“We were watching a demo and thinking ‘there’s got to be a catch’, but there isn’t. It really is that good.”

Jacqueline May, Head of Payroll

From Bacs Approved Bureau to embedded payments: How Martin Aitken and Co slashed their workload by 80% with Modulr


Originally founded in 1897, Martin Aitken and Co has remained at the forefront of Scottish accounting and commerce. The company’s longevity comes from a willingness to embrace change as opposed to steadfastly sticking to tradition, and it’s an approach that certainly pays.

Switching its Bacs Approved Bureau status for Modulr’s embedded payments has reduced its workload by 80%, given the practice a new revenue stream, and unlocked a faster payroll service for its customers.

Key benefits
0% reduction
in payments tasks
< 0 seconds
payroll speed
payment confidence

Overhauling payroll admin

Supporting over 450 businesses, Martin Aitken and Co used to offer payroll services as a Bacs Approved Bureau (BAB) but this required a high level of manual input from the team. Using Modulr’s integration with BrightPay, many of those steps are now automated, freeing up staff to grow and improve the service.

“It’s reduced the time we spend on payments by about 80%. Beforehand we were having to pull the file, download it, put the file through, checking process dates and everything else before then uploading it as a Bacs transaction. And that was using a cloud-based Bacs software. Before that, it had to be done in person, so even in lockdown someone had to be in the office to authorise payments using a smartcard reader.

Using Modulr’s integration with BrightPay, so many of those steps are done for us and all we need to do is click a button. The impact it’s had on workflow has been massive.”

Boosting revenue while saving costs

While Martin Aitken and Co has always offered payments as part of its payroll bureau service, it was never something advertised due to the complicated and unreliable nature of payments as a BAB. But Modulr’s integration with BrightPay is so simple to use that the whole team actively promote it to their customers.

“It’s offered a new revenue stream for us. Beforehand, it was something we would do only if a customer asked, but we wouldn’t really shout about it. But now we do, as the service is so smooth.

When you consider the £4,500 BACs registration fee, software costs and the time spent on manual processes, itʼs far more cost-effective to fulfil.”

Payroll payments sent and received in seconds

Thanks to Modulr’s payment scheme access, payroll can now be sent via the UK’s Faster Payments system. This means payments are completed in seconds, rather than the three-day Bacs cycle. And, if Martin Aitken and Co’s customers need to make any last-minute changes to their payroll run, it can be done in a matter of clicks, so no employee is left waiting.

“Payments have developed a lot but the Bacs process still feels very dated. Customers expect more than a three-day wait. Modulr represents something modern.”

Why Martin Aitken and Co came to Modulr: The challenges of being a BAB

Martin Aitken and Co always felt that payments and payroll should go hand in hand. Acquiring an accountancy practice which held a Bacs bureau licence enabled it to do so, but payment processing was far from plain sailing.

First, they had the lengthy audit process to contend with, which required a lot of time and resources.

“We needed to put together a 47-page document which included your contract of employment, organisation chart, certificate of indemnity insurance, employee handbook, IT equipment disposal procedure and more. It felt like an overly complicated process which we’d need to complete every three years.”

But even if that process was completed, it didn’t mean they could start processing payments for their clients straight away. They also needed to get each of them a Service User Number (SUN).

“Each of our customers had to be given a SUN, which seemed to work like a lottery. We never had any idea how long this would take for a bank to issue or even whether they were willing to do it at all. It was frustrating telling customers we could do their payments for them and then hitting these issues.”

Once that was sorted, they still found processing payments as a BAB challenging, with very little consistency between banks.

“When it came to using the system, it was so antiquated it made the team nervous. If anything went wrong and changes were needed, it would all come down to the relationship we had with the bank manager. There were times we’d spend all morning on the phone.”

So, what advice would they give to practices considering using embedded payments?

“Don’t be frightened of doing it! Tech is constantly evolving and there are ways to provide better experiences for your customers. Payment providers like Modulr are robust and regulated by the FCA. And the time we’ve saved has enabled us to focus on other areas of business. It’s even improved team morale.

Using Modulr has made us think, if something isn’t working, we should change it, because alternatives are out there.”

As well as Brightpay, Modulr is integrated with all major UK accounting and payroll software providers including Xero, Sage and IRIS. If you’d like to transform your accounting practice like Martin Aitken and Co, you can learn more here.