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Monday, 20 February 2012 13:06

Online banking services a time-saver for businesses

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WEST MICHIGAN — Time is money to small businesses.

So the two hours that Jill Remijn saves each week doing paperwork at Woods Landscape Maintenance have value. Spending that time on matters other than printing out and mailing client invoices comes via a new online service offered by Mercantile Bank of West Michigan through, a Palo Alto, California technology company.

Mercantile is the first bank in the nation to roll out a new web-based platform from that offers small businesses online bill paying and money management in a single service.

“It’s very nice to have an option for our customers,” said Remijn, who co-owns with her husband the small landscape and snow-plowing company. “It’s just … a little easier for our customers and to collect payments.”

And, she added, “We don’t have the paperwork sitting here, which is nice.”

Woods Landscape Maintenance started beta-testing the BillPay+ service six months ago for Mercantile Bank, which launched it to all clients in January.

The service is among the latest technology banks are offering to provide greater convenience to clients and enable small business owners to spend more time on the business and with customers, rather than on paperwork.

Michelle Shangraw, a SVP and retail banking director at Mercantile, estimates the service can cut in half the amount of time small businesses spend on account receivables and related paperwork.

“It makes banking easier, and it’s the wave of the future,” Shangraw said.

As online technology continues to change the industry, Mercantile Bank decided to offer the service to keep up and compete with larger competitors.

Michael Price“People are always looking for ‘what’s my bank bringing to the table?’” Chairman and CEO Mike Price said.

Jon Chism, partner at the Grand Rapids office of Plante Moran PLLC, sees online services such as what offers becoming increasingly popular with small businesses. For community banks, the service “is like another quiver in the bag” when they solicit small business customers.

“It makes good sense,” Chism said. “I think small businesses will jump at it.”

Chism expects to see more banks roll out similar services. Such offerings can solidify the business relationship between clients and banks, which are working to intertwine themselves with small business customers.”

“It’ll be a natural progression with their relationship with their customer,” he added. “They’re looking to provide solutions to things, and this is just one of the things where they can provide solutions.”

BillPay+ builds on the remote capture technology introduced a number of years ago for paper checks using digital scanners, as well as on products such as mobile banking using smart phones that Mercantile launched in early 2010. As consumers and commercial clients embrace and demand technology-based services to do their banking, Mercantile Bank intends to keep up, Price said.

“We’re going to be right on the front edge of it,” he said. “Because we don’t have a branch on every corner, we need to make sure we are on the top of the technological part. That’s where the world’s going.”

Mercantile Bank has five offices in the Grand Rapids area, plus one each in Holland and Lansing. pitches the service to banks as a technology they can easily deploy and sell to small businesses.

Mercantile’s BillPay+ will come with a fee that remains undetermined, though Price says the bank will price it at a level that users will value.

That value for Woods Landscape Maintenance is not just the time saved but the cost of having customers pay their bills online as opposed to by credit cards, which carry a processing fee that cuts into the company’s margin on each transaction. Since adopting BillPay+ — which automatically sends out invoices via email and deposits the payments directly into the company’s account — Remijn has also seen customers pay their bills quicker, which improves cash flow.

Read 1814 times Last modified on Sunday, 12 August 2012 17:54

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