a Self-Service Solution

For most organizations, deploying a technology solution is a significant investment, and like most investments, the decision point ultimately comes down to the expected return on that investment.

According to a recent benchmark study by The Accounts Payable Network, 60% of AP customer service calls are from vendors while 40% are from internal customers. Vendor issues actually make up even more of the AP call volume than the 60% identified. Many times when a vendor has an issue, the vendor contacts their buyer or purchasing representative, who in turn contacts AP. Even though the call comes from an internal customer, the question originated with the vendor.

Vendor calls affect productivity in your organization exponentially. When vendors call the requisitioner, they are affecting that person’s productivity. Your internal customer’s productivity shrinks when fielding the vendor’s call and again when making the follow up call to AP and getting back to the vendor. Finally, AP’s productivity suffers as a result of the internal customer’s call, the payment status research and the follow-up communication.

With a minimal investment of IT time and talent, you can start reducing customer service calls and expense in a matter of weeks. In addition, you improve vendor relations since you are giving your vendors what they want — answers to their questions immediately — a win-win for everyone involved!

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Easy and Economical Solution to Serve Vendors Around the World

InvoiceInfo can help you provide best-in-class customer service to your vendors around the world at a fraction of the cost.

Many organizations today have offices and operations throughout the world and are dealing with many time zones, different languages, and in some cases multiple ERP systems. InvoiceInfo currently supports different languages and can easily work with multiple ERP systems in different locations.

The key to good customer service is to provide the information that the customer wants when they want it. Whether your customer is a vendor waiting for a payment or a colleague that needs information on payment status, they want their information right away. If your organization has vendors and offices in other countries, they can be challenging and expensive to serve. But, with InvoiceInfo, your international vendors and internal customers can access the information they need when they need it.

With InvoiceInfo, you won’t have to staff your customer service team with 24-hour coverage in multiple languages to provide high-quality customer service around the world.

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Enhance AP’s Role As a Strategic Partner

Learn how InvoiceInfo can help AP do more with less while continuously improving productivity and bottom-line results.

Many automation technologies such as scanning, workflow, e-invoicing, ACH, and electronic invoicing require significant investments of money, time and talent, making it difficult to get buy-in from upper management. Not InvoiceInfo!

If your goal for your AP department is to reduce costs quickly, call or email us today to learn more about how InvoiceInfo can help you achieve this goal through a quick, inexpensive and easy implementation of a vendor self-service portal.

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Enhance Vendor Relationships

InvoiceInfo helps suppliers’ AR departments with simple and convenient access to invoice payment status online at a cost savings for all involved.

It may seem that the organization paying the vendor should hold all the cards in the relationship. But sometimes the opposite is true. Past-due payments and customer service perceptions can harm supplier relationships and disrupt the supply chain.

Your vendors and vendor relationship managers are living in a dynamic, fast-paced environment, so when invoice information is required, it is needed quickly and expected to be of high quality. With InvoiceInfo, your suppliers get answers to invoice inquiries real time, 24/7 with no need to leave messages and wait for responses. Studies show that confidence in data increases when suppliers access invoice and payment information themselves.

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Give Procurement and Buyers the Tool They
Need to Respond to Vendors Quickly

Not only can InvoiceInfo be used by suppliers to learn the status of invoice payments, it can also be used internally within your organization.

In addition to reducing calls from vendors regarding invoice status, you can also reduce internal emails and calls from co-workers wanting to learn the status of invoice payment, and save time and effort and boost efficiency and productivity across the organization. Studies show that 40% of AP customer service calls are from internal customers. Many of these are from requisitioners who have received calls or emails from the supplier checking on payment status. These calls are often more expensive for the company because the internal staff member has taken the call or received an email from the supplier, contacted AP for the payment status and had to return the call or email the supplier.

By providing the vendor with a convenient and credible online option to get the answers it needs regarding payment status, you can eliminate multiple calls/emails between the vendor and the requisitioner saving time and money.

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Eliminate Difficult Vendor Calls and See
Productivity and Staff Morale Soar

Reduce invoice payment inquiries and “promote” your vendor service team to more satisfying and profit-producing tasks.

By sharply reducing inbound calls and emails regarding receipt and payment status that your AP staff must handle individually, your staff can focus their efforts on more productive, cost-saving activities, learn new tasks, feel more confident and boost their careers.

According to a recent American Express survey on customer service, more than one-third of consumers have lost their temper with a customer service professional in the past year. Of those who lost their temper, three in ten “hung up the phone.” Your staff will no longer have to deal with difficult collectors who can be upsetting and disruptive. Your staff will feel that their time and talents are being put to better use and will feel better about themselves, their jobs and their organization. Reducing these calls can be a real productivity and morale booster for your AP department!

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Simplify and Streamline Vendor Onboarding

According to Price Waterhouse Coopers, the average organization spends about $20 in labor to file each paper document, approximately $120 in labor searching for each misfiled document and $220 in re-creation of a document.

Wouldn’t it be great to have all your W-9’s, W-8’s and other registration documents completed online and instantly filed online for easy access when needed? With Vendor Self-Service Onboarding Module, VendorInfo, you can onboard your new vendors in one convenient location and eliminate paperwork and hassles.

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Verify the Accuracy of Vendor Information and Stay in Compliance with IRS and Treasury Department Regulations

Government regulators are increasing the complexity of regulations and penalties associated with vendor-related non-compliance.

Penalties for incorrect 1099’s have more than doubled in recent years. Over the last several years, OFAC has levied more than $1 billion in fines against American companies or subsidiaries that did business with restricted businesses, organizations and individuals on its SDN list. In addition to fining these companies, the Treasury Department posts the names of infringing organizations along with fines paid.

VendorInfo Onboarding Module verifies the accuracy of vendor information and helps protect your organization by avoiding embarrassing penalties and fines.

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