Consumer payments took a huge leap forward in 2014 as technologies emerged to make paying for things electronically more convenient, easy and secure than ever. Businesses around the world took steps – albeit small ones – to improve what remains a largely manual, error-prone and risky process. And they’ll continue to do so in the year ahead. Here are four things you can expect:

1) Risk mitigation will become a priority

As attacks on corporate payment systems continue, the risk around maintaining vendor bank account information has gone from a smoldering issue to a blazing one. To mitigate their exposure, companies will turn to innovative payment methods that use non-sensitive proxy numbers that prevent hackers from doing anything with numbers should they somehow gain access to them.

2) Outsourcing will increase

Payments are a necessary part of commerce. But managing them requires capturing, managing and maintining sensitive information, complying with complex regulatory requirements and validating the identities of those seeking to be paid. Rather than taking this on, many companies will outsource the payment process to organizations that specialize in it.

3) Electronic payments will take hold

Electronic payments have been slow to take hold in the United States, primarily because paper checks – though opaque, slow and prone to fraud – provide all the information needed to effectively reconcile payments.  But new forms of payment that electronically deliver rich remittance data before payments reach a bank are fast emerging. And vendors will embrace them to enhance the reconciliation process and get paid more quickly.

4) Business networks will lead the way

When shopping on Amazon, you don’t worry about connecting to each individual merchant. When it comes time to pay, you don’t worry about integrating into each individual bank or credit card company. It’s all done for you within the network. Business networks will fuel the same consumer-like experience, creating a payment ecosystem that connects companies to their suppliers, banks and other partners and enables them to exchange and settle funds in the simplest possible way.

Is 2015 the year that B2B payments sees real transformation? Technology certainly exists to make it possible. And companies that leverage it can drive it by fueling a more simple, efficient and effective process that creates real business value.

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