Corporations looking to shave travel and entertainment costs have no shortage of razors to choose from, with a crowded marketplace of banks, card companies and tech firms enticing clients with promises of discounts and refunds.
IBM and JPMorgan Chase, for example, recently entered into a partnership designed to leverage the reach of both firms to offer a discounted Web-delivered T&E spend management service that includes transaction analysis, processing, compliance monitoring and the ability to empower clients with more robust transaction histories to negotiate with suppliers. "[The deal] 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," says Lisa Steury, executive director, commercial card products, JPMC.
A division of Big Blue's managed business process services unit, IBM's Global Expense Reporting Solution (GERS) 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, JPMC corporate card transaction data, along with electronic receipt data from travel suppliers, is uploaded to IBM's solution and automatically populates the expense report. That's designed to reduce the time needed to prepare and file audits, and approve 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," says Patrick McCarthy, a client unit executive at IBM.
JPMC, whose T&E transaction platform is also able to integrate with other spend management platforms from firms such as Concur and SAP, says it entered into the formal development and marketing alliance with IBM because of the tech firm's reach in the expense management space. GERS is available in 85 countries and 35 languages-which the bank says is key as it looks to serve corporate clients who are expanding T&E spend, employee coverage and geographic footprint. IBM also has significant partnerships in the travel booking industry that would enable the bank's clients to also book and manage hotels and airfare from a single system. The two firms didn't divulge the size of the price discount, though JPMC's Steury says it's substantial.
Jim Washburn, vp and leader of the banking consulting practice at CapGemini Financial Services, says the world's top 100 corporations alone spend $10 to $11 billion per year on travel and entertainment expenses, which for most firms is one of the top five expenses. Containing that expense is a fallout of the recession, and Washburn says deals such as the JPMC/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 discount will provide some buzz around IBM and JPMorgan as it battles to gain share in a complex space that includes firms like SAP, Concur, American Express, Visa, MasterCard and others. American Express offers a suite of products that provide customized reports of T&E spend on its corporate cards for employees and executives. American Express 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 JPM and IBM, American Express 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," says Lydia Schulz, a vp at American Express. American Express hasn't partnered with any banks in the U.S, but it did enter into a partnership with Concur to use that firm's expense reporting tools to aid American Express in T&E spend analysis.
Concur, which has 11,000 corporate clients globally, aggregates travel data to match receipts to a clients policy. It also recently introduced an app for iPhone, Windows Smartphone and Blackberry that allows corporate travelers to book and mange travel expense.
"Travelers can use the mobile phone to take a picture of a receipt, for example, and that information will be loaded into [Concur's platform]," says Christopher Juneau, a senior director for Concur.