At the beginning of each year, we often read those “X things we can expect to see this year” type of insight. While these contain interesting short-term insight, they typically don’t talk about some of the larger macro trends and how they could impact an industry.

With this in mind, I wanted to take a deeper look into some of the broader issues that I believe will impact the expense industry, not just over the course of the next 12 months, but for several years to come. This week and next, I will be outlining five key trends that I see impacting the expense industry.

Continuing realisation that corporate credit cards are a fundamental tool in fraud control

Expense fraud remains a significant challenge for many organisations, particularly as a considerable amount of fraud stays undetected. In fact, in a survey we conducted of 100 senior finance executives earlier this year, 58% view undetected fraud as a major concern, whereas only 3% are unconcerned about it.

While expense management solutions can certainly eradicate a significant amount of fraud on their own, there are some instances where scheming employees can bypass even the most sophisticated solution. One common example of this is where an out-of-pocket purchase is made, the employee is reimbursed, and then the purchase is returned. This could be anything from over-ordering office supplies, or buying an expensive unrestricted plane ticket, and then refunding it and buying a cheaper ticket.

Related: Taking Corporate Cards into the Virtual Age

Mandating employees to use a corporate card for purchases eliminates the potential for fraud in two key ways. First, it provides a 100% accurate reconciliation of spend (and also refunds). This not only prevents reimbursements being made on refunded products, but also stops tip fraud (where employees make, say, a 5% tip but submit a receipt with a 20% tip). A second benefit is that when a purchase is made on a corporate card, there is no personal cash reimbursement, so employees cannot benefit from this type of scam.

As a result of the combined fraud prevention capabilities of an expense solution and a corporate card, I see further adoption of corporate cards, especially with the increased prevalence of virtual cards.

Expense claim’s shifting focus from control and compliance to spend optimisation

Innovation in corporate T&E expense management has traditionally focused on cost control and compliance – minimise the time (and therefore cost) of expense submission, approval and reimbursement, and streamline corporate travel spend by enforcing policies more rigorously. My belief is that in both respects, we’ll see diminishing returns from now on. With sophisticated OCR and smart business rules, the expense submission and approval process has been significantly reduced, so the amount of time that can be further shaved off the process is limited. In addition, many companies have done such a good job of optimising their travel spend that further savings can only be achieved by lowering the standard of travel.

Related: Do You Know the True Cost of Sales?

As a result, I see future requirements from organisations from their expense solutions on spend optimisation: instead of reducing spend, make sure that employee expense is delivering the desired business benefits. With the launch of Chrome River PROSPER last year, we took the first step on this journey. PROSPER is a solution which allows sales teams to easily allocate expense spend to specific clients, prospects and opportunities within their organisations’ CRM solutions, in order to more effectively measure spend versus revenue generated. This allows sales and finance leadership to make smarter decisions on budget planning, and also which types of spend to invest in more heavily.

As expense analytics capabilities continue to improve and travel and finance teams can get deeper insight into spend and outcome, I’m sure that we’ll see greater innovation in this field.

Stay tuned for next week’s edition, when we talk about topics including machine learning and regulatory compliance.


Our choice of Chrome River EXPENSE was made in part due to the very user-friendly interface, easy configurability, and the clear commitment to impactful customer service – all aspects in which Chrome River was the clear winner. While Chrome River is not as large as some of the other vendors we considered, we found that to be a benefit and our due diligence showed that it could support us as well as any large players in the space, along with a personalized level of customer care. Sally Abella, Director of Corporate Travel Harman International
We are excited to be able to enforce much more stringent compliance to our expense guidelines and significantly enhance our expense reporting and analytics. By automating these processes, we will be able to free up AP time formerly spent on manual administrative tasks, and enhance the role by being much more strategic. Ben Zastrow Zelle