B2B Payments

Mixing Virtual With Physical Cards A Recipe For Expense Control

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It’s not too often that the B2B FinTech space sees innovation targeted at commercial cards. But the area of employee spend management is in need of such improvement, says startup Spendesk, that the way businesses use commercial card technology is in need of a change.

Rodolphe Ardant, founder and CEO of Spendesk, wrote a company blog post this month highlighting why disruption is needed.

“Payment is evolving to become instantaneous, invisible,” he wrote. “Today’s perfect payment requires no action on behalf of the buyer. Instantaneous purchasing is inconsistent with the requirements that companies adhere to.”

Employees are ultimately consumers in their everyday lives, but payment behavior of consumers is far from what a corporate needs to ensure spending is under control.

“Paying on behalf of the company is a nightmare for SMBs,” explained Yasmine Guyot, chief marketing officer at Spendesk, in an interview with PYMNTS. “Either there is a corporate card flying around in the office, and it’s impossible to know who paid what at the end of the month, and you are stuck if someone went away with it. Or, employees need to pay attention from their own pocket and fill in an expense report, which is an unnecessary administrative burden for them and a lot of paperwork for the finance team.”

Spendesk, based in France, takes a multi-pronged approach to helping businesses more effectively use corporate card tools; the firm has deployed a platform that enables managers to gain oversight of employee transactions with these card solutions and provides both physical and virtual cards — which, Guyot added, is a way to address the specific needs across various employee spending scenarios, both online and offline.

“Using virtual cards for online purchases allows us to add a layer of intelligence in the spending process,” she explained, adding that virtual cards are deployed only when requests for a VCN have been approved. “We believe that is the best way to empower employees and give them more autonomy on one hand, while keeping control on expenses on the other.”

A dual-sided approach, using both physical and virtual cards, means businesses can grasp the control they need when employees are making purchases online for, say, office suppliers or whether they are traveling and need to make in-person buys at a local café.

“The combination of virtual and physical cards is necessary to allow employees to pay both online and offline,” Guyot said. “Our physical cards are prepaid Mastercards and can be paused, emptied or refilled in real time. The amount available on each card is easily controllable.”

“It allows employees to feel trusted and pay for all their expenses without filling in expense reports,” she continued, “while providing finance transparency and control over the company money.”

Spendesk announced last week that it raised $2.2 million in funding from several investors, including Kima Ventures, Funders Club and angel investors. With the support, the startup said it will look to expand across Europe less than a year after its official May 2016 launch. But along with geographical expansion, Spendesk will be introducing more mobile solutions and strengthening its position in the corporate travel and expense management areas, too, according to Guyot.

The company is rolling out a mobile app that helps managers oversee employee requests for purchases and adds a digital element to the physical cards, enabling these managers to also see spend on those plastic cards in real time. Guyot said mobile support is critical to keep up with consumer spending trends, as well as with traveling employees, which, she added, is one of the largest pain points for businesses looking to manage expenses.

“Mobile devices are changing the way we communicate, work, travel — and live!” the executive stated. “Business solutions have to adapt.”

“Our ambition is to handle all corporate expense, both online and offline,” she noted.

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Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The July 2019 Pay Advances: The Gig Economy’s New Normal, a PYMNTS and Mastercard collaboration, examines pay advances – full or partial payments received before an ad hoc job is completed – including how gig workers currently use them and their potential for future adoption.

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