Since the pandemic hit back in March 2020, there's been an increasing need for companies to have access to live data and full visibility into all types of spend.
The way we see it, setting up a corporate card program that offers more insights into your data and helps you organize your savings has become more important than ever.
However, implementing a corporate card program doesn't happen overnight.
It begins with a clear outline and well-planned implementation, with success ultimately depending on a coordinated and multi-department approach.
Whatever your reasons, changing your payment method or adding a new one means transformation.
And, as with any transformation, it all relies on effective project management:
- Process planning
- Transversal coordination
- Communication with all parties to promote the adoption of the new means of payment
The best way to approach the adoption of a corporate card is to consider its implementation as a project, with all the organizational efforts that implies. Fortunately, your corporate card provider will be present throughout the process of implementing the new payment method and will guide you towards success.
Here is a guide to setting up a corporate card program.
It will not replace the support of your card provider, but it will help you prepare your corporate card program and avoid common mistakes.
It consists of three main phases:
- Program design
- Implementation of corporate cards and training of involved parties
- Monitoring and evaluation of the success of the implementation
Phase 1. Design of the Corporate Card Program and Choice of Service Provider
Preparing the Corporate Card Program
The implementation of the corporate card program is preceded by a design phase.
The design must be based on your needs analysis and your spending policies:
- How many cards do you need?
- Who will benefit from them?
- What transaction volume needs must be met?
The objective of this step is to highlight potential frictions during the implementation of corporate cards.
Based on this design, you can determine the relevant indicators to measure and monitor the success of the program. The best KPIs are measurable and objective, though some elements will require a qualitative approach (e.g. assessing the quality of training received by employees).
Choosing a Corporate Card Provider
At this stage, you should be ready to put together your RFP and choose the provider to award your corporate card contract to.
In your RFP, you can define:
- The needs of the company
- Supplier evaluation criteria
It's not enough to simply choose a corporate card provider, as you also need to make sure that your application meets the eligibility requirements of that provider.
In other words, the company issuing the RFP must meet certain criteria, which vary from one provider to another.
The eligibility conditions for most of them correspond to a minimum travel budget or number of cards.
Depending on the service provider, other steps may also be taken:
- Evaluation of your solvency, i.e. your reputation in terms of credit.
- Audit of company finances
The First Steps With Your Corporate Card Provider
Once you have chosen your provider, it's time to negotiate the corporate card program.
Negotiation can be based on several different elements:
- Tariff conditions
- Delayed Debit Delay
- Expenditure ceilings
- The conditions for spending abroad
- Ancillary services, such as travel insurance coverage and assistance
One of the last questions to be answered during the design phase revolves around the choice of account for the corporate card:
- Does the payment card need to be linked to the company account? If so, the responsibility for the transactions lies with the company.
- Or should it debit the employee's account, passing the responsibility for transactions onto the employees (individual responsibility)?
Debiting the business account frees the employee from business expense advances and expense reports, while providing richer data to the company. But some companies still prefer to let employees take responsibility for their transactions for liability reasons.
The program design phase ends with the issuance and signature of contracts with the card provider and cardholders.
Phase 2. Effective Implementation of Corporate Cards and Training of Cardholders
To ensure things go as smoothly as possible, you should set up a communication campaign to reach all future cardholders.
- Inform employees who travel for business
- Implement the program
- Train in the use of new payment methods
We recommend that you designate a person to take charge of the communication strategy. This person will be responsible for communication, spearheading the campaign from start to finish.
One of their main tasks is to prepare the materials needed to communicate the ins and outs of the corporate card program.
Consideration should also be given to the distribution of these materials throughout the company, as all departments need to be involved in this internal communication campaign for it to be effective.
The effective implementation of a corporate card program is achieved with the support of your service provider:
- The service provider provides the cards.
- It helps you integrate card data flows into corporate ERP systems and paperless expense claim management tools.
- It also helps you configure corporate cards, especially regarding the monitoring of expenses and consolidated views, management of ceilings and authorized suppliers.
The deployment of the communication strategy continues in parallel with this implementation. Each stage of the implementation involves a set of instructions that are to be provided.
Cardholders must be informed of the conditions for receiving their cards, for instance. Where will they receive them? What is the procedure for choosing a PIN? Will they receive a letter or will it all be online?
The main challenge after the receipt and implementation of the corporate cards is the training of stakeholders.
By stakeholders, we're not just referring to the users of the corporate cards, but also all managers, travel managers and other employees who are involved in the expense management process.
The quality of training and facilitation of the adoption of new payment methods is a key factor in the success or failure of a corporate card program.
You'll find it's necessary to not only provide all the essential information about the operation, rules and practices, but also to facilitate the understanding and memorization of this information.
In most cases, the training material takes the form of a guide, provided with a contact person to reach for assistance in case there are any questions.
The training should address the following points:
On the user side:
- Initial configuration of the corporate card: activation of transaction monitoring and notification alerts.
- How to find all the credit card information: know when a limit has been reached, track business expenses in real time, find out how much credit is available, etc.
- Authorized uses of the card: proper expenses, limits, accepted suppliers, etc. For example, staff members may only be allowed to use their card for business travel.
- The rates and possible commissions related to the use of the card (without forgetting the case of cash withdrawals).
- Time limits for debits, especially if the user's personal account is linked to the corporate card.
- How to request or edit expense reports from expense statements.
- Security advice as well as a support number in case of loss, theft, declined transaction, etc.
On the management side:
- How to set up corporate cards: definition of travel expense limits and transaction rules in line with your travel policy (geographical areas, limits and types of authorized merchants, authorized or unauthorized cash withdrawals, etc.).
- How to manage the risk of fraud.
- Training on changes in expense management procedures: review the management of expense reports after automatic integration of corporate card data, possibly reviewing reporting procedures, etc.
Phase 3. Monitor, Control and Improve the Corporate Card Program
During the first few months after implementation, the role of the people in charge of the corporate card program will mainly consist of answering employees' questions:
- Practical questions from users on business trips
- Technical questions from managers on new purchasing, reporting or expense report processes
Beyond mere answers, assistance should be provided for all stakeholders.
It’s then necessary to monitor the use of the cards and the procedures that have been modified following the implementation of the program.
To help you with this task, here's a list of what to watch out for and questions you can ask yourself. By answering them, you'll be able to identify areas for improvement in the adoption of your new cards:
- Does card use meet expectations and comply with spending policy?
- If not, can the card configuration be improved with the addition or removal of rules and limits?
- Is card transaction data being transferred to management tools correctly?
- Have reporting and management procedures been automated to the maximum extent possible? Are there still potential automations that have not been implemented?
- Are there any potential improvements or streamlining of procedures possible for processing expense claims?
At this stage, you also shouldn't hesitate to ask for feedback. That's another effective way to gain different perspectives.
On top of the observations and feedback you collect, you should also be following the performance indicators as defined when designing the corporate card program. Monitoring these indicators over several months, in addition to the qualitative elements collected, will allow you to evaluate the implementation of the program.
No matter the degree of success, it is possible to identify areas for improvement and to continue adjusting and optimizing spending policies and management processes.
The implementation of a corporate card program is a transformation that can seem long and difficult. But its main difficulty lies in the cross-functional nature of the transformation project: For the operation to be a success, many people across multiple departments and business lines must be committed to the change.
However, the successful implementation of such a program is greatly facilitated by the corporate card provider you choose.
Throughout the process, you'll benefit from tailored support and assistance.
In many cases, your card provider will dedicate a team to the implementation of your program. The person in charge of the program within your company will be backed by experts who will support them throughout the process.
In addition, depending on the provider, you may be provided with a range of tools to facilitate program implementation, such as an online program management portal to track and receive the best advice step by step.