Firms continue to globalize, and expenses globalize right alongside in lockstep. That makes sense as sales reps and executives trot the globe in an effort to find business opportunities that will pad the top and bottom lines. Knotty problems may arise, however, when firms must manage receipts that trace their genesis from countries outside of the home base, and the home language, with policies that get lost in translation, literally.
Last week TMF launched its InterationalXpense platform, which is geared toward helping small and larger enterprises manage spending by tracking expenses regardless of locale, and with an eye on fraud prevention and streamlining submissions and reimbursement alike.
In an interview Raimundo Diaz, who heads the Americas unit at TMF Group, said that in general, “firms have been expanding their reach internationally, and especially mom and pop companies. There are firms that are expanding beyond their comfort zone, into the UK for example, or Japan.” Such ambition is not limited to any specific vertical, said Diaz, as even Silicon Valley startups want to grow their reach.
Yet getting out of the comfort zone also requires that that companies tackle new compliance requirements, with the added challenge of doing so with a language that may not be familiar. In some cases, noted the executive, the language may remain the same but business complexity remains. Take, for example, North America, where firms doing business in Canada (no language barrier there) may have to work through the minutiae of tax and VAT laws.
To that end, there is a human element that works with technology to heighten compliance efforts, said Diaz.
The technology itself works with desktop and mobile devices, through a platform that lets employees record expenses upon incurring them, via document (image) capture, while the platform itself categorizes the expenses and logs them in local currencies.
In addition to that technology comes the human element. Within the 80-odd countries in which the company does business, said Diaz, there are internal teams that can monitor what type of expenses are being recorded, and flag outsized expenses or those of a type that violates corporate policy.
As a hypothetical, Diaz offered up the scenario where an employee buys a bottle of Dom Perignon as a gift for a business prospect – in violation of company rules. That would get flagged. But what about the case where the same gift is bought and given over in China, the receipt is in Chinese characters? That might be slow to be picked up and traced, and also denied reimbursement, if relying on the ultimate judgment of someone who may not be familiar with the language - a problem mitigated by an extra set of eyes.