Xign Lets Buyers Say, "The Check's in the E-Mail"

Hacienda Company Hopes to Revolutionize B2B Financial Settlement Process

The process whereby companies pay for goods and services has remained largely unchanged for decades. Purchase orders are requested, invoices are sent, forms filled out, and checks are eventually signed and mailed.

If it's up to Hacienda's Xign, however, that will all be changing soon.

"The focus of our business is really to automate how companies settle their transactions," says Tom Glassanos, Xign's president and CEO. "We enable the financial departments of companies to electronically send invoices and make payments back and forth, thereby allowing them to better manage their cash and do it less expensively."

The core of Xign's vision is the electronic check, but they offer much more than simply a way to transfer money without paper drafts.

"What our system does is manage the information back and forth between the trading parties that results in an instruction to move money," Glassanos begins. "We'll determine that a payment has been approved to be disbursed, we'll schedule the timing of that payment, we'll notify the receiving party that the payment has been approved and let them know when it is going to happen We provide a mechanism for both parties to understand exactly what's happening through the whole process."

The company is targeting companies that issue a lot of payments and would like to reduce the costs associated with those transactions.

"We think we can potentially cut the cost per transaction by 50 percent," he notes.

The company has its roots in a four-year-old U.S. public policy initiative that brought companies such as IBM, Sun, and Bank of America together with the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve in order to find an electronic alternative to a paper check. That software solution was created by a small company in Canada whose assets were acquired by Xign when the company was founded last year.

Xign's offering will be a hosted service: "A company pays a subscription fee to be able to access the functionality," says Glassanos. "On the accounts payable side, there's a small plug-in that takes payment instructions and it uses those to create an electronic file that gets transmitted onto our network. It's all done totally in compliance with their current accounting procedures and processes."

Xign expects to bring their network into production during the second quarter, at which time their pilot customers will be brought online. Full roll-out is expected during the summer.

The response to Xign's work is already positive, however. "If you tried to take this away from one of the organizations that's been using it as part of the Treasury's pilot program, you'd have some really unhappy people on your hands. The government couldn't turn it off if they wanted to at this point because people have found that it's just a better way of getting the job done."

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