Categories: B2B Payments

Corporate Cards Extend Influence Beyond The Payment

Commercial card technology can ease multiple pain points in B2B payments. But as today’s industry players reveal, the commercial card opportunity is often biggest in areas outside of the payment.

In this week’s examination of the latest in commercial card innovation, PYMNTS uncovers how service providers are emphasizing how card technology can ease friction pre- and post-payment, from promoting employee spend compliance to streamlining supplier reconciliation.

Pleo Makes a Commercial Card Shift

Business banking platform Pleo recently revealed its partnership with Mastercard and JPMorgan to shift its business model from prepaid corporate cards to commercial credit cards.

According to Pleo CEO Jeppe Rindom, commercial cards are “much more scalable for the future, and more widely accepted.” The shift will also aim to help Pleo differentiate itself from competitors in the U.K. market, including Tide and Soldo.

The pivot follows Pleo’s $56 million Series B funding round announced last May. At the time, Pleo noted it had planned to use the funding to expand throughout Europe into new markets.

Citi Targets Customer Service

Citi is augmenting its customer service offering for commercial cardholders with the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) into its call centers, the company announced this week.

Citi Commercial Cards has forged a partnership with Interactions, a company that specializes in conversational AI, to improve its customer service. The introduction of a virtual assistant for commercial card customers of the financial institution (FI) will aim to promote intuitive interactions with those clients, the companies said.

“The ability to integrate natural language processing technology into our customer service offerings allows Citi to deliver a consistent, fast and still personalized client experience,” said Karen Young, the North American head of client operations for Citi Commercial Cards, pointing to shifting demands for commercial cardholders. “We know the importance of cardholders’ preference for rapid self-service. From our pilot, we’ve seen that the implementation of the intelligent virtual agent provides our clients with enhanced customer satisfaction.”

Boost Highlights The Data Opportunity

Boost Payment Solutions recently spoke with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster about the growing list of commercial cards’ value propositions for both corporates and their suppliers, with data at the top.

“One of the biggest advantages of the card rails is that you are virtually unlimited as to how much data you can pass with that transaction,” the company’s Founder and CEO Dean M. Leavitt explained.

But commercial and virtual cards are not intrinsically capable of empowering businesses with the valuable transaction data they seek to streamline reconciliation, reporting and analytics. Rather, virtual card information is often sent via email, which is then printed out on physical paper, negating the benefits of a virtual payment solution.

Technology that is able to sit between a commercial card transaction can ensure that both sides benefit from that data, noted Levitt. It not only drives commercial card adoption, but also enlightens businesses to the benefits of cards over other payment rails like ACH.

“As cards become more mainstream in terms of how companies pay each other, there’s more of a focus on the best payment method to exchange data,” he said. “If you’re using a wire or even most ACH platforms, and certainly a check, you cannot send along with that transaction much, if any, digital data.”

Cards Tackle Employee Expense Friction

Beyond accounts payable (AP), solution providers are also identifying the potential for commercial and virtual card technology in other areas of business spend, including employee expenses.

Speaking with PYMNTS about this topic, Teampay CEO Andrew Hoag noted that increasingly, employees are unwilling to accept that they must foot the bill, and are instead requiring businesses to empower them with company cards to make purchases at work.

Physical and virtual cards can address this demand, but as Hoag explained, it’s not the payment itself that presents the biggest challenge in managing employee spend. Rather, friction exists in managers’ struggle to ensure that transactions are authorized and compliant before they occur, and to enable analytics of employee spend post-transaction. It’s in this context that cards present the greatest value proposition.

“What’s interesting today is the ability to dynamically configure cards with controls that allow you to control a payment in a way that is restricted to the policy,” he said.

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The pressure on banks to modernize their payments capabilities to support initiatives such as ISO 20022 and instant/real time payments has been exacerbated by the emergence of COVID-19 and the compelling need to quickly scale operations due to the rapid growth of contactless payments, and subsequent increase in digitization. Given this new normal, the need for agility and optimization across the payments processing value chain is imperative.

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