Cor­po­rate cards

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The Business Travel Magazine - - Contents - Cather­ine Chetwynd

The bank­ing sec­tor is not par­tic­u­larly renowned for in­no­va­tion, with many lead­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions us­ing plat­forms that are nearly 20 years old.

In the travel and hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try, how­ever, ded­i­cated play­ers such as Air­plus and Din­ers Club In­ter­na­tional have an ad­van­tage be­cause they have de­vel­oped plat­forms from the be­gin­ning.

“We have been able to in­no­vate ef­fi­ciently for nearly the last three decades,” says Head of Com­mer­cial and Part­ner­ships at Air­plus, Jay Pa­tel.

“But we do un­der­stand that our cus­tomers are look­ing for more and we are now un­der­tak­ing the big­gest trans­for­ma­tion in our or­gan­i­sa­tional his­tory, in­clud­ing mod­ernised IT to lay the foun­da­tion for seamless end-to-end pro­cesses, data qual­ity and cus­tomer prox­im­ity, and the in­tro­duc­tion of a Eu­ro­pean Cor­po­rate Card,” he says.

The lat­ter re­moves the need for a re­la­tion­ship with a bank to is­sue cor­po­rate cards in a Eu­ro­pean coun­try where a com­pany is open­ing an of­fice – it will need an agree­ment only n w with Air­plus. It is be­ing rolled out in France n f from Septem­ber and is ex­pected to be avail­able v a in 18 other Eu­ro­pean coun­tries e by y the end of 2019.

Nonethe­less, dig­i­tal, ta mo­bile and vir­tual are the cor­po­rate card rd in­dus­try’s three big goals. The amount of data the cards col­lect is oceanic – broad and deep – and card com­pa­nies are be­gin­ning to trans­form the data into valu­able man­age­ment in­for­ma­tion (MI), giv­ing cor­po­rate clients im­proved rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, more pow­er­ful ven­dor ne­go­ti­a­tion and deeper in­sight into em­ploy­ees' pol­icy com­pli­ance.

Pre-paid cards may soon be over­taken by their vir­tual in­car­na­tion but they are still use­ful for tem­po­rary or in­ter­mit­tent trav­ellers who need ac­cess to cash or to pay for ser­vices as they con­sume them – Citi no longer pro­vides pre-paid cards.

Vir­tual on the move Mean­while, vir­tual cards are fast be­com­ing main­stream and when com­bined with mo­bile, will give com­pa­nies a con­ve­nient pay­ment

Dig­i­tal, mo­bile and vir­tual are the cor­po­rate card in­dus­try's three big goals, writes

ve­hi­cle that pro­vides co­pi­ous trans­ac­tional data for cor­po­rates to pore over.

“Vir­tual cards are the big­gest growth area we have. They grew glob­ally by more than 60% over the past four years and it is not just us – in our re­gion, we saw 50% growth last year,” says Head of Whole­sale Cards, CTS, EMEA for Citi, Steve Rob­son.

They are par­tic­u­larly use­ful where rec­on­cil­i­a­tion can prove dif­fi­cult for lodge cards, such as low-cost car­ri­ers, which have tra­di­tion­ally not given good data.

Citi is tri­alling mo­bile vir­tual cards with a fa­cil­i­ties man­age­ment client and hopes to launch it in the US by the end of the year. This al­lows a field agent who needs to fix air con­di­tion­ing, for ex­am­ple, to or­der a part from a lo­cal store on a mo­bile, col­lect it and pay with a mo­bile vir­tual card, unit­ing in­voice and client. It re­moves the need to or­der the part from a cen­tral sup­plier, who takes days to de­liver it.

The plat­form can also play a part in cri­sis man­age­ment. If a trav­eller’s wal­let is stolen, for ex­am­ple: “We can send a vir­tual card to their mo­bile to al­low them to buy items to see them through the rest of the day,” says Citi's Rob­son.

Mo­bile vir­tual cards can also help over­come a com­mon prob­lem at ho­tel check-out, when the trav­eller thinks the bill has al­ready been paid cen­trally by vir­tual card, only to dis­cover that has not been un­der­stood at re­cep­tion.

“Mo­bile vir­tual cards de­liver some­thing tan­gi­ble to the em­ployee, mak­ing check-out like us­ing phys­i­cal plas­tic – and the fund­ing source is still cen­tralised,” says Di­rec­tor for Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment for Mas­ter­card, Ol­lie Fel­lowes.

Trav­ellers can also use a mo­bile vir­tual cards for per diems in restau­rants and taxis, re­mov­ing the need for pre-paid cards or old fash­ioned cash for tem­po­rary em­ploy­ees or those with low spend.

And it works a treat for car rental too, of­ten an ad hoc re­quire­ment that has tra­di­tion­ally been frag­mented, with at­ten­dant scratchy data. “You cap­ture the data at the point of trans­ac­tion,” he says.

The amount of data that cards col­lect is oceanic – broad and deep – and card com­pa­nies mpa­nies are be­gin­ning to trans­form the data into valu­able man­age­ment in­for­ma­tion” on

Recog­nis­ing this prob­lem, ground  trans­port provider Karhoo has in­te­grated vir­tual cards for pay­ments, re­mov­ing the need for cash. “We like this so­lu­tion and are work­ing to in­te­grate their prod­uct into our range of op­tions,” says Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor for Busi­ness Travel Di­rect, An­drew Perolls.

And one sup­plier in the oil and gas in­dus­try is plan­ning to pay sup­pli­ers with vir­tual cards to smooth cash flow and man­age thou­sands of sup­pli­ers who get paid in small amounts.

Din­ers Club has prod­ucts for gen­eral ex­penses, pur­chas­ing, event man­age­ment and busi­nesses who book travel di­rect, all with dual Din­ers Club/mas­ter­card net­works. “Sin­gle use vir­tual cards can be em­bed­ded within the ac­count and sin­gle use card trans­ac­tions will ap­pear on the same state­ment,” says Din­ers Club Mar­ket­ing Di­rec­tor, Adrian Steele.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion launched a com­pany card this year with added func­tion­al­ity, in­clud­ing: dual net­works, re­ceipt cap­ture and stor­age with state­ment, VAT rec­on­cil­i­a­tion au­to­mated within ac­count down­loads, en­hanced data op­tions in­cluded with each trans­ac­tion (for ex­am­ple, cost cen­tre, staff ID, etc) so that ex­penses can be au­to­mated with­out an ex­pense man­age­ment sys­tem, and im­proved daily up­loads to ex­pense man­age­ment sys­tems.

“The new Din­ers Club Com­pany Card has been de­vel­oped to set a new stan­dard for the com­pany card, mak­ing the un­der-served SME mar­ket a thing of the past,” says Steele.

In the US, Bank of Amer­ica Mer­rill Lynch (BOAML) still wit­nesses pre-paid cards be­ing used more com­monly than vir­tual, but else­where: “Vir­tual cards have very much taken off in cor­po­rate life world­wide,” says Head of Global Card and Com­pre­hen­sive Payables for BOAML, Jen­nifer Petty.

Bar­clay­card launched vir­tual card Pre­ci­sion­pay last year to com­ple­ment its debit, credit and pre-paid op­tions. It op­er­ates in the same way as walk­ing plas­tic in that Bar­clay­card set­tles the bill and cus­tomers pay at the end of their billing cy­cle. “This can boost work­ing cap­i­tal, even when card pay­ments don’t seem to be an op­tion,” says Di­rec­tor Com­mer­cial Pay­ments, Maria Par­pou.

At engi­neer­ing com­pany Cul­lum, se­nior man­age­ment has a credit card and em­ploy­ees work­ing on sites have charge cards with an as­signed limit per per­son. The com­pany also uses pre-paid cards, de­pend­ing on the site lo­ca­tion or se­cu­rity is­sues, for ex­am­ple.

Ho­tels are largely paid for cen­trally by Cul­lum and in ad­vance, leav­ing ex­penses to be picked up by em­ploy­ees. “We give them a charge card with an as­signed limit per per­son and they can add to that in the field to cover un­ex­pected ex­pen­di­ture or emer­gen­cies,” says PA to the Di­rec­tors, Cherry Salvesen. How­ever, “We are look­ing at new ways of spend­ing and vir­tual cards might be part of that.”

Con­ti­nen­tal Teves tri­alled vir­tual cards, lim­ited to one trans­ac­tion for a meet­ing but has not rolled it out yet. “In prin­ci­pal, it

Mo­bile vir­tual cards de­liver some­thing tan­gi­ble to the em­ployee, mak­ing ho­tel check-out feel like us­ing phys­i­cal plas­tic – and the fund­ing source is still cen­tralised”

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