JPMorgan seeks to banish paper payments with fintech venture

JPMorgan Chase is partnering with another fast-growing technology firm, this time to help business clients eradicate paper checks.

The bank is working with, the largest U.S. business-to-business payments network, to enable customers to send and receive electronic payments and invoices, according to Stephen Markwell, a product strategy head for JPMorgan’s commercial bank. The New York-based lender will pilot the service in early 2018 and plans to offer it to more business and commercial clients later in that year, Markwell said.

The deal highlights the symbiosis between banks and up-and-coming technology firms. JPMorgan can lean on’s established systems and network of 2.5 million users, while the 11-year-old firm gains access to the client base of the biggest U.S. lender. JPMorgan has about 4 million small-business customers, 15,000 middle-market clients and 7,000 corporate and investor clients. It previously has announced partnerships with Truecar, On Deck Capital Inc. and Roostify to ease car buying and lending to businesses and home buyers.

While many consumers already are embracing digital tools for sending money, like PayPal’s Venmo or the banking industry’s Zelle, more than half of business payments are still via check, according to Markwell. Suppliers often send paper invoices that require recipients to input information into an approval system, field phone calls on the status of bills and mail payments. Companies write 8 billion checks a year, each costing about $4 to print and handle, he said.

Huge ‘pain’

“Bill payment is a huge source of pain for businesses,” Markwell said. “Every step of that process is manual, inefficient, error-prone, and ripe for electronification.”

The system, which will be integrated into JPMorgan’s online and mobile tools, helps users get paid faster and halves the time spent managing bills, according to founder and Chief Executive Officer Rene Lacerte. It also automates data entry and record storage for businesses. The bank hasn’t decided how much it will charge for the service. JPMorgan is also taking an undisclosed stake in the Palo Alto, California-based company.

At an employee town hall discussion held in June, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon talked about using technology to solve clients’ problems. Of particular interest to him was making small-business owners’ lives easier, he said.

While the typical owner of a restaurant is in business to serve “a good plate of food, properly cooked in a nice environment,” they are instead occupied by paperwork and other tasks, Dimon said. He urged his staff to “take our clients, look at their problems much broader, and say how can we make that all easier?”

JPMorgan spent $600 million last year on building fintech solutions and partnering with outside firms, Dimon said in an April letter to shareholders.