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Creating a better way to pay

Entrepreneur makes one-time payments as simple as texting

When you pay bills online, you’ve got it made.

After you’ve entered the billing company’s address and your account number once, it’s a simple matter of typing in the payment amount to be paid each month.

But what about when you receive a bill for a root canal or tree removal? Do you dust off the checkbook, find a stamp and mail the payment? Or do you enter the address, account number and other details for a one-time debt?

Ralph Marcuccilli suggests another alternative.

Using technology developed by his Fort Wayne company, Allied Payment Network, consumers can snap an image of that stray bill with a smartphone and forward it to their bank with payment instructions.

“It takes (consumers) about 15 to 25 seconds to make a payment,” said Marcuccilli, president of the privately held company. “Very cool.”

The system, which has about 15,000 companies in its database, automates those payments. No one has to sit in the two-year-old company’s Fort Wayne office, entering information taken from incoming photos.

Allied stays behind the scenes, selling the service to banks and credit unions as part of a larger bill paying package.

The Picture Pay service rolled out this year, with an Abilene, Texas, bank the first in the country to offer it. Several other financial institutions will begin offering the service in the next couple of months, Marcuccilli said.

Josh Scheumann works with computers. The 37-year-old Fort Wayne man wouldn’t dream of digging up a stamp to pay a bill by mail. He takes the time to type in all the account information.

But if his bank offered the option, he’d jump at the chance to pay by cellphone.

That’s what Marcuccilli likes to hear.

“It’s amazing how people’s eyes light up when they make that first payment,” he said.

As more people become aware the service is available, more banks and credit unions will want to adopt the technology to meet customers’ expectations, he said.

Marcuccilli has heard that a major bank will introduce a similar product soon. He expects demand for Allied’s product to increase as a result.

What’s next? Allowing cellphone users to call and tell the bank to pay their bills.

Marcuccilli said his 10-person staff is working on voice-recognition software that will ensure it’s you and not someone else trying to access your account.

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