TelPay: Canada’s largest independent electronic payment company

Most franchisee vets will tell you that if you aren’t staying on top of your bills, you likely aren’t staying in business very long. Doing so isn’t easy, though. Even with the ubiquity of electronic payment systems in recent years, franchisees usually need to know how to use different software platforms to pay employees, suppliers and the government. It’s annoying, and moving between all those platforms takes time — and money — away from actually running a business.

Enter Winnipeg-based Telpay, Canada’s largest independent electronic payment company. In 2016, their all-in-one platform processed $17.7 billion in payments to over 100,000 billers here and around the world. Other similar systems typically handle about 5,000 billers. In Canada, some 100 franchise brands are Telpay customers, including McDonalds, Tim Hortons and A&W.

More of those franchisees are getting Telpay’s software every year, according to company president Bill Loewen. Their main reasons, he says, are that Telpay can process all those payments at a lower cost than most methods, and it can do it from one platform. “We do payroll payments, bill payments, even collection files where, say, an owner is collecting rent from them. International payments, too — the whole gamut.”


How it works

Telpay’s basic system is pretty straightforward: A company gets the software and installs it on their computers; they enter the payments they want to make and send Telpay the money; and then Telpay pays the bills. Payment instructions can be sent via phone, internet, other payment software systems and other financial services providers — basically anyone who can provide accurate and secure electronic info.

That comprehensiveness is big for franchisees, says Dale Lacombe, Telpay’s vice president of sales and marketing. “Especially for franchisees that have multiple locations. They love the fact that they can have it in all their stores and can authorize bill payments remotely.”

He also says franchisees love that it’s compatible with other accounting packages they may already be using — QuickBooks, Sage 300, Sage 50 and Adagio, for instance.

Understandably, though, and in light of recent data breaches by Equifax and others, some business owners are concerned about security. They should be, says Lacombe. “But they should know that we basically introduced this market, and over 32 years we’ve strengthened our internal controls and are constantly developing our procedures. I think business owners want to know that the company they’re working with has been around and has those controls in place.”

Thirty-two years ago was 1985, by the way. That’s when Telpay was launched by Comcheq, the computerized payroll company started by Bill Loewen in 1968. Telpay pioneered the first telephone bill payment service (hence the name), and went on to land contracts with many financial institutions, including National Bank of Canada. Today, Telpay’s customer base is as varied as its six-figured billers list.


Why you should care 

It’s no wonder that one of Payments Canada’s top three priorities over the next few years is to modernize the Canadian payment system. People are spending too much time and money on payments, says Loewen. Particularly business owners who have to try to balance and sync multiple payment platforms using different rules.

Not surprisingly, of course, he and Lacombe believe The Telpay model is a way forward. And they believe franchisees in particular can reap the most rewards. “Franchisees are busy folks,” says Lacombe. “They have staff and operations and customers and suppliers to worry about. Being able to use Telpay to pay all those suppliers electronically, being able to approve bill payments remotely — it can be a gamechanger for making a business much more efficient.”

It can also be a gamechanger for a franchisee’s bottom line. More on specific costs below, but when you factor in every type of biller Telpay covers, it’s a good deal, says Lacombe. “Looking at the cost of using paper-based systems and cheques alone, it may cost $8 or $9 to produce that cheque. Being able to do that electronically has a significant impact.”

One more reason to care: Telpay can make billers much happier, which just makes for happier franchisees. Instead of receiving multiple individual payments by cheque or electronic credits to their bank accounts, billers get a file ready for posting to other accounts and a single account credit.


What it costs

Compared to other systems, such as that bloated paper-based model, Telpay is relatively inexpensive. The one-time software setup fee is $99, and after that the monthly cost is $15. For most payment transactions, including those to suppliers and the government, the fee is 50 cents each. Direct deposit payroll transactions are 15 cents apiece, and international payments are $2 each.

Staff training is included at no extra cost as is customer service. And, says Lacombe, when franchisors or franchisees call in, they’ll get someone on the other end who knows where they’re coming from. “We have a lot of staff who have a lot of experience with the franchisee-franchisor relationship. We know how those dynamics and decisions work, and that’s important. These are sensitive topics, and when customers call in they want to make sure they have an expert on the other end that can help then with any questions they might have.”

That customer care team can also recommend bookkeeping services for franchisees. Telpay has a network of 2,000 bookkeepers across the country, and many of them can handle the needs of single-unit franchisees and multi-unit franchisors with corporate locations of their own.

In short, says Lacombe, franchisees and franchisors should consider Telpay because it will make their lives easier. “For franchisees, their passion is running the business, whether they have one or multiple locations.” It’s not being stuck in an office paying bills. “Many are looking for ways to reduce the amount of time, energy and expense spent on the administrative side of their operations. We’re a good way to do that.”


[Sidebar] Who else cares?

What other businesses use Telpay daily? Thousands, it turns out, including almost 100 franchise brands across the country such as Tim Hortons and A&W.

McDonalds is another, and according to Toronto franchisee Lindsay Bridge, Telpay has drastically streamlined previously cumbersome administrative tasks. “Telpay helps to expedite back office payment processing and to reduce costs,” she writes. “It’s an outstanding service that more operators should be aware of.”

Dayna Rivest at Winnipeg’s Reliable Accounting & Tax Services agrees, saying there is no alternative to Telpay. “Now we can offer our clients payroll direct deposit at a fraction of the cost of outsourcing payroll, and we get to stay in full control of the process.” By doing so, she adds, they’ve saved over 75 per cent of time in the payments process.

Telpay’s global reach is huge for customers like Howard Loewen, the president of MicroPilot, the world’s leading manufacturer of autopilot systems. “I’m not always at the office and it’s tough to sign a cheque when I’m away,” he writes. “With Telpay I can process payments from anywhere in the world”

For bookkeeper Margaret Chwyl, the convenience is what she values most. “I really like the freedom of not having to find dual signors before releasing the payments,” she writes. “Telpay is so convenient, because it works on my schedule and not everyone else’s.”

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