Small businesses are the backbone of the Canadian economy accounting for 98 per cent of all businesses. As such, we sought insight on how smaller businesses are being served by the payments ecosystem, and how they’ll benefit from modern payments, from Vikram Behla, Manager for Small Business at Prospera Credit Union, which services small business members from Vancouver, through the Lower Mainland and to the Okanagan.
To start things off can you share how Prospera Credit Union supports its small business members?
Our number one priority is the financial well-being of families and businesses in our B.C. communities. We are Canada’s sixth largest credit union, grounded in a commitment to invest locally by employing within our community and partnering with local charities.
We support small business members in particular by providing solutions to help them manage their cash flow. We also provide counsel and solutions to finance their long-term growth and maximize the potential and efﬁciency of their business.
How has Prospera Credit Union been able to navigate its small business members through COVID-19?
At the start of COVID-19 we set up a loan deferral program which involved several of our departments coming together to design and execute a program that serves business members’ best interests. We also worked with Central 1 to get set up to accept applications for the federal government’s Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), a government-guaranteed loan for qualifying businesses and nonprofits that have been affected by COVID-19, to help them cover non-deferrable operating costs. For CEBA, we’re doing more than just providing the forms, we’re guiding our small business members through the application process as needed.
We also continue to provide digital payments solutions and services, be it automated funds transfers to help small business members effectively manage their supplier payments; near real-time money e-transfer services so payments can be sent and received by phone; self-serve payroll and invoicing solutions for greater payments control, and the ability to accept payments from Asian customers through Alipay and WeChat.
As our members have adapted to the new business environment, we’ve also continued to be a reliable resource for the various government programs such as Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance, Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, etc.
This is a difficult time for many of our small business members, and we’ll remain committed to supporting them throughout the pandemic.
What are some of the payments challenges that your small business members currently face?
Pre-pandemic, a fair amount of our small business members operated on cash or credit cards. With the advent of COVID-19, these members began looking more seriously into online sales and started requesting more payment options for themselves and their customers which continues to this day. Moreover, some of the money transfer limits remain an obstacle for many of our small businesses members who have moved to online payment options. Ease of use and timing to receive funds are definitely top of mind for our small business members.
As Canadians accelerate their shift from paper to digital payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, how will Prospera Credit Union ensure its small business members benefit from innovations such as the Real-Time Rail and ISO 20022 messaging?
The faster our small business members can get their funds the better. Make no mistake, there have been several advances over the years that are helping us get there. Cheque imaging from Central 1 for instance, gave our small business members a level of autonomy and convenience in processing their cheque deposits and has helped put funds into their account faster.
Anything more that can help our small business members get their funds even faster and more easily in the future, via secure account-to-account transfers or otherwise will help them maintain their cash flow. That and more information traveling with payments that are sent and deposited will reduce the amount of time our small business members spend on reconciling their transactions and balancing their books.
Central 1 is collaborating with Payments Canada and credit unions across Canada to ensure the credit union system continues to be at the forefront of Canada’s digital payments future. How important is your collaboration with Central 1 in helping Prospera Credit Union deliver a seamless transition to faster, safer and more data-rich payments to your customers through its digital banking and payments platforms?
To stay competitive in the financial services market we need to continue to be able to provide our customers with the latest innovations in digital banking and payments, making collaboration with Central 1 essential. Right now we’re exploring Central 1’s Forge digital banking platform and how we can embed the benefits of Interac e-Transfer® into our key member experiences. This will allow our small business members to open new accounts, pay their employees, send through their tax payments and process their invoices all in one spot without ever having to set foot in a branch. Prospera’s ongoing collaboration with Central 1 to digitally evolve our banking and payments offerings has proven to be vital to our operations and small business member customer satisfaction, helping us become the credit union of choice for local businesses in our B.C. markets.