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River Valley Credit Union plans to spend the year ahead expanding its use of new technology to help grow its business with small businesses.The $160 million Miamisburg, Ohio, institution is an early adopter of the Biz 2.0 online bill pay and presentment solution from iPay Technologies, the Elizabethton, Ky., provider of e-commerce services to more than 3,500 financial institutions.The 15,000-member credit union has been a user of the company’s consumer bill pay offering for about two years and contracted for the business product in November, said Senior Vice President/Chief Financial Officer Jim Roberson.“We’ve been doing business lending for about 10 years and when this came along, it seemed like something we could use to help build our relationships and offer a better product,” Roberson said.“We also have about 315 business checking accounts right now and the iPay solution seems like something that will be a good fit for the kind of accounts we have, generally smaller businesses, a lot of churches, several dentists, some restaurants, even a paving company,” he said.Roberson said the Biz 2.0 solution offers some key features the credit union’s business members had been seeking, such as payroll deposit, ACH origination and electronic invoicing, all in a service bureau setting.“We’d been kind of reluctant to get into some of this because of the time and due diligence it requires,” Roberson said.Bill Ready knows the feeling. The president of iPay Technologies said those features were among those most frequently mentioned in several years of feedback the company gathered while developing the new offering.“Our customers need something that is very turnkey and easy to implement. Most aren’t like Bank of America, with an army of people to operate their online bill pay and banking. They look to us to be their department for that,” he said.Ready said the new solution has two key areas the company claims sets its business service apart: very granular permissions functionality and online invoicing.The permissions settings can include allowing an employee or outside accountant, for instance, to pay only certain invoices-such as the power bill-and only up to certain amounts, and allow access to only specified accounts.“A small business owner struggling with taking care of all they have to take care of usually doesn’t want to open a checking account to all of his subordinates. That was one of the biggest things we heard in our feedback, and that’s why we built this into the second generation of our business product,” Ready said.“Most other competing products allow you to choose three basic, pre-defined user types-the administrator, super-user and low-level user, and they usually can’t be overridden,” he said.The online invoicing solution, meanwhile, provides the same level of delegating permissions, along with the ability to customize the document’s appearance, Ready said.It also provides the crucial ability to help manage cash flow, which in turn can help reduce the size of the line of credit needed to cover receivables and maintain working capital, the iPay Technologies president said.“Small businesses are generally severely underserved by financial institutions, especially the big ones that get first to market with a lot of new technologies that aren’t available to the local pharmacy or small law firm, businesses like that,” Ready said.Today’s credit crunch has created a particularly good environment for this kind of offering, especially in particularly hard-hit industrial areas such as Ohio, agreed Roberson at River Valley CU, who said his 15,000-member credit union has done a lot of business lending but not necessarily checking and other services with those same members.“A lot of the big boys are gone and small businesses are where the action is going to be now,” he said.River Valley is planning to target them with the product in the coming year, following internal testing and use by some existing members, including a landscaping business operated by the husband of the credit union’s vice president of operations.“It comes with tutorials and is pretty self-directed, but we want to make sure we’re comfortable and understand the product completely from our end before we start marketing it to our business accounts,” Roberson said.Ease of use and simplicity were goals in the online business platform’s design, Ready said.“We have no aspirations to duplicate QuickBooks. They’ve had 25 years to build up all that functionality, but the simple fact is that 80% of the people who buy it use only 10% of that functionality,” Ready said.“What we’re doing is making available through the credit union’s Web site (rivervalleycu.org) the ability to ditch shrink-wrapped software and use an SaaS model that you don’t have to worry about backing up or maintaining and offers you only the services you need, with everything else taken care of,” he said.–[email protected]

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