Travel and expense management are intrinsically linked, yet it doesn’t always feel that way. In many companies, travel and financial management exist in different organizational structures, and stakeholders from both sides have limited opportunities to work together on common compliance and savings goals.
In an effort to bridge this gap, we surveyed more than 1,200 employees with a financial role about their top travel and expense (T&E) concerns, the trends impacting expense management, and what they are seeking in a T&E solution.1
We believe travel managers will find the information useful for better understanding the priorities and challenges their colleagues in finance face – and possibly as a conversation starter to spur cross-team collaboration. It could also help with any discussions around the T&E systems travelers use to book travel and submit expenses.
Our survey revealed finance teams generally have the most influence over which T&E management tools the company uses, with 72% of financial stakeholders involved in the decision-making process. We feel, however, travel managers should be included in the conversation as they are often more acquainted with the experiences and challenges of the travelers employing the tools.
Sentiments on business travel, T&E challenges
They may be focused on reining in costs, but nearly all the finance leaders we surveyed see travel as a worthwhile investment. Fifty-seven percent say T&E is a necessary cost, while 40% view it as a major enabler for their company’s development and growth.
The three top challenges they face with the T&E processes are:
- It depletes resources: 37% say that processing expense reports is a drain on time, which can impact employees’ productivity and satisfaction.
- The reimbursement process is drawn out: 35% of respondents noted it takes too long to pay travelers back. This can be an extra burden on employees during tough economic times, especially if they are paying out of pocket.
- Errors are not easily identifiable: 30% said it is difficult to detect expense fraud in their current systems. This finding stands out as 69% of those polled also expect an increase in fraud associated with the cost-of-living crisis.
The T&E systems companies employ
The challenges above are not helped by the fact that nearly a third of companies still use manual methods (e.g., using paper receipts and Excel spreadsheets) to manage travel and expenses – and that 28% have separate digital tools for T&E.
Meanwhile, nearly all survey participants (96%) expressed that it’s important to integrate their T&E management, yet only 37% say they use a single integrated solution with both travel and expense functions.
An expense management solution that doubles as a travel booking tool could address many of the pain points described above. By having a unified platform with one login, interface, and user experience, travelers can save lots of time booking trips and submitting expenses.
With a two-in-one system, information from booked trips can be used to auto-generate expense reports, reducing the time employees spend on data entry and mapping expenses to specific trips. Finally, a system that optimizes booking data, user profile data, and policy settings in an integrated manner can foster a faster reimbursement process, alleviating financial stress for employees and reducing processing time for accounting teams.
The impact of the new world of work
The study finds that the new hybrid work model and current economic landscape are impacting the way large businesses approach T&E.
Forty-one percent of those polled say there’s more scrutiny on expenses from finance and decision makers, and 41% also noted that claims are being submitted faster than before – a sign both finance managers and travelers are keeping a close eye on their funds.
It may come as no surprise then that managing costs is the number one priority survey respondents have for 2023, with 76% saying that reinforcing expense policies is an effective way to reduce expenditures without reducing travel.
Companies can also keep costs down without sacrificing travel when they have an expense management solution that assists with compliance. A tool incorporating business rules and expense policies can automatically detect noncompliant, duplicate, and erroneous entries and prompt users to correct these anomalies before the report is submitted for payment. With a solution that also integrates travel bookings, you can have both your travel and expense policies applied in one system in a holistic way.
Wish list for expense management
Like travel managers, finance teams care about traveler satisfaction. When asked what would make them switch to a new T&E solution, the number one answer was a better user experience for employees (31%), followed by faster tools for end-to-end processing (26%).
They also seem ready to embrace tools powered by artificial intelligence (AI). More than 90% trust AI and automation to help reduce fraud and errors in expense reports, and more than a third (34%) believe such technology can detect issues without any human intervention necessary.
If your organization is exploring new T&E options, this could be a great point to raise with decision makers.
If your organization seeks to integrate travel and expense into one tool and user experience, consider NeoTM, an award-winning SaaS platform from American Express Global Business Travel that helps companies streamline T&E processes. By linking online travel booking to the expense management process, users can quickly and easily manage their trips from beginning to end, all in one place.
Want to see how it works? Give it a try yourself or request a demo from our team.
1 American Express Global Business Travel commissioned Censuswide to conduct an online survey of 1,202 respondents working in companies of 5,000+ employees who work in a finance role and manage or are involved in processing expenses evenly distributed across the United Kingdom, the United States, France, and Germany.