Marc Pettican, President of Barclaycard Payments, writes for Payment Expert on how the expense process can be streamlined and it’s vital for firms, especially during the holiday season. 

As the rest of us wind down for the holidays, December tends to be the busiest month for finance teams in organisations large and small as they need to process many expenses and complete financial reporting before year end. 

This job has become harder for companies that still rely on legacy systems and processes to reimburse staff. In addition, as more and more employees have embraced hybrid working and offices have become more virtual – this has become even more challenging. As a result, many businesses are increasingly looking for faster and more sophisticated means of payment of corporate expenses.

Many are moving towards digital management systems and we have seen a surge in demand for online solutions such as virtual cards, and controls that help to manage day-to-day expenses in a more efficient way. 

The uptake of these sorts of tools is important, not only because it saves time and ensures that employees are not out of pocket, but it also gives control back to the employer. Companies can implement systems that allow them to approve spending requests before purchases are made and capture valuable data on the type of expenses employees submit.

Whilst many larger firms are benefiting from the changing face of business payments, others have a bit of a way to go.  To help, Barclaycard Payments has created three top tips that companies should bear in mind when looking to streamline the expense process for employees.

  1. Go digital

There has been a huge uptake in the use of digital wallets, particularly as a result of COVID-19, as people are keen to use touchless payment methods such as ApplePay or Google Pay, and merchants are increasingly taking payment through apps. 

By adopting virtual cards, companies can ensure a new way of being agile and allowing employees to make purchases, whilst at the same time giving the company control over what payments are being made. If companies have a centrally-managed virtual card system set up, then employees don’t need to submit their expenses afterwards as they are already approved before the payment is made. 

The way Barclaycard supports this is through Precisionpay Go – a virtual tool that enables employees to create their own cards or request cards to be issued to them via their mobile phone, enabling staff to make business payments instantly, without needing to go into the office or even be at their desk. 

  1. Use third parties

There are various solutions available, which are designed to work with both physical corporate cards and virtual cards. There is still a transition happening from physical to virtual payment solutions within businesses, with many companies still using elements of both. 

Those that are still using physical corporate cards need to use a third party to ensure that the cards are integrated with digital expense management systems, even if virtual cards have not yet been implemented. 

It’s also important that companies evaluate the services provided and implement systems which can be customised to reflect their existing expense policy and can be integrated with existing software.  By laying the groundwork now, they will benefit later down the line.

  1. Be flexible & adapt to new trends

It’s no secret that there’s been an irreversible shift in how people work. Earlier this month, almost two years on from the start of the pandemic, UK workers were once again advised by the government to work from home if they’re able to. This work from home culture is set to continue for the foreseeable future. Whilst business trips and associated travel expenses have decreased, expenses for items such as stationery, home-office equipment and virtual training have increased. Furthermore, with a full-time return to the office unlikely for many businesses – even in the longer-term – employees may increasingly have a need for further types of expenses. 2021 has been another challenging year for the ‘workplace’ as we know it and companies need to adapt to behavioural changes and reflect them in their payment systems. 

As long as employees exist, expenses will exist. But, as the world becomes more digital, so too must payment processes. Embracing new technologies and digital systems provides businesses with the opportunity to operate fully, whether in the office or at home, and sets them in good stead for whatever the future holds.