A procurement manager’s playbook: How to get the most out of your payment provider.

Your procurement department has faced big change.

Over time, the role of procurement has evolved from solely a cost-focused, transactional role, to a more strategic, value-driven one.

Procurement teams are now actively involved in things like supplier relationship management, risk mitigation, and active collaboration with other departments to determine overall business success.

There are also other major developments to consider. The emergence of new trends and technologies on the scene. A rapid increase in card-only online services. And of course the growing concern of rising inflation and prices to contend with.

In fact, according to The UK National Office of Statistics, more than a quarter (27%) of trading businesses[1] reported an increase in prices of goods or services in September 2023 compared with August 2023.

The truth is, now your procurement team has new needs and requirements to keep in line with the modern corporate payment landscape. Better spend control and monitoring, cost reduction, improved cash flow – these are all no longer “nice-to-haves”.

The good news? The modern technologies now available can be transformative, resulting in more productive processes and systems, such as automation, advanced data analysis, and insightful reporting.

But the adoption of new technologies can be daunting, especially when you’re not sure how they’ll integrate into your existing systems and processes. How do you make sure you’re going about it in the right way?


The solution is simple:


Today’s procurement teams need to bring two vital, interlinked partners on board: a forward-thinking payment provider and a modern Procure-to-Pay (P2P) solution.

The best payment providers deliver the convenience, security and data-driven insight needed to truly revolutionise the procurement process. And P2P partners can help centralise and streamline the entire procurement journey from sourcing to payment, providing automation and analysis at every stage.

Together, procurement managers, payment providers and P2P partners – each bringing their unique expertise – can make a real, positive and lasting change to B2B procurement.

This blog post explores how to get the most out of your payment provider and why strong P2P partnerships are essential.

Woman in business meeting


1. Advice on best practices and compliance

Once seen as solely the facilitators of financial transactions, modern payment providers now have the expertise to take on a more pivotal role in shaping procurement landscapes.

An expert payment provider will:

Guide you on modern best practices


You want to drive efficiency with new technology. But you don’t want to risk compromising your high standards when it comes to best practices.

A payment provider will take the time to understand your business, specifically the daily challenges you’re facing. Their expert advice will show you how best practice payment solutions can be implemented into your processes to benefit your business.

Our AirPlus B2B expert Kyle Mackie says: “Your payment provider should be able to talk to you about how your current payment processes work, understanding if there’s best practice to be adopted, if there’s additional customisation they’re not aware of, or integration that can remove the bother of manual processes.”

These best practices could include:

  • New supplier onboarding

    Manual supplier onboarding often means lengthy paperwork, costly errors and issues with compliance. By digitising supplier onboarding you’ll reduce time, eliminating paperwork and manual entry, while automatically validating important vendor credentials to make sure you’re choosing the right P2P partners.

  • Payment automation

    Slow payment processing can affect supplier relationships. But by automating payments through introducing an electronic payment method - such as a virtual card - suppliers can be paid immediately. It also saves money, improves efficiency, and optimises your cash flow. Kyle Mackie says: “When it comes to payment speed both the buyer and supplier can have adverse views on how that should occur. But by automating payments with virtual cards you can strengthen supplier relationships by bridging the gap between the two, paying the supplier immediately.”

  • Expense approval workflows

    When it comes to expense management there are a lot of moving parts, and even a minor mistake can prove costly. Automating your expense approval process is a game-changer for procurement. It allows for easy expense requests and one central approval process. You’ll reduce manual intervention allowing for the automatic transfer of expense data such as invoices, receipts and purchase orders. Oh, and you’ll have happier employees as a result.

  • Reconciliation automation

    Expense reconciliation can be frustrating and time-consuming. But a payment provider will be able to link data directly to your expenses, resulting in one, single, fully reconciled monthly invoice.

Provide regular regulation updates

Keeping up to date with ever-evolving compliance requirements can be a real procurement challenge.

But your payment provider can help your procurement team stay informed – and compliant – by providing real-time updates and insights into any new laws and amendments.

For example, you could receive automated compliance checks that screen transactions against your company’s compliance requirements. Or the automated updates of new security measures that flag any potential issues.

Regulations, policies, ethical standards – these are all vital aspects of risk mitigation and compliance that procurement needs to adhere to.

Keeping your team updated on regulations will go a long way to ensuring compliance, fair vendor selection, and responsible spending.

Supply regular training opportunities

The adoption of new technologies can be a little daunting.

But a payment provider should provide thorough and regular employee training sessions. This way, your procurement team can navigate new processes and systems with confidence and maximum efficiency.

2. Customised payment solutions to fit your unique needs

Your business is unique. It therefore makes sense that you need a personalised solution. By bringing expert P2P partners on board, you’ll have access to solutions such as:

Tailored payment workflows

Procurement managers and their payment providers should work together, using their combined expertise to tailor a personalised payment workflow that best benefits the business. Depending on your unique needs, you could introduce processes such as expense approval limits, budget allocation, or automated payment reconciliation.


For example, a P2P partner such as Coupa could help you manage your procurement spend through one single platform. You’d be able to make payments using instantly generated virtual cards which are then automatically reconciled for a true end-to-end procure-to-pay process.

Our longtime customer TomTom, a global leader in location technology, embarked on a transformative journey to optimise its procurement processes. Like many companies, it was faced with a changing payment landscape, challenged by the likes of remote working, digitalisation, and the ever-present online long-tail spend conundrum.

Looking at the trends, TomTom saw an opportunity to change its approach to its procurement payments.

Candice Kollaard, P2P subject matter specialist at TomTom says:

“The volume of our online purchases was increasing, and our current process was not optimal. Plus, the need for regular quick purchases was not being met by our preferred suppliers.

Multiple teams were involved in creating a manual workflow to enable these purchases. But as the amount increased, the inefficiencies became clear. And it was leaving money on the table.

The end user also had no transparency, we had no process in place to capture invoices or receipts and therefore lost out on claiming back VAT.

We already have a successful payment solution in place with AirPlus for our travel needs and once we heard that Coupa offered a solution for us, it was the perfect opportunity to start this initiative and with an already trusted partner, we knew it would be a win/win.”

At AirPlus, we know the importance of strong P2P provider partnerships. That’s why our P2P partner network is growing – and we’re not slowing down. We’ve already partnered with Coupa and Mazepay in the UK, and we’re always on the lookout for new and exciting opportunities.

Flexible payment methods

Everything has moved online – platforms, retailers, suppliers – which means that traditional payment methods are no longer up to scratch.
Your payment provider should offer a range of payment methods that cater to individual supplier preferences, all controlled from one account.
In particular, a virtual card offers an easy and secure online payment method, especially designed for controlling ad hoc and online spend. It provides you with an overall “big picture” and full visibility of payment data, so you can make big cost-savings, improve efficiencies, and make informed business decisions.


3. Harness data analytics capabilities for strategic insight

Did you know that in the UK, 70% of hidden procurement costs are incurred with managing long-tail spend?[2]

With strategic management you can make huge cost savings. But you need rich data coupled with full visibility.

Your payment provider should help you to:

Optimise cash flow

Quality payment data means better insight into your cash flow patterns.

High-quality data from your payment provider means you’ll get in-depth analysis of trends such as peak booking sessions, months with higher (and lower) activity, and indications of where payment is often delayed.

Then your payment provider can suggest smarter strategies to optimise your cash flow for immediate results.

Analyse supplier performance

With advanced data analytics, you can assess individual supplier performance and make cost-saving decisions.

This is possible through features such as:

  • Customised reports that detail information such as KPIs per supplier, spend analysis, and trends over time.

  • Automated alerts that notify you of events such as a significant price increase or sudden decline in service quality.

  • Predictive data analysis that allows you to predict future supplier performance, anticipate potential issues, and take necessary preventative measures.

4. Strenghten fraud prevention strategies

The rise in digital transactions has resulted in a constant evolution of fraudulent activity.

In fact, a recent survey conducted by BDO found that 80% of mid-sized businesses in the UK had experienced fraud in the last 5 years [3], and nearly 86% of that happening in 2022 alone.

In light of this, payment providers have stepped up their game by introducing:

Real-time monitoring

Cutting-edge monitoring tools employ advanced algorithms and machine learning that scrutinise each payment transaction.

The analysis is instantaneous, allowing suspicious activity to be identified as it happens. This means potential threats are addressed quickly, minimising the risk of financial loss – in real time.

Secure authentication method

Payment systems that handle sensitive information are prime targets for cybercriminals.

Methods such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and biometric verification are critical tools for preventing unauthorised access and maximising security – and in today’s world, both of these are something your payment provider should provide.


5. Navigate cross-border payment challenges

Foreign exchange management

Currency conversion can prove problematic for procurement, due to fluctuating exchange rates impacting overall costs.

Your payment provider should help you to optimise currency conversion rates for cross-border payments with things like:

  • Real-time exchange rates
  • Rate transparency
  • Rate locking
  • Multi-currency accounts
  • Automated currency conversion

You’ll have a fully rounded view, enabling you to make informed and cost-saving decisions.

Navigating regulatory hurdles


Cross-border payment regulations and compliance can be complex.

Your payment provider can advise you on current information regarding:

  • International financial laws
  • Anti-money laundering (AML)
  • Know Your Customer (KYC) protocols

This ensures that when it comes to cross-border rules and regulations you’re confident that you’re not missing a trick.


Empower your procurement department

As you can see, the benefits of working with an expert payment provider can be transformative. But only if you’re making the most of their service.

As Candice Kollaard says, “It’s just a matter of keeping that open-door policy with your internal business, finding out if there is a need for the next step of growth, good monitoring, having a forward-thinking solution-based P2P team that thinks along with the business on how to make the purchasing processes efficient and current.”

By forging a strong procurement manager-payment provider partnership, you’ll eliminate daily challenges by streamlining – and personalising – your payment processes.

Want more information on the above? Schedule a call with an expert member of our AirPlus team who can guide you through the benefits.


[1] https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/business/businessservices/bulletins/businessinsightsandimpactontheukeconomy/19october2023

[2 ]https://www.manutan.co.uk/blog/procurement/how-to-optimise-your-long-tail-spend/

[3] https://www.bdo.co.uk/en-gb/insights/advisory/forensic-services/businesses-struggling-to-recover-fraud-losses-as-exposure-to-financial-crime-intensifies

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