Business Travel Reporting Starts With Central Expense Management

It’s a new era for business, and that means it’s a new era for business travel. And against today’s backdrop, where every dollar of working capital matters, travel spend management is coming under renewed focus.

Managing travel expenses has long been a complex and time-consuming task for both employees and company finance departments. But it doesn’t have to be. 

PYMNTS sat down with Edwin Poot and Jonathan Vaux, the global chief technology officer and head of propositions and partnerships, respectively, at Thredd, to get their thoughts on how recent innovations are set to revolutionize the way businesses handle travel expenditures. 

Traditional methods, which involve manual data entry and paper receipts, are being replaced by digital solutions that can automatically capture and categorize expenses. This not only speeds up reimbursement times but also minimizes the risk of human error, ensuring greater accuracy and allowing for real-time expense tracking and management.

“As with every technology company, we’re at the forefront of using tech ourselves and are using more solutions like automated expense applications, automated receipt scanning and categorization, etc.,” explained Poot, noting that despite the rise of mobile-centric tools for effortless receipt scanning and categorization, certain challenges around compliance and cost control remain. 

Vaux emphasized that while corporate solutions have progressed, they often lag behind consumer-centric solutions. Despite advancements, many employees still resort to personal tools for their travel needs, indicating a gap between corporate and consumer experiences.

“I find myself using technology more and more, but the experience is still disjointed and not consolidated,” Vaux said. 

By having all travel-related data in one place, companies can better analyze travel spend, negotiate with vendors and enforce compliance with travel policies. And while it is not here just yet, it is a future that’s being built on partnerships and innovations. 

Transforming the Corporate Travel Landscape

At the forefront of this transformation is the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning into travel expense management systems. These technologies are not only automating the entire expense reporting process but also providing predictive analytics to help companies make more informed decisions about their travel policies and spending.

“Now, with AI in the landscape, there’s way more automation possible than before, not to mention the anomaly-detection aspects and predictability,” Poot explained, adding that hybrid and remote work have made travel expenses more complex. “There’s a huge gap between what makes it easier for me as a user, versus what makes it easy for the company.” 

He underscored the importance of strategic partnerships between ecosystem players and expense management providers to help streamline and consolidate travel spend management. 

The Ideal Expense Management Experience

“There’s a couple of key needs. One is obviously ease of data entry and reconciliation, where we are seeing pockets of innovation, for example, with businesses who use Thredd’s capabilities to replace checks with cross-border virtual cards,” Vaux said. 

But one of the “key challenges” is the fact that many of the incumbents are still using legacy infrastructure and traditional rails for payments.

“There are lots of great things about card rails, but you’re trying to force the message into the message structure of the card, as opposed to using separate data API processes,” Vaux said. “Fundamentally, a lot of the technology now exists that didn’t exist 20 years ago that could enable a more optimized experience.”

Looking ahead, both Poot and Vaux emphasized the role of AI and tokenization in driving innovation. Poot envisioned a future where payments become invisible, integrated seamlessly into everyday experiences. Vaux echoed this vision, emphasizing the potential of AI to streamline approval processes and enhance compliance.

However, both Thredd executives acknowledged the regulatory challenges associated with these advancements, emphasizing the importance of collaboration with regulators to ensure compliance while driving innovation.