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Here’s How a Leading Credit Union Streamlined Accounts Payable Processes and Divorced Paper

July 14, 2022
LAFCU HQ-West Lansing Branch

James McHale, CFO of LAFCU, Shares How AvidXchange Helped Create Efficiencies from Purchase to Pay

Since 2020, James McHale has served as LAFCU’s Chief Financial Officer. He brings more than 20 years of executive experience to the job, having held several C-suite positions for small-to-large credit unions. McHale is a big believer in the power of technology to transform organizations and is working to transition LAFCU away from its reliance on antiquated processes and systems to streamline its AP.

The challenge: Expensive, outdated AP Processes and systems

Prior to automating, LAFCU’s AP team was heavily reliant on inefficient manual processes and Excel spreadsheets. McHale was spending 1.5 hours each week going through check registers, comparing checks to invoices. The credit union’s senior accountant was spending 60-75% of her time managing AP. The labor and time-intensive work kept them from adding more strategic value to their organization.

“A lot of our financial operations stemmed from the mid-eighties. We had multiple layers of spreadsheets that made tracking and processing AP difficult. We knew we needed to use technology more effectively and efficiently.”

In addition, McHale’s team lacked a process for monitoring their outstanding invoices. They relied on running end-of-month reports, but even then, they had only 50,000-foot views and were not able to identify what was missing.

“We needed to find a partner who specializes in modernizing these important processes and making sure things are paid on time,” said McHale. “We really needed to adopt updated technology and divorce paper all together.”

Customer Profile

Customer: James McHale, CFO, LAFCU
Industry: Credit Union
Products used: AvidAscend, AvidPay
Accounting system: Member Driven Technologies & Jack Henry’s Symitar® Episys®

Headquartered in Lansing, Michigan, LAFCU is a not-for-profit financial cooperative with 10 branches and more than 72,000 members. It holds more than $950 million in assets, offering its members low loan rates, low fees, high yields on savings, discounts, knowledgeable employees, and nationwide access to fee-free ATMs.

The solution: Smooth implementation and full integration of AvidAscend with MDT’s & Jack Henry’s Symitar® Episys®

In the Spring of 2022, after evaluating three AP automation vendors, LAFCU chose AvidAscend, AvidXchange’s cloud-based accounting suite specifically designed for the financial services industry, along with its Accounts Payable, Approval Workflow, Invoice Inbox, Fixed Assets, Prepaids & Accruals, and OFAC Scanning modules.

They also implemented AvidPay, AvidXchange’s payment automation software. This completes the AvidAscend paperless invoice-to-pay process by allowing LAFCU to make fast and secure e-payments backed by one of the middle market’s largest supplier networks as an alternative to mailing paper checks.

“We chose AvidXchange because of their expertise and experience in financial services and their ability to meet our expectations and deliver on their promises,” said McHale. “They delivered straight out of the gate, helping us through a smooth integration with our core technology with limited adoption time for our staff.”

LAFCU is part-owner of Member Driven Technologies (MDT), an AvidXchange partner. The AvidAscend solution seamlessly integrates with the MDT-hosted Symitar Episys platform relied upon by LAFCU.

“Integration was important because we need to easily run system reports without getting bogged down with separate spreadsheets, downloads, or conversions. Our AvidXchange team worked closely with us to ensure smooth integrations and helped us stay on track despite our own staffing challenges, and years of data that needed to be converted."

Many of their vendors were already in the AvidPay network of more than 825,000 suppliers, one of the largest payments networks offering multiple payment options, including e-payments.  This helped to speed and simplify the integration process.

“Our vendors were thrilled to see that LAFCU was matching their modernized AP processes,” said McHale.

The results: Stress-free AP in less time

Just months after implementing AvidXchange solutions, McHale said they are finalizing their divorce with paper and recognizing a host of benefits to automated AP and payments.

“AvidXchange streamlines our work and removes the internal obstacles to getting invoices paid accurately and on time,” he said. “There’s no more extra time jumping between different systems or looking at stacks of checks.”

AvidAscend helps invoices move quickly and efficiently through the approval process and get paid on time. Many vendors send PDF invoices, which means LAFCU teams are no longer waiting for paper invoices to arrive in the mail or risk them going missing. They can easily see where each invoice is in the approval process and who is responsible, at any given time.

The added visibility provided by the AvidXchange solution also allows for better policing of AP processes and empowers the LAFCU AP team to provide more accurate, updated reports as needed within their organization and to its board of directors.

“We’ve already achieved impressive milestones working with AvidXchange and look forward to working together to realize the full benefits that AP automation and payments can provide for our AP team and our organization,” said McHale. “We’re confident that we’ll achieve more predictable performance of our AP without the fluctuations we once experienced.”

LAFCU’s vendors are happy, too.

“Our vendors like the ease of use AvidXchange provides and appreciate that they can choose how they want to get paid,” said McHale. “We all appreciate the simplicity that modernization provides.”

As LAFCU continues its mission to remove paper from its AP department, McHale is confident that they’ll continue to reap the benefits of automation.


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