Sunriver Resort started looking for ways to use Zelle® payments after hearing about the network and its advantages from U.S. Bank, a Zelle Network® partner.
“We do all of our banking with U.S. Bank,” Peterson says. “Anything that is money related already goes through them, so it was only logical to partner with them on the Zelle® project.”
The Zelle Network® allows businesses to send money using only the recipient’s U.S. mobile phone number or email address. It eliminates the costs of printing and mailing checks and avoids the risks associated with collecting and storing payee bank account information needed to initiate the same payments through the Automated Clearing House (ACH) network. Zelle® would give Sunriver the ability to directly disburse funds from its bank account to the accounts of its employees and other recipients, making those funds instantly available.
Sunriver Resort is a 3,300-acre all-seasons getaway destination and conference center offering renowned golf, award-winning spa services, suites and condominiums, and outdoor pool facilities. Located just 15 miles south of Bend, the resort has been poised for business and population growth in Oregon.
Like most businesses that cater to vacationers and business travelers, Sunriver Resort saw reduced revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The temporary shock to its businesses led to leaner staffing in its accounting department, where the recovery has highlighted the need for greater efficiency in payment processes.
“At Sunriver, not only do we manage the actual resort operations, but we also house the local airport, operate several eateries on premises, and run the partner realty business,” explains Laura Peterson, the general ledger accountant who manages accounts payable.
In particular, Peterson was looking for a way to save time and costs associated with employee reimbursement payments, which the company had traditionally made by check. She wanted to reduce the time she was devoting to issuing reimbursement checks and that company executives were spending approving those payments. Another goal was eliminating the need for employees to pick up and cash those checks.
“We also didn’t want to worry about storing people’s bank accounts and passwords – we’re a fairly small team and that aspect was a lot to handle,” Peterson says. “That’s why we started looking at Zelle®.”
- Laura Peterson, general ledger accountant, Sunriver Resort
Peterson initially introduced Zelle® reimbursements as an option for department managers, who have travel expenses and receive reimbursements as often as twice a month. They’ve loved it, she says, particularly because a number have been working off property since the onset of the pandemic, and a digital payment option eliminates extra trips into the office. “Most of them have opted to receive Zelle® payments because it’s just so much easier.”
Word of the convenience of digital reimbursements has spread quickly. Peterson says the managers have been great spokespeople for Zelle® and she’s begun offering this alternative to check payments to the rest of Sunriver’s employees.
In 2021, Sunriver replaced more than $50,000 in check payments with Zelle® digital transactions, Peterson says. That’s just a small portion of the company’s total reimbursement payments, and Peterson plans to continue to promote Zelle® adoption. “I’d like to see all of our employees on it.”
The ability to avoid storing sensitive information on Sunriver’s own services – which the company would have to do if it made electronic payments via ACH – has been a major plus from a risk management perspective. “While we haven’t had a major security event, our move to Zelle® was preventative against such an occasion,” Peterson says. That was a very compelling benefit that led us to consider Zelle®.”
With Zelle®, Sunriver has increased the efficiency of its employee expense reimbursement payment process, and the business has started migrating Zelle® benefits to other types of payments.
“As an A/P person, I love Zelle®,” Peterson says. “It’s such an easy tool to use. I prepare the batch, get it approved online by our executives, send it over to the bank, and the payment is immediately deposited into the recipient’s account. I don’t have to worry about storing payees’ personal information, and I know our IT and security people like that, too.”
Peterson says the resort has begun to expand its use of Zelle® beyond employee reimbursement payments.
She’s already had a couple small contractors – a photographer and a mechanic – enthusiastically agree to accept Zelle® payments, and she’s open to paying more contractors via Zelle®. Additionally, she’s considering making Zelle® an option for the payments Sunriver makes to the owners of properties it leases to house foreign students who work for the company during summers.
Making faster payments helps organizations of all types improve their internal team functions and the customer experience. Talk to a U.S. Bank expert about Zelle® and other digital payment options today.