A growing number of banks and technology companies are offering tools that can help corporations trim their travel and entertainment costs.
International Business Machines Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., for example, struck a partnership to offer an online T&E expense management service that includes transaction analysis, processing and compliance monitoring, and provides clients with detailed transaction histories that they can use to negotiate better prices with suppliers.
The partnership "puts into a single interface travel spending — airline, hotel, car rental, retail and restaurants. It handles any type of spend that travelers put on a corporate card," said Lisa Steury, JPMorgan Chases's executive director for commercial card products.
IBM's Global Expense Reporting Solution, offered through its managed business process services unit, automates T&E processing, including submission, approval, reimbursement and monitoring. It also integrates travel reservation data from a range of booking tools.
As business travel purchases are made, JPMorgan Chase's corporate card transaction data, along with electronic receipt data from travel suppliers, is uploaded to IBM's system and automatically populates expense reports. That can save time in preparing and filing audits and approving expense reports. "A corporation can set parameters based on cities, where guidelines and thresholds can be set for business travelers for travel expense; and make sure that everyone's following these parameters," said Patrick McCarthy, an IBM client unit executive.
JPMorgan Chase's T&E transaction platform can be integrated into other expense management systems from companies such as Concur Technologies Inc. and SAP AG. IBM's reach in the expense management space was a factor in JPMorgan Chase's decision to start the development and marketing alliance, the banking company said.
GERS is available in 85 countries and 35 languages — which JPMorgan Chase says is vital as it looks to serve corporate clients expanding their T&E spending, employee coverage and service area. IBM also has partnerships in the travel booking industry that would allow JPMorgan Chase clients to book and manage hotels and airfare from a single system.
Jim Washburn, a vice president and the leader of the banking consulting practice at CapGemini Financial Services, said the world's top 100 corporations alone spend $10 billion to $11 billion a year on travel and entertainment, which for most companies is one of the top five expenses. The recession made containing that expense a bigger priority, and Washburn said deals such as the JPMorgan Chase-IBM partnership can leverage the bank's purchasing data as part of a compliance service that matches transactions to business rules for auditing and approval of expense reports.
The partnership could provide some buzz around IBM and JPMorgan Chase as the banking company tries to gain share in a complex field that includes companies like SAP, Concur, American Express Co., Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. Amex offers a suite of products that provide customized reports of T&E spending on its corporate cards for employees and executives. American Express also acts as a consultant, and promises a specific T&E expense reduction for corporate clients — and refunds the difference if the actual savings don't measure up.
Like JPMorgan Chase and IBM, Amex sells itself as a globe-trotter. "The solution runs on our own platform, and having a truly global platform allow us to offer a very similar solution globally, which is important to clients that are operating in global markets," said Lydia Schulz, an Amex vice president.
Amex has not partnered with any U.S. banks, but it did form a partnership to use Concur's s expense reporting tools for T&E spending analysis.
Concur, which has 11,000 corporate clients, aggregates travel data to match receipts to a client's policy. It recently came out with applications that let corporate travelers book and manage travel expense with smart phones. "Travelers can use the mobile phone to take a picture of a receipt, for example, and that information will be loaded into" the Concur system, said Christopher Juneau, a senior director for Concur.