If you want to gain control over your payment collections, appointing a Bacs approved bureau to manage them for you will revolutionise your accounting systems.
A bureau is a company which directly submits payment instructions to Bacs on behalf of its clients.
Bureaux process Bacs payment services including Direct Debits and Bacs Direct Credits for businesses, charities and organisations who want to automate regular payments and collections.
They do this by either creating and submitting payment files for their users or just submitting files created by the user themselves, charging a small fee per collection.
Every bureau has to be vetted by Bacs itself to join the scheme. They also need to be authorised by a sponsoring bank to ensure they meet stringent regulations.
Once they’ve satisfied both the relevant parties, they’re added to a Bacs bureau list, which can be accessed here, and are inspected every three years to ensure they’re meeting all the required standards.
Over half of the organisations using the Bacs clearing service make their payment submissions via an approved bureau rather than submitting directly to Bacs.
But why do so many businesses outsource this accounting task and what does a bureau do that can’t be managed in-house?
What Does a Bacs approved bureau Do?
Click on a Bacs payment services website such as www.fastpayltd.co.uk and you’ll discover just how much a bureau can do for your business.
From collecting membership fees and monthly payment instalments to paying pensions and benefits, they offer businesses and organisations an efficient, streamlined option to manage their accounting.
Bureaux offer an alternative to managing the Direct Debit process in-house and working directly with your bank. Traditionally, this had been the only route available to access Bacs payment services.
Now, signing up with a Direct Debit company means they can do the job for you and eliminates the need to meet the strict criteria set by the banks.
One of these is that your business must have high turnover, in some cases of at least £1m. This previously meant offering a Direct Debit payment system to your customers was out of reach for SMEs and organisations.
Now they can easily harness the power of Direct Debit by using a facility from the Bacs bureau list which does everything for you, such as FastPay.
A Direct Debit bureau allows you to become a submitter that doesn’t need bank approval, so that you can hand over the day-to-day management of regular payments.
A Bacs approved bureau usually offers two distinct schemes: a bureau service for corporate businesses with their own Service User Number from a bank (read more about SUNs below), and a facilities management (FM) service for SMEs, charities and organisations who can’t get their own SUN.
Each service makes it easy to collect Direct Debit payments from customers: a time-effective, cost-effective and simple solution for your business.
A Service User Number (SUN) is a unique code for each client signed up to a member of the Bacs bureau list. Bacs uses SUNs as a form of ID to keep a record of all corresponding transactions. It’s also used by banks to look up the name of the company to be included on the payers’ bank statements.
If you sign up as a bureau client via a Bacs payment services website, you’ll already have your own bank-sponsored SUN. To acquire one of these, your company must prove its management expertise, financial health and contractual capacity.
For other businesses, organisations and charities, you’ll be provided with a SUN by your Direct Debit partner and set up on a facilities management, or managed, service. You’ll be able to start taking payments straightaway.
When you sign up with FastPay, you’ll get a SUN unique to your business. This means that your company name and logo, rather than the impersonal name of your bureau, will appear on all documents.
You can now tell your customers that you’re switching to accepting Bacs payment services to give them peace of mind, convenience, flexibility and control over the budget.
All they need to do is complete a Direct Debit Instruction authorising you to collect regular payments from them, provided you give advance notice.
You can let them choose how they do this: online, over the phone or via a traditional paper mandate. And if you’re not sure what details you need to ask for, your bureau can provide branded Bacs-approved web forms, phone scripts and paper mandates to make the process even simpler.
They will also manage the submission of all the data to Bacs on your behalf. Your customers’ accounts will then be debited and payments transferred into your business account once they’ve cleared (or on the same day if use a bureau service, rather than a FM one).
When reading through a Bacs payment services website, ensure that the provider can offer all these services and more.
What Benefits Will You Enjoy?
Signing up with a member of the Bacs bureau list will quickly bring innumerable benefits to both your business and your customers. FastPay can get you up and running within 24 hours: there’s no need to wait to start seeing a difference.
Your accounts team will immediately be relieved of time-consuming jobs such as reconciling individual customer payments, sending reminders and chasing unpaid invoices. They’ll save time and your business will save money.
You’ll also benefit financially by deciding to outsource Bacs payment services to a bureau rather than applying to your bank to be a direct submitter. FastPay has low set-up costs and collection fees which are a more affordable option than the expense of obtaining a bank sponsor, paying a team to administer the scheme and investing regularly in up-to-date Bacs software and training.
You’ll soon see a dramatic difference in your cashflow. Direct Debit will make it predictable, removing the uncertainty of when a payment will be made and whether or not it will successfully clear. Regular reports from your bureau will ensure you’re always in-the-know about any non-payments, streamlining your banking, making issue resolution a breeze and keeping your cash flowing.
Both you and your customers will benefit from improved security thanks to the built-in safeguards of the Direct Debit Guarantee which protects against any payments made fraudulently or in error. This vastly reduces the risk of fraud and makes it the most secure form of payment available.
Using a bureau will also give your customer service levels a boost by offering them a flexible and highly popular payment option: they’ll be paying alongside the 80% of UK adults who have at least one Direct Debit.
They’ll have the peace of mind that their payments are being made automatically, the convenience of setting up a mandate and not having to think about posting a cheque or calling to use their credit card, and they can choose on which date money leaves their account.
You can also offer them discounts for paying by Direct Debit or the option to spread their payments if they’re in arrears – they save money, you save time and hassle.
And introducing Direct Debit will bring your business bang up-to-date with the latest technology. Your bureau’s processing systems can be integrated with applications such as Xero and Sage to improve efficiency and minimise unnecessary administration.
FastPay also offers its own API integration and access to an online account which includes a comprehensive dashboard detailing all your business’ Bacs transactions.
The services a Bacs approved bureau can offer are a straightforward, time-effective and cost-effective way for your business to transform the way you collect payments.