Travel and expense (T&E) cost is usually a close second after wages and sales-and-marketing outlay when it comes to controllable costs.

According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ 2018 Report to the Nations, expense reimbursement fraud accounts for 21 percent of fraud in small businesses and 11 percent in large businesses.

Adoption of technology with comprehensive policies can make expense management transparent and effortless leaving little room for fraud. With enterprise mobility and artificial intelligence, more platforms provide the seamless user experience required to streamline expenses

In this blog, we will discuss some of the key challenges before CFOs today and how they can address them.

What are the pain points faced today?

Inaccuracies

One of the most common errors that occur is when a single employee accidentally presents the same expense on both the corporate card as well as their personal card. Another version of this would be when two or more employees who attended the same event or dinner and both submitted a claim for the same thing. Keeping close track of this will enable determining that the employees spent money at the same restaurant or event within the exact same time frame. Multiple paper receipts also make it hard to capture expenses accurately.

Fraud

With business travel becoming indispensable, the potential for travel reimbursement fraud is now a prominent area of risk for an organization. The median duration of expense reimbursement fraud is 24 months, and the median loss is $31,000.

Airfare, hotel, and ground transportation are all areas that need to be closely monitored. It is thus prudent to identify cases where an employee is charging up additional fees, such as excess baggage, premium seats, etc. With airfare, the booking class and when a ticket is booked are highly significant. Last-minute bookings and premium/business class tickets are very expensive. Accommodations should be classified and analyzed by the city. This will simplify evaluating if the claim makes sense within the context of the location.

With the appropriate tools, a firm compels its personnel to be far more precise in terms of individual behaviour. The comparison standards can be against other colleagues who also frequent the same event or destination.

Compliance

With changing regulations, it is imperative to maintain compliance. As international travel is becoming increasingly common, regulatory compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is necessary.

This requires reviewing company policies and changing them, keeping up with the current national and international laws. Even minor violations can carry steep fines and damage an organization’s reputation.

Reimbursement

Maintaining the morale of your employees is necessary for high productivity. Reimbursing their expenses in a timely manner demonstrates that they are a valued employee. Manual processing is time-consuming and labour-intensive. To make sure that the company is paying the right people the right amount of money, the expenses need to be audited approved by different people in the organization. This leads to long processing times and disgruntled employees affecting their productivity and your bottom line.

Budgeting and Forecasting

Annual budgets are meant to reflect your enterprise’s strategic objectives and priorities but allocating funds can be difficult for travel expenses. Not only it’s hard to predict the frequency of travel, but the cost is also dependent on the time of the year and market rates. Moreover, the purchasing decisions are in the hands of individual employees, unlike other company expenses. Finance teams need to explore how to better predict this complex, significant expense.

What can you do as CFO?

Comprehensive T&E Policy

The goal here isn’t just to save time and money; it’s to create a practical travel policy. With changing expectations, a new policy should be holistic. It needs to be employee-friendly, ensuring easier documentation and allowing faster reimbursements.

Making sure all personnel are aware of the guidelines creates a culture of accountability. This lets employees know what is expected of them, and ensures complete and accurate documentation. This helps not just in saving money, but also prevents fraudulent behaviour.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India is likely to settle with companies that self-report violations under non-prosecution agreements. This offers more incentive for senior management to guarantee that all T&E expenses are within regulatory guidelines.

Automate

Pick an expense management software that works best based on your firm’s current needs and future plans. Choose a platform that can significantly reduce employee effort and human error for improved productivity.

It should reduce the hands-on time required by finance personnel to process T&E reimbursement requests. Streamlining the reimbursement process frees up time for strategic initiatives. In addition, a dynamic dashboard will centralize information making it accessible and easy to see all the expenses associated with a trip.

Such software can further help by flagging suspicious items on an expense report, whether the error was accidental or intentional. Leveraging technology allows finance teams to recognize details that require further review prior to escalation.

Pre-trip Approval

Get an estimated trip budget before they embark on the business trip. Upon approval of the budget by the finance team an advance amount can be released to the employees for travel spends. This ensures that employees do not have to rely on their own pocket for expenses. Bringing in a corporate credit card program will enable a more nuanced control of travel expenses.  

End-to-End visibility

To understand where to curb spending, it is essential to know where the money is being spent. Analytics and data are pivotal for this. Analytics can provide real-time insight into the numbers, spending trends, patterns, frequently associated vendors, and more.

With the right systems and complete transparency, the finance department will have greater control over the spending of T&E money and the reimbursement process.

Get started today

CFOs are often hesitant to streamline travel and expense management due to time or budgetary constraints. But with free platforms like Zaggle Save, you can quickly gain control and visibility over expenses.

ZaggleSave is an all-in-one business spend management platform that can empower your business to spend smarter and reduce time and effort. Start simplifying expense management with free signup on Zaggle Save today.

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