E-pay in, cheque out!

19 Jul 2007

Accounting software player Sage is about to launch e-payment services for Irish SMEs to help reduce the number of inefficient cheque-based transactions that currently dominate in the sector.

The company says it will integrate electronic payment technology into its Sage 50, Sage 200 and TAS Books accounting packages in the coming months. Firms will initially be able to process payments directly by phone instead of hearing that ‘the cheque’s in the post’.

This will eventually be followed up by web store applications allowing SMEs to automatically process electronic payments through their web sites.

Credit control and late payments are often a matter of life and death for Irish SMEs and the sector is believed to be behind the European norm in adopting e-payment.

“We’re making it easy for Irish SMEs to finally let go of hassle-laden processes like receiving payments by cheque,” said Sage Ireland product manager Jessica McIntire (picutured).

According to the European Central Bank, 24pc of non-cash transactions in Ireland are made with cheque payments, which accounts for 79pc of all euros changing hands via non-cash methods.

“We’re entering the card processing market because we believe it’s a good fit with our ethos of supporting SMEs to manage and grow their business,” McIntire added.

She explained that with the new service, users of the accounting packages will see a ‘pay now’ button at the bottom of the invoice screen and this prompts the user through a number of screens whereby they enter the customer’s credit card details.

“In conjunction with the Data Protection Act, the system doesn’t hold these credit card details but pushes the payment through to Sage Payment Solutions. The amount is posted into the business’s bank account and the payment is automatically reconciled,” McIntire added.

“Cashflow is the biggest concern to small businesses and being paid on time is vital,” said McIntire.

She added that productivity is becoming an urgent issue for Irish firms and that electronic payments will boost SME performance. “There is a real need to increase productivity in the Irish economy.

“The average salary per individual in the workplace is not increasing, while at the same time we need to increase productivity per individual. It’s a pivotal issue. We need to ensure Ireland is the right place to do business.”

McIntire said the payment service will be an interface within Sage’s software packages that pushes transactions through a secure website. The service will cost between €20 and €30 a month with no cost per transaction.

“We’re very excited about it. It’s a growth market and we are predicting a 30pc increase in the marketplace in the next two years,” McIntire concluded.

By John Kennedy