AP and AR Outsourcing: Not for the Faint of Heart

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7 March 2007


New York, NY, USA March 7, 2007

Celent encourages banks to foray into accounts payable outsourcing and accounts receivable outsourcing, but with a targeted, incremental approach and third party help.

The move toward widespread finance and accounting outsourcing (FAO) is undeniable and unstoppable. Numerous large corporations have already outsourced significant transactional activities. Yet relatively few banks have accounts receivable outsourcing (ARO) or accounts payable outsourcing (APO) offerings beyond staple wholesale lockbox and disbursement products.

But banks are now hard pressed to defend inaction. According to a new report, , the timing is ripe for APO and ARO. Revenues from cash management have been disappointing, leaving banks looking for ways to stimulate growth. APO and ARO are means to cash management revenue growth. The market opportunity is modest from a fee equivalent income basis (Celent estimates US$300 million in the short term, growing to US$1.6 billion), but sustainable in the face of an otherwise disappointing cash management revenue picture. Banks that do not offer ARO and APO or are late to the game will likely find themselves marginalized.

Celent recommends banks take an incremental approach to FAO. Going it alone--except for a few banks--is not likely the best approach. Instead, banks should investigate partnering with third party solution providers. A bevy of third party providers are entering the space, and many are eager to partner with banks to gain access to their installed customer base. It can be a win-win. Most early mover banks have taken this approach (e.g., HSBC, Fifth Third, SunTrust, and Wells Fargo), while a few (e.g., Mellon and Key Bank) have made acquisitions to enter.

Most early mover banks provide selective outsourcing services, not full service FAO. These services are more than just outsourcing though, and no one sells them using the "O word." Instead, they are a delicate balance of technology, business process reengineering, and selective outsourcing.

"Banks that made the foray are glad they did, but it was hard work, not for the faint of heart," says Bob Meara, senior analyst at Celent and author of the report.

The report reviews the market dynamics that support financial institutions' entry into APO and ARO, along with factors driving and limiting adoption. The report explores APO and ARO solution opportunities, showing how they work and how financial institutions can create logical extensions of current cash management products up the financial supply chain. Celent also profiles six early mover banks and their adventures into APO and ARO and, in one case, human resource outsourcing (HRO).

The 51-page report contains 20 figures and 5 tables. A table of contents is available online.

Members of Celent's Wholesale Banking research services can download the report electronically by clicking on the icon to the left. Non-members should contact for more information.