Behind the Idea Europe Fintech Paytech

Behind the Idea: MineralTree

MineralTree is an Accounts Payable (AP) and payment automation solution provider serving mid-market companies and enterprises, as well as financial institutions. The company offers a secure, cloud-based AP Automation platform that digitises and optimises the entire process from invoice receipt through payment. In September 2020, MineralTree announced a $50 million Series D investment round and the acquisition of two complementary companies in the AP automation and B2B payables space, Inspyrus and Regal Software.

The AP automation market is skyrocketing. $27 Trillion in B2B payments are made in North America every year and businesses spend an estimated $510billion on direct and indirect manual AP costs. The COVID-19 pandemic and work-from-home requirements only accelerated the need to digitise finance functions like AP in middle-market businesses. By helping businesses quickly digitise and automate processes like AP – ins some cases in as few as three days, MineralTree enabled them to keep their finance function working. They gained much greater visibility and control over their cash flow while also reducing their AP costs by as much as 75%.

Micah Remley, CEO MineralTree
Micah Remley, CEO MineralTree

As CEO of MineralTree, Micah Remley leads the company’s growth strategy both internally and externally, ensuring the growth and development of both customers and employees. 

He joined MineralTree in 2018 as Chief Operating Officer to help scale and broaden the reach of the company, before taking over as CEO in 2019. Prior to joining the company, I held various leadership roles in operations, product, and general management for a SaaS-based technology company.  

In addition to growing the business at MineralTree, he focuses on creating a positive work environment focused on employee growth, development, and collaboration. In his experience, that translates directly to results for our customers and our business.

What has been the traditional company response to financial technology innovations nationally?

Companies with even a moderate volume of invoice payments can really struggle if their finance teams are understaffed. Until this past year though, a lot of companies have been slow to tackle this challenge – either due to the cost and complexity of available solutions, or simple inertia. In fact, less than 10% of small and mid-sized businesses have fully automated processes like accounts payable.

COVID and remote work arrangements exposed a lot of the inefficiencies in many firms’ financial processes. It was incredibly difficult to do simple things like pay bills with paper checks and route them for approvals and signatures. In addition, you had new forms of fraud, a lack of control over cash flow, and a lot of unnecessary time and cost. As a result, we saw a dramatic acceleration in companies’ efforts to digitise their finance functions in 2020.

How has this changed over the past few years?

Compared to business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business (B2B) payments have been very slow to change, especially in the US. We’ve made slow and steady progress, but we still lag other parts of the world in adoption. COVID and remote work requirements changed that dynamic dramatically and paved the way for some big advances. Now that businesses are seeing the advantages of digitising their finance function, there’s no going back.

Is there anything that has created a culture of change inside the company?

I think we’ve always seen ourselves as change agents in a way. As I mentioned, businesses have not embraced payment digitisation as quickly as consumers. Most middle-market businesses’ financial processes are still dependent on paper: invoices, checks, manual approvals, signatures, envelopes, etc. Part of what we are doing is evangelising the advantages of automating finance functions like AP: operational efficiency, greater cost control, freeing up finance teams to focus on more strategic activities, improving working capital optimisation and cash flow management, and reducing risk and fraud.  We try to help businesses see the opportunity to transform their finance function from a cost centre to a profit centre.

What fintech ideas have been implemented?

There are few that are more prominent in how we think about our business.

The first is financial resilience through technology. Fintech is about creating financial agility and powering efficiencies by leveraging new technologies – cloud, mobile, seamless integrations, machine learning, and advanced analytics. By utilising these technologies, we can put modern processes and systems in place to enable financial resiliency – from access to untapped working capital, to deeper visibility into cash operations, to back-office automation. These things put your company in a better position to respond to any situation, whether it’s a pandemic, a natural disaster, or a new business opportunity.

Another aspect is the combination of financial industry domain and SaaS expertise. Our team is a really good reflection of that. About half of our leadership team comes out of the banking, fintech and payments side. The other half is very deep in SaaS which is core to our business model and value prop. You’ll see the same blend across the business. There is real value in those two different perspectives.

The last is our focus on execution. Fintech innovation is only as good as what gets put into action. There is often too much value on the idea behind innovation vs. the action of innovation. Our president Vijay Ramnathan describes it as follows: PEOPLE putting IDEAS into VALUABLE ACTION.

What benefits have these brought?

I really feel that our practical thinking about fintech has given us a fundamental advantage. Our SaaS-based AP automation solutions are doing more than automating a financial process. They are making our customers more resilient and agile in how they operate – today and for the long term. We are also hyper-focused on execution at the customer level. Pre-built integrations to nearly every enterprise financial system removes a huge obstacle to customer adoption and accelerates the value they can get from our solutions. In addition, we’ve streamlined the implementation process, getting some customers live in as few as three days.

Do you see any other industry challenges on the horizon?

The biggest challenge has been and will continue to be in the decision-making process and inertia. We often hear that companies are too busy to automate. Every business has to weigh the trade-offs involved with investing time and resources into automation projects. Some are harder to make the case for because they may not be tied directly to cost savings or revenue.  Finance teams are typically one of the last areas to automate and that has really been about inertia and historic reluctance to invest in back-office efficiency versus other areas of the company.

Can these challenges be aided by fintech?

Absolutely. It’s our job to remove the obstacles that make businesses hesitate to take advantage of fintech innovation. Whether that is difficult system integrations, long deployment cycles, or disruption to their existing business operations, our job as solution providers is to make it easier for businesses to take advantage of the benefits that fintech innovation offers—to help their businesses run more smoothly and efficiently; to free staff up to focus on more strategic opportunities; and to increase their profitability.  Managers typically use a payback period of a year or less when evaluating whether they should do a project or not. By contrast, the payback for implementing a modern SaaS AP automation platform is usually just 1-3 months. That blows the doors off of almost any other efficiency project a company can implement.

Final thoughts…

We believe there is a direct relationship between those companies that embrace automation and their success in the market. The more automation there is, the greater the ability for a company to scale. Add cloud in and you have the ultimate combination of speed and flexibility. The advantage is huge and old school businesses that have not embraced automation have fallen behind quickly. COVID has only exasperated the gap.

Author

  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

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