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The new business travel baggage: How technology can help

Posted June 15, 2023


Post-Covid living in the corporate world has initiated the return of a flurry of activity with business travel potentially being the most prominent: corporate travel in Australia is placed just shy of 90% of pre-pandemic levels. The rebound of travel and face-to-face business engagements, however, has led to increases in expense claims, causing finance departments to be drowning with admin.

People often forget that business travel includes a lot more than just travel – it also includes planning, booking, and the tasks that need to be done when the employee is back in the office, such as submitting expenses. With the associated policies and procedures required for travel expenses, the booking and expense of travel can often be one of the biggest burdens of business travel. Embedding technology into the administrative processes could be the answer.

Simplifying business travel with technology

A recent blog by FCM Travel Solutions explains that travel expense management tools allow employees to capture travel receipts digitally, approve plans and claims from a device of choice, log expenses at the most convenient times, and achieve faster expense approvals – which in turn means quicker reimbursements.

An important benefit of technology applied to business travel is that it can assist in detailed data capture as it helps record, compare, and assess expenses. This helps companies better understand expense breakdowns and work toward better budgeting.

The risk of fraud is also minimized as technology can be used to identify and track false reports or elevated claims.

How virtual cards can help

A survey by Strategic Treasurer and Bottomline conducted in 2019 found that 54% of large companies and 65% of smaller ones reported that “manual payment generation workflows are error-prone and time consuming” and represent a top B2B payment challenge for their treasury departments.

One technology that can help organizations alleviate these challenges and leave behind outdated, inefficient, and manual payment processes is Virtual Card Numbers (VCNs). VCNs simplify and increase the security of every transaction, as each payment can only be used for a specific purchase with a specific supplier - and it all happens automatically. Recent research by Juniper Research, found that the annual value of VCNs used by businesses will grow 90 percent over the next four years, exceeding $1 trillion in 2022. This is up from an estimated $568 million in 2019.

Payments using VCNs are becoming increasingly popular because they offer several benefits, including flexibility, online account management, seamless integration, and more. Major expenses such as hotel rooms can be paid by a company-provided VCN, eliminating the need for the employee to use their corporate card and expense the cost when they return. VCNs allow employees to use their card for incidentals while also providing travel managers with increased control of expenses      and more fraud protection than regular corporate travel cards.

Engaging suppliers to embrace VCN’s should be a priority for businesses to help handle supplier payments. It’s possible to engage with suppliers by first and foremost raising their awareness. Suppliers may not be familiar with VCNs and the value they provide, so educating them on how the technology can yield cost savings and workflow improvements is essential. Once the suppliers understand the basic technicalities of accepting VCNs, an explanation into why other industry suppliers have adopted VCNs as a preferred payment method is crucial. Highlighting that VCN’s encourage more secure processing, help in the enhancement of international payments, and assist in the paperless evolution is also beneficial.

Finally, VCN payments expedite payment processes, save money on transactional fees, and provide more detailed data to help inform business decisions.

Looking ahead to the future of business travel

As we move into the post-Covid era, the uptick in business travel and face-to-face business engagements have resulted in an increase in expense claims and a lot of administration for finance departments.

Technologies such as VCNs and other travel expense management tools can streamline the administrative side of business travel; improve productivity; reduce risk; lighten the workloads of finance, HR and admin teams; and improve supplier relationships – a win-win all around.

To learn more about WEX, a dynamic and nimble global organization, please visit our About WEX page.