Imperial College London is a STEM-subject leader and is ranked 8th best university in the world. When a leading university says your software will save them thousands of pounds, it feels great. Especially if savings can go back into the excellent academic research they are renowned for, including the fight against COVID-19.
But with a globally respected reputation comes the need for a modern finance function – which is where AccessPay comes in.
Starting with a simple Bacs solution, the innovative fintech has collaborated on two new banking connections for the university, improving the efficiency of international payments. This phased approach has made AccessPay ‘a trusted partner’ of the world class institute.
Phase 1: It all started with Bacs
In 2019 the London-based university needed a new Bacs solution. With their incumbent supplier retiring the current platform to force an expensive upgrade, Imperial College decided to do their research and go to tender. With a compelling price point and ‘one portal for all payments’ approach AccessPay won.
Rob Leech, Financial Systems Manager explains: “The university pays thousands of suppliers and employees by Bacs – so it is business critical to have a secure and reliable solution in place. Where AccessPay were head and shoulders above the others is the competitive pricing and the very good feedback we had received from other higher education institutions.”
Our cloud-based platform was a step away from their outdated on-premise solution and gave users extra functionality, like remote access for approving payments.
As Rob says: “The user experience is better and the infrastructure is cloud-based which reduces our technical debt and so keeps IT happy. The implementation period was also seamless with allies like Stuart and Lisa project managing it from your end.” But the AccessPay solution had also piqued the team’s interest for another reason.
Phase 2: Making international payments from the UK
In the HE sector there’s often supplier international payments to be made, to support global ground-breaking studies and research. Imperial College London pay accounts in 150 countries, in a mix of currencies, so it’s almost as important as its UK Bacs payments.
The university has come a long way as five years ago they were still keying in the data manually to a bank portal. With a half-automated interim solution which was prone to errors and frustrating to use the finance manager turned to AccessPay.
Another solution that the platform offers is access to a direct ‘host-to-host’ connection with your bank, meaning international payments can be made from the same payment portal used for Bacs.
“You tipped the balance with this additional offering as a direct host-to-host RBS link was music to our ears” enthuses Rob. “It meant not only could we get the UK Bacs working but we could also become more efficient with our foreign payments.”
The automated solution eliminates keying errors and reduces fraud through the encryption of data and multi-factor authentication. There is also better visibility of international payments and AccessPay allows for a clear segregation of duties.
Imperial College transitioned all of their payments previously made through the banking portal to RBS’s host-to-host connection Bankline Direct. Rob said: “We see it as a mirrored solution to Bacs and we like it because it means with AccessPay we only need one way of working.”
With the second phase live by 2020, the university turned their attention to the States.
Phase 3: Living in America – a better way to make domestic payments
The university pays more U.S. suppliers than any other country, in fact around 50% of their international transactional volume goes Stateside. However, by paying American suppliers out of a UK-based bank it was costing them £40-50k a year in transaction fees. They did have an account with Citizens Bank in America, a left-over from a historical need to write supplier cheques; and so an idea was borne.
Rob explains: “We looked at how much it costs to make an electronic domestic payment U.S. to U.S. and it was pennies, a bit like making a Faster Payment in the UK, it costs almost nothing. So we wanted a solution where we could pay our U.S. suppliers from our Citizens account.”
Having approached the bank directly a couple of years ago to no avail, AccessPay were tasked with extending the host-to-host project to create a new direct connection with Citizens Bank. Explaining the pitfalls of the DIY approach he said: “We didn’t have any experience of working with the U.S. banking sector, which works differently to our own, and the time difference made it difficult.”
Describing the AccessPay project as ‘bold new work’ it will save Imperial College London hundreds of thousands of pounds and is due to go live by mid-2021. Rob finished: “You are adding more value to our proposition and we are building up a global footprint together.”
Ryan Harris, Corporate Sales Executive, AccessPay said: “The ongoing project with Imperial College London is a perfect of example of how AccessPay can future-proof a business. The value that is going to be delivered with the connectivity to their U.S. bank is something all universities should take notice of.”