Case study: Imperial College London and AccessPay create modern finance function

Case study: Imperial College London and AccessPay create modern finance function

Imperial College London is ranked eighth best university in the world and is a STEM-subject leader, but with a globally respected reputation comes the need for a modern finance function

Case study: Imperial College London and AccessPay create modern finance function

Imperial College London has praised fintech provider AccessPay for pioneering a connection to their American bank which will save tens of thousands of pounds.

The payments automation provider hopes with savings of up to £50,000 a year expected, it can boost the excellent academic research Imperial College is renowned for.

Starting with a simple solution, the Manchester-based firm has created two banking connections for the university, one with RBS and one with Citizens Bank, improving the efficiency of international payments.

This phased approach has made the organisation a trusted partner for the university, going from a simple Bacs supplier to utilising a new transatlantic connection.

“The ongoing project with Imperial College London is a perfect of example of how AccessPay can future-proof a business,” says Ryan Harris, corporate sales executive at AccessPay

“The value that is going to be delivered with the connectivity to their US bank is something all universities should take notice of.”

AccessPay works with several UK universities, as well as many other sectors, to help streamline finance operations.

It all started with Bacs

With an incumbent Bacs supplier retiring their payments platform for an expensive upgrade in 2019, Imperial College London went to tender. With a compelling price point and one portal for all payments AccessPay won the pitch.

“We pay thousands of suppliers and employees by Bacs – so it is business critical to have a secure and reliable solution in place,” says Imperial’s financial systems manager Rob Leech.

“Where AccessPay were head and shoulders above the others is the competitive pricing and the very good feedback from other higher education institutions.

“The user experience is better and the infrastructure is cloud-based which reduces our technical debt.” However, the AccessPay solution had piqued the team’s interest for another reason.

Making international payments from the UK

In the higher education (HE) sector there’s many supplier payments to be made abroad, to support research programmes and international trips.  For example, Imperial College London pay accounts in 150 countries in a mix of currencies.

The university used to manually key these transactions into bank portals as little as five years ago.

With a half-automated interim solution, which was prone to errors and frustrating, the finance manager again turned to AccessPay.

Their platform offers direct ‘host-to-host’ connections with your bank, meaning international payments can be made from the same payment portal used for Bacs.

“The offering of a direct host-to-host connection with RBS was music to our ears” says Leech.

“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 a clear segregation of duties which is important in the HE sector.

“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,” says Leech.

With the second phase live by 2020, the university turned their attention to the States and the most ambitious project yet.

A better way to make American payments

The university pays more US suppliers than any other country, in fact around 50 percent 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, however, a left-over from the historical need to write supplier cheques; and so an idea was borne.

“We looked at how much it costs to make an electronic domestic payment US to U.S. and it was pennies, a bit like making a Faster Payment in the UK, it costs almost nothing,” says Leech.

“So we wanted a solution where we could pay our US 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 Leech says: “We didn’t have any experience of working with the US banking sector, which works differently to our own, and the time difference made it extra difficult.”

Describing the AccessPay project as ‘bold new work’ it will eventually save Imperial College London hundreds of thousands of pounds and is due to go live by mid-2021.

“It’s adding more value to our proposition and we are building up a global footprint together.”

To find out more visit AccessPay or book a chat with the team today.

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