Phew, that was on of the tough ones! I mean 2020. That is what I said to my three management colleagues, Henrik Malling, Kim Pawrup and Anders Friis, when we had a status of the year just before New Year. Now, we are three weeks underway with 2021 and I think, that it is also time to do a status here on the blog. 2020 was a year like no other – we can all agree on that.
In Acubiz, we started 2020 with full throttle and had good conditions in the market. The result was that we, in January and February, beat our sales records from the years before. However, as COVID-19 rolled we experienced, like many others, a forced step on the brake. I will spare you to list all the details about what we then had to go through as citizens, society, and businesspeople – none of us will forget those things for a while.
Well, at Acubiz we were quick to make a number of decisions in order to secure ourselves in the best possible way. We formulated and implemented a 10-step-plan, which in high level outline had the intention to secure full control over our costs, and at the same time secure continued push with our sales- and marketing efforts. And especially the part with securing persistent visibility and presence is a decision, that we are happy about today. Because even though our solutions and services, to many people, are connected to business travel, the truth is actually that it is much more versatile than that. You can say that business travelling and all associated activity, like managing travel expenses, is under pressure because of COVID-19 – but digitization and automation of finance processes is not. And exactly within this field, Acubiz is highly eligible.
That said, we have obviously seen and felt that our customers have had changes to how they have used our solutions compared to the previous years – the usage went from a higher level in the beginning of the year, over a steep decline during spring lockdown and on to a partly recovery throughout the rest of the year. This is illustrated by the below figure. The figure shows an index based (2020 vs 2019) overview of the transaction volume from those of our customers who have been active during both years (a like-for-like comparison).
A large part of the transactions that we are missing, are of course those who are connected to all the business-related travel activity – and especially the cross-border travel. A part of this lost terrain will for sure recover at some point in time, but we are also aware that some of it probably never will. Partly because of a change in business behavior and partly because some of our customers simply does not have a business anymore. I have to say that, as a business owner, it has been really painful to see how good and loyal customers have had their business foundation ripped away from one day to the other.
On the other hand, the chart also shows that even though international business travel de facto is out of the equations, then there are still other types of expenses that needs to be managed. Once you have been used to do this digitally and automated, well then you will not go back again. This, in combination with the fact that we, in 2020, were able to keep up a good order intake, means that we will close the year pretty reasonable – everything taken into consideration. Well, we still need to finalize the work with the calculator, but we will end up with a 2020 result in line with what we achieved in 2019 – which, in fact, was the best year in our 23-year-old history. That is actually not that bad, when I think about what hit the world in 2020.
The corona is still here, and, in that sense, we are still sailing in uncharted waters. At Acubiz it is our ambition to return to the growth track. As I touched upon earlier, Acubiz embraces, apart from the use case specifically around travel expenses, a broad range of other application areas, when we are talking digital and automated expense management. This goes from Accounts Payable (invoice management) over to time tracking and it is, amongst other, these features that will contribute to get us back on the growth journey.
Continued digitization and, even more important, automation of administrative processes is, as said, absolutely not under pressure – on the contrary, I would say. It is, in fact, actually more important than ever before. As I started out with, 2020 was indeed a difficult year and there are certain development projects and commercial targets that we did not succeed to achieve. However, we did succeed in strengthening Acubiz on the structural side, and it means that our ship is ready to meet the opportunities of 2021, while at the same time, it is also able to handle some rough sea.
This year we will see loads of new functionality in Acubiz. Our Accounts Payable solution (Acubiz Invoice) will be released in a new and improved version, we will see major updates to our time tracking solution (Acubiz Time), we will launch an ultra-fast payment process for settling outlays, we will release a simple enrollment and onboarding process for users, who are not on the regular payroll in a given organization and we will also introduce upgrades to our mileage tracker (Acubiz Mileage). That was just some of the stuff, that we have in our pipeline. In addition, we will, as usual, release frequent updates to both our mobile-app, Acubiz One, as well as our web-interface with focus on both functionality and user experience.
Even though that we already have active users in almost 45 countries, we will continue our international journey in 2021. We will keep our focus on the other Nordic markets, and we are, in particular, prioritizing to increase our efforts and relevance in Finland. Up until now, it has resulted in local presence in Finland, two valuable partnerships with Integrata and Staria respectively (with more to come) and we have built more comprehensive support of local Finnish rules and bookkeeping practice. In 2021 we will build further upon this, but already now, Acubiz stands out as a strong partner in the Finnish market – also for Danish companies with activities in Finland.
Even though digital maturity varies from market to market in the Nordics, there is a huge potential across the whole region, when we are talking digitization and automation of administrative processes related to trade – and after all, trade is at the core of what all businesses does. Fact is, that across the Nordic region, businesses are using way too many resources on handling the administrative tasks that comes along with trade.
At Acubiz, we will open this potential further, so welcome to 2021!