What does Remote Working mean for Accounts Payable?

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Remote working has become the new normal for many P2P professionals, and it’s fair to say that working from home elicits mixed emotions. For many, it’s a chance to save time and money by abolishing the commute. But it can also be a huge headache for firms and their people, hampering productivity and introducing new risks.

Remote working, one form or another, is here to stay. This comes at a time of unprecedented complexity and commercial risk, with P2P fraud on the rise and increased pressure from suppliers facing cash flow problems.

So we thought it would be timely to highlight a few of the risks associated with remote working and suggest some ways they can be mitigated.

A well-oiled machine?

Like all industries, the pandemic has led to resourcing issues across P2P. These put pressure on those who are working, leading to longer hours at the coal face, increased approval times, and ultimately, more errors.

Organisations should be able to manage the full range of invoice formats. Obviously the aim is to capture and process all invoices electronically to ensure the P2P process remains as efficient and accurate as possible – this is challenging at the best of times, when everyone is in the office, and often requires human intervention. But it becomes very difficult indeed when people are working from home.

Challenges include paper invoices arriving at offices with nobody on site to process them, and a lack of supervision by AP clerks leading to invoices slipping through the cracks, and consequent late payments. People working from laptops are more prone to making more mistakes when keying in data, since it’s harder to move between invoices and finance systems. And resolutions become more difficult and time-consuming when people aren’t sitting next to each other in a traditional office setting. These challenges all add up to higher risk of fraud, payment errors, disgruntled suppliers and increased reputational risk.

A good time for fraudsters

P2P fraud – both internal and external – remains a huge problem. 81% of companies surveyed by J.P Morgan in its recent AFP Payments Fraud and Control Survey were targets of payments fraud last year, demonstrating the pervasiveness of this threat.

And since the onset of Coronavirus, remote working has exacerbated the risks. Many companies have been forced to adapt their remote AP processes on the fly, meaning they haven’t had time to set up new controls or ensure that existing processes remain effective. As people are asked to do more with less, segregation of duties – and thus domain expertise and attention to detail – suffers. This makes it more difficult to spot fraud, and harder to enlist the help of colleagues as a “second pair of eyes” or a sounding board to bounce concerns off.

Furthermore, opportunities to commit fraud have increased as individuals in COVID-depleted departments have been granted greater access to the AP process. KPMG recently highlighted the elevated risks associated with tech-enabled fraud and remote working, noting that in one case a Head of Finance stole almost £3 million from his employer via two fake payments.

Technology can help

Enough of the negatives. The pandemic has presented numerous challenges for AP teams, but the good news is that many of these can be addressed with the help of purpose-built infrastructure.

There has never been greater need for reliable, easy-to-use, cloud based technology that can proactively identify fraud risk whilst boosting productivity, and Xelix is excited to step into the breach. Our invoice intelligence platform is quick and easy to integrate, and we offer ongoing, dedicated support to our clients. We understand the pressures that remote working is placing on the entire P2P industry, and we believe that technology has a key role to play in supporting and developing the Procure-to-Pay space during these challenging times.

This short video explains how we can help.

Embracing change

Remote working has been around for years. But COVID-19 has catalysed the trend, forcing AP and P2P Managers everywhere to confront a new way of working – and the risks associated with it.

In a P2P environment that is growing ever more complex and risky, purpose-built technology like Xelix enables Managers to obtain more visibility and control over their people and processes, helping to prevent costly mistakes and fraudulent activity. By getting on the front foot and embracing change, firms can navigate this pandemic and position for long term growth, whatever the future holds.

 

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