Duke Chung, Co-Founder & CEO, TravelBank
The future of how we travel, do business, go to work, make payments and navigate the digital world is changing each day. Businesses are each on their own digital transformation journey, and as CFOs and treasurers have to make decisions about their next move, it’s important to know what’s trending to help understand where the markets and consumers are headed next.
Throughout the rest of this year and leading into next, businesses will start to see the following business travel expense management trends come to life. Some are already here.
- Employees expect amazing digital experiences at work. There’s increased focus from businesses to provide better travel, expense and payment experiences to their employees. The pandemic accelerated adoption of easy-to-use digital tools for consumers, and employees are expecting similar experiences at work.
- Plastics are going virtual. Virtual cards will increase in popularity due to remote work and the gig economy. Virtual cards are easier to issue and manage, which leads to lower risk of fraud and cost of issuance as well as a more controlled yet easier cardholder experience. Moreover, the pandemic has greatly accelerated both adoption of mobile and contactless payments by end-users as well as their acceptance by merchants, which streamlines virtual card usage for corporate spend.
- CFOs need exceptional digital partners. Companies will continue to gravitate toward commercial banks that provide all-in-one financial services, from treasury management, to corporate cards, to lending, to spend management. CFO and user demands for more modern and consumerized experiences will cause firms to gravitate toward partners that can provide the full suite.
- There’s still some travel turbulence. Travel will be on the road to recovery by 2023, but that road will be bumpy, as it may include temporary setbacks. Throughout the pandemic, new habits have formed of being more comfortable with virtual meetings rather than in-person, which may become a structural hurdle to overcome before a full recovery.
- There’s a new category of corporate travel. We will see a rise in “infrequent business travelers” who travel periodically to company offsites or to headquarters for important meetings. Since more employees are remote, team events will be in various destinations, leading to a new group of infrequent business travelers who didn’t travel for work before but are now. In many instances, these employees moved to a different location away from their previous office or started working for companies nowhere near their home office.
- Users are driving digital transformation. Delivering amazing customer experiences for every user will continue to drive digital transformations across every business.
- More data means more efficiency. AI, machine learning and big data will increasingly automate productivity for payment approval workflows, user recommendations and to mitigate fraud and abuse. As a result, CFOs will become more reliant on technology to manage finances.
- There’s an increased focus on environmental social governance. Environmental social governance (ESG) will become an important factor for users as they make purchasing choices. There’s a greater preference for brands and products that support ESG initiatives. Consumers are demanding action and accountability from companies on how they are making an impact.
- Mobile is first. Mobile will democratize access for every business user to create their expense report, make payments and book travel, all within minutes of signing up, anywhere, any time. This is already the norm in other geographies, and as the U.S. catches up, we will start to see more companies converting to mobile everything.
- Cards will prevail over separate expense solutions. Both small and large corporations are increasingly looking at corporate credit cards as the future of expense reimbursement. While card and expense solutions have been disparate solutions in the past, they will soon merge to become one through the digital transformation of spend management capabilities.
With more awareness of these coming market shifts, business leaders can be better prepared to navigate what the future holds for travel expense management.