To reach small businesses that are still warming up to digital banking staples such as online bill payment and treasury management dashboards, Mercantile Bank of Michigan is introducing simplicity with an approach that lets business people conduct all their financial activity from one place.

The $2.2 billion asset Grand Rapids, Mich.-based bank is now adding single sign-on to its mix of payments, accounting and management tools. The single sign-on will make the bank's BillPay+ product, which is tightly integrated with the bank's web portal and the business' accounting systems, easier to use. The bank has been developing and testing a Bill.com-powered solution that provides a co-branded dashboard-style command center that allows business owners to view the movement of funds in and out of their accounts.

Adding single sign on to the mix may sound like a simple move, and indeed it is. John Schulte, the bank's senior vice president and CIO, says it's a huge step toward boosting adoption of the command center by making it easy. The bank believes that once businesses start using the command center, the time savings and cash flow impact will be apparent and large-scale adoption will follow. "The single-sign on takes some of the intimidation out, people are more apt to try something if it's not that hard, if they don't have to navigate to different screens to use it," Schulte says.

Bill.com's underlying code and software includes what it calls a "sync" process in which the dashboard integrates directly with accounting systems such as Quickbooks, Sage PeachTree, Intaact and NetSuite. It also integrates with hosted Quickbook providers such as Cloud Aspect, Cloud9 IDE and Right Networks. Through a similar integration, the dashboard will link to the bank's business banking web platform and will allow a single credential to access both web banking and the command center. That will enable the bank to provide a single page that includes online business banking, accounting, bill pay and a command center that also provides a visual representation via charts and graphs of how banking and payments impact the business' cash flow in near real time. The business can then reschedule payments, where possible, to improve its cash position.

"We want Mercantile to be kind of an app store for business clients, they can log in and do whatever they need to on the same site," Schulte says.

Rene Lacerte, CEO and founder of Bill.com, says that by making bank sites and the command center easier to use, the single sign-on capability can broaden what the bank can offer on its landing page. The play is to prevent clients from having to leave the site to execute transactions in another location.

"Once you have your clients on that spot on the web, it's important from a branding perspective to keep them there," Lacerte says, adding that a new tablet app that's in the works can further that usage by extending the command center dashboard's full visual capabilities into mobile devices. "The tablet gives the bank the chance to communicate and offer other products and services the customers can use," Lacerte says.

After a few months of beta testing, Mercantile is just now rolling out the product and the single sign on piece is brand new, so it didn't have a lot of usage stats. The bank does estimate that treasury management time has been cut in half in testing.

Bill.com, which charges between $20 and $25 per month for its services, competes with firms such as PaySimple and Taulia, which offer single-fee treasury management services to small businesses. Fiserv (FISV), Jack Henry (JKHY) and FIS (FIS) also offer solutions, and some large banks offer their own products. Citigroup (C), for example, offers CitiBusiness Smart Solutions, which bundles payment, payroll and merchant services for fees that total about $30 per month. And Chase offers Zip, a PaySimple-powered invoicing and cash management product that includes a $35 per month payment processing option.