Compleat Software: Preventing invoice fraud
There are many types o...
Neil Robertson, CEO of Compleat Software, discusses how companies can face and overcome supply chain threats from invoice fraud.
There are many types of fraud that small businesses might face, including identity theft, payroll fraud and return fraud. But there is one type of fraud that often flies under the radar and collectively costs SMEs £9bn every year – invoice fraud.
Like many other types of fraud, invoice fraud relies heavily on social engineering. It occurs when fraudulent invoices are sent to a company and paid due to insufficient or vulnerable accounts payable processes. It’s an easy enough scam for criminals to execute if they’ve done their homework. Often, they send the accounts payable department an invoice marked as late for an amount that they know is low enough to bypass approval and not cause too much suspicion. In other instances, the fraudsters simply duplicate invoices, inflate them or raise the price beyond what was originally agreed.
If these invoices aren’t investigated (and they are specifically designed to avoid triggering a closer look) they often just get paid. Business with poor internal communications between departments are particularly susceptible - and this isn’t restricted to SMEs. Dell recently had more than US$1mn stolen by an employee who filed fraudulent invoices over the course of five years. In another case, the FD of a mature mid-size company ran an analysis between the payroll bank account details and supplier bank account details. One invoice had been running for ten years, and despite it being a small amount, it cost the business nearly £10,000
It’s a particularly dangerous crime because it’s both easy to understand and execute. Companies have many relationships to keep on top of – suppliers, customers and employees – and so it can be difficult to keep track of all agreements made with each party. While accounts payable departments should be responsible for managing invoices, it’s up to the organisation as a whole to come up with a plan and implement the right processes and systems to protect the business against invoice fraud.
Preventing invoice fraud
Understanding how invoice fraud works and the financial impact it can have is the first step to tackling the issue. In theory, being extra vigilant and just getting a second pair of eyes on the books sounds like a good solution, but small businesses don’t often have the luxury of extra staff and additional resources. More often than not one person takes on many roles, which can be problematic – and as a result, mistakes are bound to happen.
This is where procurement technology can come in handy. Small businesses are sometimes hesitant to use new tools and solutions as implementation can take time and resources to manage. However, a short teething period is well worth the reward. In the long-term, the right technology can save you time and money.
Procure to pay systems are designed to eliminate manual paper-based administration and block threats like invoice fraud before they occur. They can help manage invoices, purchase orders and expenses. Most procure to pay system suppliers should let you cherry-pick the features that benefit your business most, allowing you to personalise the software to cater to your needs. If you’re thinking of employing this type of software to combat invoice fraud, you’ll want to look for a verification feature. This means that any new supplier must be validated before signing on – and any supplier request to update or enter new payment information is verified before being approved.
Long-term approaches to tackling fraud
Tackling fraud is something that everyone involved in a business – employees, suppliers and clients – should take some responsibility for. Effective security is often rooted in education and awareness, so taking the time to talk about the risks of fraud and the potential effects it can have on the business will go a long way to fighting the problem.
But there are other resources and products that can help you. Investing in the right technology, communicating with your peers and even joining relevant communities will go a long way to fighting fraud and stopping problems before they arise – ultimately having a positive impact on your company’s bottom line.
NTT DATA Services, Remodelling Supply Chains for Resilience
Joey Dean, the man with the coolest name ever and Managing Director in the healthcare consulting practice for NTT DATA and is focused on delivering workplace transformation and enabling the future workforce for healthcare providers. Dean also leads client innovation programs to enhance service delivery and business outcomes for clients.
The pandemic has shifted priorities and created opportunities to do things differently, and companies are now looking to build more resilient supply chains, none needed more urgently than those within the healthcare system. Dean shares with us how he feels they can get there.
A Multi-Vendor Sourcing Approach
“Healthcare systems cannot afford delays in the supply chain when there are lives at stake. Healthcare procurement teams are looking at multi-vendor sourcing strategies, stockpiling more inventory, and ways to use data and AI to have a predictive view into the future and drive greater efficiency.
“The priority should be to shore up procurement channels and re-evaluate inventory management norms, i.e. stockpiling for assurance. Health systems should take the opportunity to renegotiate with their current vendors and broaden the supplier channel. Through those efforts, work with suppliers that have greater geographic diversity and transparency around manufacturing data, process, and continuity plans,” says Dean.
But here ensues the never-ending battle of domestic vs global supply chains. As I see it, domestic sourcing limits the high-risk exposure related to offshore sourcing— Canada’s issue with importing the vaccine is a good example of that. So, of course, I had to ask, for lifesaving products, is building domestic capabilities an option that is being considered?
“Domestic supply chains are sparse or have a high dependence on overseas centres for parts and raw materials. There are measures being discussed from a legislative perspective to drive more domestic sourcing, and there will need to be a concerted effort by Western countries through a mix of investments and financial incentives,” Dean explains.
Wielding Big Tech for Better Outcomes
So, that’s a long way off. In the meantime, leveraging technology is another way to mitigate the risks that lie within global supply chains while decreasing costs and improving quality. Dean expands on the potential of blockchain and AI in the industry.
“Blockchain is particularly interesting in creating more transparency and visibility across all supply chain activities. Organisations can create a decentralised record of all transactions to track assets from production to delivery or use by end-user. This increased supply chain transparency provides more visibility to both buyers and suppliers to resolve disputes and build more trusting relationships. Another benefit is that the validation of data is more efficient to prioritise time on the delivery of goods and services to reduce cost and improve quality.
“Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) is another area where there’s incredible value in processing massive amounts of data to aggregate and normalise the data to produce proactive recommendations on actions to improve the speed and cost-efficiency of the supply chain.”
Evolving Procurement Models
From asking more of suppliers to beefing up stocks, Dean believes procurement models should be remodelled to favour resilience, mitigate risk and ensure the needs of the customer are kept in view.
“The bottom line is that healthcare systems are expecting more from their suppliers. While transactional approaches focused solely on price and transactions have been the norm, collaborative relationships, where the buyer and supplier establish mutual objectives and outcomes, drives a trusting and transparent relationship. Healthcare systems are also looking to multi-vendor strategies to mitigate risk, so it is imperative for suppliers to stand out and embrace evolving procurement models.
“Healthcare systems are looking at partners that can establish domestic centres for supplies to mitigate the risks of having ‘all of their eggs’ in overseas locations. Suppliers should look to perform a strategic evaluation review that includes a distribution network analysis and distribution footprint review to understand cost, service, flexibility, and risks. Included in that strategy should be a “voice of the customer” assessment to understand current pain points and needs of customers.”
“Healthcare supply chain leaders are re-evaluating the Just In Time (JIT) model with supplies delivered on a regular basis. The approach does not require an investment in infrastructure but leaves organisations open to risk of disruption. Having domestic centres and warehousing from suppliers gives healthcare systems the ability to have inventory on hand without having to invest in their own infrastructure. Also, in the spirit of transparency, having predictive views into inventory levels can help enable better decision making from both sides.”
But, again, I had to ask, what about the risks and associated costs that come with higher inventory levels, such as expired product if there isn’t fast enough turnover, tying up cash flow, warehousing and inventory management costs?
“In the current supply chain environment, it is advisable for buyers to carry an in-house inventory on a just-in-time basis, while suppliers take a just-in-case approach, preserving capacity for surges, retaining safety stock, and building rapid replenishment channels for restock. But the risk of expired product is very real. This could be curbed with better data intelligence and improved technology that could forecast surges and predictively automate future supply needs. In this way, ordering would be more data-driven and rationalised to align with anticipated surges. Further adoption of data and intelligence and will be crucial for modernised buying in the new normal.
These are tough tasks, so I asked Dean to speak to some of the challenges. Luckily, he’s a patient guy with a lot to say.
On managing stakeholders and ensuring alignment on priorities and objectives, Dean says, “In order for managing stakeholders to stay aligned on priorities, they’ll need more transparency and collaborative win-win business relationships in which both healthcare systems and medical device manufacturers are equally committed to each other’s success. On the healthcare side, they need to understand where parts and products are manufactured to perform more predictive data and analytics for forecasting and planning efforts. And the manufacturers should offer more data transparency which will result in better planning and forecasting to navigate the ebbs and flows and enable better decision-making by healthcare systems.
Due to the sensitive nature of the information being requested, the effort to increase visibility is typically met with a lot of reluctance and push back. Dean essentially puts the onus back on suppliers to get with the times. “Traditionally, the relationships between buyers and suppliers are transactional, based only on the transaction between the two parties: what is the supplier providing, at what cost, and for what length of time. The relationship begins and ends there. The tide is shifting, and buyers expect more from their suppliers, especially given what the pandemic exposed around the fragility of the supply chain. The suppliers that get ahead of this will not only reap the benefits of improved relationships, but they will be able to take action on insights derived from greater visibility to manage risks more effectively.”
He offers a final tip. “A first step in enabling a supply chain data exchange is to make sure partners and buyers are aware of the conditions throughout the supply chain based on real-time data to enable predictive views into delays and disruptions. With well understand data sets, both parties can respond more effectively and work together when disruptions occur.”
As for where supply chain is heading, Dean says, “Moving forward, we’ll continue to see a shift toward Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and advanced analytics to optimise the supply chain. The pandemic, as it has done in many other industries, will accelerate the move to digital, with the benefits of improving efficiency, visibility, and error rate. AI can consume enormous amounts of data to drive real-time pattern detection and mitigate risk from global disruptive events.”