An investment in digital tools to support process optimization calls for resources related to implementation, purchase and maintenance. As a decision maker, you need to be able to demonstrate a positive ROI on a given investment.
Businesses often ask us for advice about card payment solutions for their employees. There are different types of solutions available in the market, but it is far from everyone that has the full overview of the differences. Even more important, it is only few who knows the actual implications for a business and its employees, […]
In a recent release from Levvel Research, a number of suggestions are made as to what challenges a company may encounter when they manage their expense management processes manually.
1. Manual keying and handling
The first place goes to manual keying and handling. This is the biggest problem by not having automated your processes. It’s not necessarily a problem itself but the consequences are often comprehensive. Manual work is extremely time-consuming, and it usually entails that more employees are becoming involved in the process. This means that a number of employees must focus on tasks that’s not a part of their core competencies.
The process costs can therefore suddenly get out of control if a highly paid employee must spend time filling in and forwarding envelopes with completed schemes and receipts in.
2. Lack of data insight
Insight to real time data is crucial for a company’s administration or management. If they for example fails to gain real time data insight on time spent on a given project, it leaves the management without the possibility to automatically be notified if more time has been spent on the project than the company can be reimbursed for.
Therefore, it can quickly lead to a conflict between customer and company, if the lack of data insight into an employee’s time or money consumption isn’t in accordance with company policy or what has been agreed with the customer.
3. Company policies aren’t incorporated
The previous point is completely in line with the next major challenge of manual handling of expenses. If a company has automated its processes around expense management, then company policies can set up limitations to ensure that no more money than agreed can be used. At the same time, it’s possible to dispatch two things: fraudulent overspending and cheating with expenses and the settlement hereof. Incorporation of company policies are therefore a good idea.
4. Missing reports
It may seem quite absurd, but one of the biggest challenges of managing expenses is that reports are disappearing. 24 % of the surveyed mentioned missing reports as one of their biggest challenges. We really hope that a hard-copy backup of the receipts is being taken. The error margin will always be greater when we carry handheld expense reports instead of automating the process.
There is almost always room for improvements and that is also a part of the journey towards developing your business, and yourself.
You’ve probably been in this situation many times before: You’ve been up extremely early and you only got many miles of highway and some visits to the gas stations in front of you. Lucky for you, music and the open road fits perfectly – and on the road no one can hear you sing (luckily). Therefore, we have made you a playlist that you can listen to when you want to feel freedom on the road.
”This Must Be The Place – Talking Heads
This song was released in November 1983 by the American new wave band, Talking Heads. The song may have lived in the shadow of the group’s other giant hits such as “Burning Down The House” and “Once in a Lifetime”. The song itself carries the subtitle “Naive Melody” and according to lead singer David Byrne, the song is something as distinctive as a love song where the text does not immediately make sense, but where the individual elements can have a great emotional effect. We just think that the guitar rifle and bass line, which is completely monotonous throughout all 4:55 minutes, is absolutely brilliant when driving on the road.
”Graceland – Paul Simon”
The country road is a perfect place for contemplation – whether we want it (or like it) or not. Paul Simon (yes, from Simon & Garfunkel) released in 1986 a perfect example of how music can suddenly make you sit and tilt your toes while all your thousand thoughts suddenly falls into place. The song itself is also a form of self-examination by Paul Simon. The text is about his thoughts on his way to Elvis’ Graceland and about his failed marriage with Carrie Fisher. It’s both nostalgic and hopeful at the same time. The same feelings as the road can give you if you let it.
”Going up the Country – Canned heat”
This song doesn’t immediately arouse recognition when we talk about good numbers for the road by Canned Heat. Why not choose “On the Road Again” from the same band? It MUST be “Going up the Country”. The song was released in 1968 and it’s the group’s greatest hit ever. This is inextricably linked to the fact, that the song became the unofficial theme song of the legendary Woodstock festival. “Going up the country” is all about freedom and adventure. With this number you end up dancing into the meeting with your customer. And you most likely end up bringing a signature with you on the way out.
”Home – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros”
Play this song when the contract is signed and you’re on your way home. But wait until you’re almost home. Because as soon as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros start whistling, the hair rises, and your right foot becomes slightly heavier. The song is new on our playlist and a pure love song. Maybe the number recalls a lot of good memories about where you were in the summer of 2010, when this huge hit broke out of the speakers around the world.
”The Way – Fastball”
This one is a bit daring. The giant hit from 1998 is about the dream of a life on the roads without a destination. However, the American couple who inspired Fastball to the text were found dead at the bottom of a canyon a few weeks after leaving the conventional life. Even though it certainly wasn’t the plan, the text ended up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy: “… they’ll never get old and gray.”. Nevertheless, the song and the chorus are written in an optimistic tone and the song just have a huge sing-along potential which makes it perfect for a life on the road.
Oh yes! The headline might sound a bit harsh. But fact is, that expense fraud is a real challenge for many companies. Most organizations know that it happens, but few know the extent of the issue. Grab yourself a good cup of coffee and read on. Lars from Acubiz will share insights to the topic.
How to identify fraud?
One can often distinguish human errors or misunderstandings from intentional fraud. Many different factors can lead to errors and misunderstandings. It can be unclear rules, use of old Excel sheets, where the calculations are no longer valid or something as simple as errors in summarizations. Understanding the extent of the problem and how to spot fraud can be divided into different areas:
- Incorrect expenses: An employee request a refund for a private expense but claims the expense as being business related.
- Too much refund of expenses: A refund submitted where the purpose is correct, but the amount is too large.
- Fictive expenses: An employee seeks refund for fake purchases. Often with a copy of a false receipt.
- Repeating refunds: When an employee submits the same expense several times.
- Mileage allowance: The employee reports more kilometers than has actually been driven.
Our customers tells us that reporting too many kilometers in connection with mileage allowance is a common form of cheating. We have found that the use of electronic route calculation either through Google or using a smartphone’s GPS tracker can provide savings of up to 15 percent of the company’s total cost of mileage allowance. Everything is relative, but this can potentially involve a lot of money.
How about cash withdrawals?
Cash withdrawals can be a challenge since the employee withdraw cash instead of using credit cards, and cash is more difficult to control. Our experience is that implementing corporate credit cards reduces the number of cash transactions – which are easier to cheat with. The primary reason is that you can’t control the place of the purchase between the receipt and the credit card transaction.
Fraudsters are creative
The above definitions can help to understand the different areas where we often encounter fraud. In reality, however, there are no limits to how employees can cheat and try to avoid controls or exploit weaknesses in processes and systems. The good news is that it’s only 5 % of employees that counts for 82 % of all fraud, according to various research. So, the task is simple – we “just” need to find the 5 %.
The hidden costs of cheating with expenses
Where cheating with expenses can be difficult to detect, the negative impacts are easy to identify. Fraud can be a costly affair for companies of all sizes, but for smaller companies the costs have more impact. According to studies, companies with less than 100 employees have, on average, 28 % higher losses than companies with 100 or more employees. How can that be? The reason is, that digital Travel & Expense Management systems are less common in small businesses. Fewer companies have access to effective and automated control of expenses. Some of these systems may also include functionality for monitoring user behavior and automatic controls of policies and rules. Larger companies will typically have one or more full-time controllers dedicated to the control task. No matter which approach a company has to expense management, there is no foolproof solution to completely eliminate fraud with expenses.
Get control of rules and policies
Once rules and policies have been drawn up and written down, it’s easier for employees to understand exactly what compose an infringement. It’s also simpler for the controllers to figure out which employees that are playing by the rules and which isn’t. Furthermore, it’s easier to react and make decisions in cases where the infringements occur.
Structure and process
It’s important to define the right cost structure. I always encourage to describe “what you have spent money on” rather than “which account should be registered”. Most employees aren’t employed in the finance department and don’t understand concepts such as “Freight with VAT” and “Freight without VAT”. It’s all about designing a well-defined structure and process that meets the users on their premises. Did you know that “various” constitute the fifth largest expense category in some organizations – often up to 8 % of the total travel and expense transactions. That’s more than cell phones, taxi services and other clearly defined categories. Consider specifying “various expenses”, so it becomes easy to distinguish the transactions. That will reduce the risks of cheating.
Power up the process and include fraud controls
It’s my clear belief, that the implementation of an automated expense reporting system and company credit card is the simplest way to avoid cheating with expense transactions and travel expenses. Company policies, controls, credit card administration, travel orders and the daily flow of expenses can be easily handled with the right solution. The right solution will also ensure compliance with the company’s rules and requirements. Advanced reporting, documented electronic approval processes and robotic technology makes it harder for fraudulent expenses to pass undetected.
Do you want to know more?
With this article I have given some insights into how you can get proper control of your company’s expenses. Get a step-by-step guide on how to get started with a full digitization of the expense process here.
Lars de Nully
CEO & Founder
With a ‘goodbye’ to paper-based processes and a ‘hello’ to a more modern and digital process, the idea of simplifying travel expense processes remains the cornerstone of Acubiz – and it’s more relevant than ever.
Acubiz helps more than 145.000 users in over 30 different countries to achieve an easier work day by streamlining a very time-consuming process, where employees otherwise would have to keep track of receipts and expense transactions. It’s certainly no secret, that few people find the old school manual process entertaining. Acubiz’ automation of the expense process will in most cases imply that a company’s resources can be used more efficiently for other value-creating activities.
More innovative than the birth certificate prescribes
Within the Expense Management category, 22 years is a long time. And in this context Acubiz can be considered as an old stager. However, it’s only on our birth certificate that the age can be seen and felt!
At Acubiz, we are more innovative than ever before. We challenge status quo, listen to customer needs and respond to market signals. We are continuously developing our Expense Management Service with a fast pace. Let’s take our implementation of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as an example. With this component in the solution, our customers gain access to intelligent and automated control functions, fraud detection and much more. This means that it becomes much easier to ensure compliance with rules and company policies. The workload for manual controlling of expenses can also be reduced. We can already see the positive effects of RPA among several of our customers, who experience both time and financial savings.
Focused rethinking continues
CEO and founder of Acubiz, Lars de Nully, always says that “change is the only thing that is certain”. It’s anchored deep inside the DNA of Acubiz, to be ready for change and to be dynamic. Both organizationally and in terms of product development.
Our first promise to the market is therefore that Acubiz remains focused and invests in further developing our Expense Management Service. The best knowledge of customer needs comes directly from the source. Our second promise is therefore, that we listen to the ideas of the outside world and our customers, embrace these ideas and develop them further.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed and been with us on our journey so far. Team Acubiz is as motivated as ever and looks forward to an incredibly exciting future.
Why is the biggest opponents of automation and process optimization those who think they know the most, even though they in fact know the least? I have worked with process optimization for more than 30 years and I’ve often encountered statements like: “we don’t do that around here”, “it takes no time” and “doing it manually is just as easy”. Progress and development links to changes – and it’s not as dangerous as many believe.
Too many negative preconceptions
There are many negative preconceptions, misunderstandings and unnecessary fears about what optimization of processes entails for the individual employee. Take a look at finance departments, a field I work a lot with. It’s actually very rare that I’ve experienced layoffs in connection with optimizing processes. On the contrary, the resources can be redistributed to more value-creating tasks which can lead to a more progressive finance department.
The new opportunities
Through new opportunities like Robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning, we will focus even more on process optimization in the future. We will also experience more people who “fear” new initiatives and the entry of new technologies. Fact is, that companies are forced to embrace these opportunities and the changes that come along to remain market-driven, competitive and more important, to be able to survive. As I put it; “change is the only thing that’s certain”.
The human nature
Many other people speak about new technologies together with change. However, it is too often that the positive angles are omitted when it comes to demount the fear of change. Some say that humans are creatures of habits and thus are difficult to move. But reality is that the human species is extremely adaptable – for some people, this is just hard to realize and understand. Think about the human history and evolution and all the big changes our environment has undergone – we are still here, and we carry a truly special ability to adapt.
The good news
To all of you, who doesn’t feel comfortable with changes, you can expect that your job is going to change in the future. But the good news is that you will be fine, so don’t worry. That said, it’s of course important that we inform, anchor and create an understanding about the optimizations we create with technology. This is done through dialogue and training. To change perceptions, you must learn to appreciate what you don’t understand. Then it becomes easier to let the fear of the future go.
Lars de Nully
CEO & Founder
Recently, I’ve been very interested in how Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can be applied in various finance processes. RPA is a quite hot topic amongst leaders in finance functions. Obviously, this has something to do with its potential to effectively automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks and thereby enable the realization of significant cost savings or the release of resources for more value adding tasks.
How to get started?
However, to some it might also sound overwhelming to start an RPA project, but the truth is, that typically, the resources needed to get started isn’t necessarily that substantial. I believe that soon, RPA in finance processes will convert from being “nice to have” into being “need to have” for all types of organizations. It’s also important to be aware, that even though you might believe (probably by your first hunch) that a certain process isn’t suited for RPA, then try twisting your brain a little and think about in what parts of that process RPA can be applied. Trust me, an opportunity can be found almost anywhere, and it’s actually a good idea to start with a step by step model. Fact is, that some of the most successful RPA implementations has started with parts of processes. But also bear in mind, that the rapid development of technology will enable increased sophistication within RPA – what might seem far away today, will be here tomorrow.
RPA within the field of Expense Management
At Acubiz we are operating in the fintech space. We are constantly looking to develop our Expense Management solution. This also incorporates RPA features, with the aim to optimize and simplify the processes of transaction registration and authorization across to bookkeeping and controlling related to these transactions. All for the benefit of both function leaders and finance leaders.
We especially see opportunities within the process of bookkeeping and controlling. By incorporating features that can automatically distinguish users’ ordinary behavior from behavior that deviates from “ordinary” without a human control task involved, we can help release time savings. And time savings always come in handy in today’s competitive world. Sometimes, I wonder why certain employees, for example Sales reps, on one hand are given the authority to sign financially large contracts that commit the organizations for several years (and sometimes with substantial risks involved). But on the other hand, these employees are obliged to have approval of (and get manually controlled for) expense amounts less than 50€. Of course, this relates to specific expense policies within a given business, which should be repspected. But in my opinion, the manual tasks related to the controlling of these types of transactions really doesn’t make make sense and we must find ways to optimize and simplify these processes by implementing RPA.
As mentioned before, Acubiz has already taken the first steps within this field through our Company Policy Manager. It is in fact driven by a robot (we’ve named him Robert and he is our “Acubot”) that can handle most of the controlling tasks related to expense management. And these are notoriously time consuming. Aided by this feature, several of our customers are now utilizing RPA to handle two thirds of their expense controlling tasks. Now, that’s cool! If you are managing a finance department, you probably have a pretty good idea about your current time spend for this type of task. I’m also sure that you know your internal hourly rate by the dime and then it’s easy math to calculate your savings potential if you invest in a robot to do most of the controlling.
However, this is only the beginning and we are committed to continue focus and investments in further developments to the RPA functionalities within our solution – for the benefit of all Acubiz EMS users.
Lars de Nully
CEO & Founder
2018 has now been concluded and I can look back on a year with great progress for Acubiz. Our customers are in the very heart of everything that we do, and I truly appreciate and value the trust, loyalty and feedback that we receive through the relationships with our customers. This is also why I am both humble and proud of the fact that, over the past year, a total of 150 new customers have chosen Acubiz as their preferred partner within expense management services. Consequently, our base of customers and users as well as our total business has seen significant growth once again.
Our strong customer relationships are continuously fueling the development of our solutions and services. This gets very tangible, when I look at the new offerings that we have launched in 2018. To highlight a few, I can mention the many new features in the Acubiz One app and the related push towards a mobile first approach when it comes to handling expense management tasks. Also, our innovative Invoice Management Service deserves a mention. They all provide our customers with the opportunity to explore new areas for process automation and enable them to harvest on additional efficiency benefits.
A strong organization
At the organizational plan, we have staffed up in both Sweden and Finland in order to strengthen our foundation for growth in these markets. We are also very aware of the need to be agile and adaptable in an ever-changing world. Therefore, we continuously adjust our organizational setup, so that we, at any given point in time, can deliver services that are fit to market demands – in a quality that we can be proud of. This approach will also secure that we will keep delivering on our promise; happy buyer – happy lifetime customer. I am confident that we stand in a favorable position to bring our expense management solution to the next level and to continue our positive development as a company.
The new year
2019 will bring plenty of opportunities, but also plenty of challenges. Our technology driven industry is characterized by fast paced developments. Moving forward, we will continue to put our customers at the center of all our activities – both in terms of service delivery and feedback but also in terms of challenging status quo. Consequently, the coming year will bring heavy investments in our platform and in our services – including new concepts for credit card services, individual customer groups, consultancy services around process optimization and further push for increased automation of finance and administrative tasks by developing our Company Policy Manager and the robotics and AI capabilities within our solution. I can hardly wait to share more details with you as we progress through 2019 – so stay tuned!
As a concluding note, I can say that we retain a tireless focus on our goal to be the preferred supplier of Expense Management. And remember that change is the only thing that is certain!
Best wishes for a prosperous 2019
Lars de Nully
CEO & Founder
Many companies fail to reclaim their foreign VAT – either because they forget it because they do not know that it is an option or because it is too demanding.
Reclaiming your foreign VAT does not have to be a complicated process. Read more here as we look at a handful of frequently asked questions about foreign VAT refund and tell you about your options of reclaiming your foreign VAT.
What is foreign VAT refund?
Danish VAT-registered companies can reclaim the VAT they have paid abroad in connection with business travels. Unfortunately, many fail to do this, and they therefore throw away the opportunity of getting a significant amount of money back from the tax authorities.
VAT refund for expenses abroad includes VAT for travel and subsistence expenses – but also food, catering and hotel expenses, as well as transportation costs for taxi, plane tickets and car rental. Therefore, there are favorable conditions for VAT refund if your company has sent employees on a business trip abroad.
How do I get VAT refund for my expenses?
There are different ways to apply for a foreign VAT refund. There is the difficult process many businesses try to avoid – and then they are the user-friendly and easy ways. The difficult way to reclaim your foreign VAT is to send an electronic request via the business self-service (TastSelv Erhverv) at the tax administration office. However, this method is circumstantial because you must both have your name, address, branch code, application period, bank details and a number of other information ready.
Additionally, you need to be aware of the fact that countries outside the EU such as Norway and Switzerland make additional requirements for copy of purchase documents when exceeding certain limits and you might risk that the country for which you seek reimbursement ask for additional documentation.
How do I avoid difficulties with foreign VAT refund?
At Acubiz we would like to make the reclaiming process easier for our customers. Therefore, we have, in cooperation with Cash Back, developed a simple and automatic VAT refund service. The service is an add-on to our digital travel billing system, Acubiz EMS, which automates the expense management process, invoice management and foreign VAT refund. With these services your company will save time, money and avoid the inconvenience of manually entering expenses into SKAT’s self-service function.
How do I get Acubiz EMS?
If your company is interested in hearing more about Acubiz’s automatic foreign VAT refund, you are always welcome to contact us for a non-mandatory chat.