How Generative AI Is Driving Spend Management Innovation

The viral success of ChatGPT points to the huge potential of generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools to be a major game-changer for businesses.

In the spend management space, for example, Jamie Anderson, chief revenue officer at U.S.-based global spend optimization firm Emburse, said AI could be transformative, helping firms that have gathered years’ worth of data on their platforms to better understand spend at a more granular level, build policies based on a previous year’s spend or forecast future outcomes.

As he told PYMNTS, “AI and machine learning [ML] are the next frontier of [spend management] — whether it’s about helping companies build policies, or just getting the insight to make predictions on future spend or savings.”

This can be done by connecting AI tools like ChatGPT to customer relationship management (CRM) and finance systems, following which AI can comb through expenses to determine the cost of a new customer acquisition, for example.

“AI can go through every line item, link the opportunities in Salesforce for someone who has traveled to meet a customer and has travel expenses associated with the opportunity object in the system,” he explained. “And then it processes all that information and gives you your average cost of customer acquisition.”

This knowledge will become a powerful tool in the hands of businesses, he further explained, adding that it’s information they can leverage to make informed decisions about business expansion plans as they grow. “So, playing with AI models, I think will be huge for the future.”

Cards are the Gateway

To take advantage of the power AI offers, Anderson said the first step is to adopt corporate cards: “A card is the gateway that is used to gather a lot of that intelligence. And the data that the AI and ML engines look at is the data that’s flowing through the card platform and has been reconciled with other systems.”

They also offer many advantages, he added, from instant spend visibility and a more dynamic budget management to reducing overspend and fraud, the latter which is soaring due to the current economic conditions.

But the low adoption and requirement of business cards are an indication that not all companies are fully on board, a challenge Anderson attributed to the cost involved in changing legacy processes that organizations, particularly larger ones, continue to use.

“A lot of the processes they have are still archaic and use old technology,” he remarked. “And so they’re more concerned with the cost of change and it’s easier to just back away and say no.”

To help drive adoption, the company debuted Emburse Cards last October, offering organizations real-time spend visibility, while lifting the burden off employees who no longer have to spend money out of pocket.

In fact, Anderson said corporate cards are increasingly in demand among workers, with young workers citing the cost of living, long expense reimbursement processing time and the risk of late fees as some of the key reasons why they want a company-paid card for their expenses.

And once companies can meet this need and build a strong database, he said AI and ML engines can then look into the data that’s flowing through the card platforms and reconcile it with other systems, opening up a world of possibilities for spend management optimization.

As Anderson pointed out, “The card piece is essential because it’s the gateway to real-time spend and a gateway to understanding what you’re doing in a particular moment.”

Learn more: Decentralized Workforces Require Specialized Spend Management Solutions


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