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Imperial College London set to save £50,000 a year on international supplier payments with AccessPay

Financial technology provider AccessPay is working with Imperial College London on international supplier payments. 

The London-based STEM-subject leader is ranked 8th best university in the world - but with a globally respected reputation comes the need for a modern finance function.

This is the third time they have teamed up with AccessPay, the SaaS corporate platform which allows real-time, secure data connections between 16,000+ global banks, back office applications and payment schemes.  

Starting with a simple Bacs solution, AccessPay has gone on to create two new integrated banking connections for the university, improving the efficiency of international payments and saving them up to £50,000 a year. 

This phased approach has made AccessPay ‘a trusted partner’ of the world class institute.

Rob Leech, financial systems manager at Imperial College London, 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.”

The cloud-based platform was a clear progression from their outdated on-premise solution giving users extra functionality, like remote access for approving payments.

Rob added: “The user experience is better and the infrastructure is cloud-based which reduces our technical debt and so keeps IT happy. 

But the AccessPay solution also piqued the team’s interest for another reason.

In higher education there’s often international payments to be made, to support ground-breaking studies and research around the globe.

Imperial College London pay accounts in 150 countries, in a mix of currencies, so it’s almost as important as its UK Bacs payments.

Five years ago they were still keying in the data manually to a bank portal and then with a half-automated interim solution, which was prone to errors and frustrating to use, the finance manager again turned to the experts.

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

“This additional offering of 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 eliminated keying errors and reduced the risk of fraud through encryption and multi-factor authentication. There is also better visibility of international payments and AccessPay allows for a clear segregation of duties.

With the second phase live by 2020, the university turned their attention to the States.

Imperial College London 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, 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 US to US 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 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 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 at AccessPay added: “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 US bank is something all universities should take notice of."