Can Open Banking solve Canadian SMBs’ ‘top needs’?

Ellie Duncan
09 Dec 2021

Embedded payments are becoming “critical” for Canadian small and medium businesses (SMBs) in developing customer relationships, while SMBs cite need to pay invoices through online banking as a “top need”, according to speakers at Open Banking Expo Canada last month.

The comment was made during a panel debate, titled Open for business? Opportunities and challenges of Open Banking for Canada’s SMB market, on the first day of the two-day virtual event (23 November).

Peter Watanabe, vice president, SMB sales and marketing at Staples Canada, told moderator Jeff Brown, Equifax’s senior director, small and medium business: “Embedded payments is table stakes for our customers in terms of them doing business with us.”

Jeff Brown

Equifax Canada’s Jeff Brown

Brown had introduced the panel debate by saying that “when it comes to providing financing and credit solutions to small businesses, the industry is still light years away from where it should be”, and asked whether Open Banking will help to solve this.

Staples Canada’s Watanabe said that embedded payments had been “critical in developing successful relationships”, and had a “big impact” on customer experience.

He told delegates that the company’s customers want “a full end-to-end digital experience” and that, in turn, SMBs want “access to a centralised website so they can manage invoices”.

Also on the panel was Dinaro Ly, head of innovation partnerships and community engagement at Interac, who identified that one of the “top needs” that SMBs would like some support on is a “quick and easy way” for them to pay invoices through online banking.

Ada de Michele

Ada de Michele

Also on the panel was Dina Vardouniotis, principle consultant at Payments and Partnerships Inc, who talked about working with Watanabe on the Staples programme to create “a more digital experience”.

“We do have a commercial app with Staples branding wrapped around it where anyone with a Staples commercial account can see invoices… pay from their mobile phone,” she said, calling it “a huge advancement around experience”.

Vardouniotis added: “When we look at partnership programmes, we want to make sure we’re not detracting from the brand we’re working with, but actually amplifying the brand.”

Brown also said: “A critical and often ignored part of small business operations is the relationship with suppliers. Small businesses don’t just rely on the relationship with lenders. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s ensuring that adequate and ample supplies are critical to small business’ operations.”

He asked panellist Ada de Michele, director, credit and financial solutions at Ingram Micro, what they do to “facilitate those trade lines”.

“We look at their business not only from today’s perspective but also from a future perspective. We look and assess that risk and that ability to be flexible. We look at who their customers are and what their offering is,” she answered.