Bank of America is going global with an online initiative that allows trading partners to access payment remittance information through the Internet.
Called Global Advice, the new service "is another arrow in the quiver of our payment suite of services and allows our clients to interact with their trading partners electronically," said John Feldman, director of product management, global treasury services at Charlotte, N.C.-based BofA. The service is being rolled out across the bank globally this year.
Currently, when two companies agree to conduct business, both must be set up to allow for electronic data interchange of financial information. Otherwise they must rely on fax machines and the mail to send payment remittance advice.
With Global Advice, a client sends BofA an electronic payment origination file, usually in the standard EDI 820 format, which is processed and cleared. A remittance file is then posted on a secure Web site, and the bank sends an e-mail to the client's trading partner advising that the remittance file can be viewed and downloaded from a secure Web address. The e-mail contains a password permitting the trading partner to access the information. "It allows our clients to provide better customer service," said Feldman.
Sending remittance information through the Internet saves firms money and allows them to get closer to their trading partners and build a better relationship.
"Cutting checks and reams of paper...is very expensive for trading partners and creates a time lag," Feldman said.
The service is being extended to payroll, travel and expense reimbursement information to employees, as well as benefit information for health care providers receiving payments from health care insurers.
BofA is piloting the system with WellPoint Health Networks, a large health care company with more than 7.5 million medical members and 31 million specialty members through Blue Cross of California and UNICARE.
WellPoint, based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., is converting some of its checks to electronic payments and will use Global Advice to post detailed payment information for five or six of its clients.
"We are attempting to transition paper-based functions within our company to those that deliver data in electronic format wherever possible," said Jerl Rossi, director of cash management at WellPoint.
The $672 billion BofA hatched the idea for the Web offering in the first quarter of 2000 and then worked with Affiliated Computer Services, Dallas, to build the system.
Feldman declined to reveal the cost, but said it was an "investment" in providing better service to clients.
BofA will be targeting Global Advice across industries. The larger the information file and the more difficult it is to communicate electronically, the greater the need for a solution like Global Advice, Feldman said.