In the latest issue of businesstraveller, Meghan Smith, Strategic Partner Ship manager Benelux & Nordics, discusses how Virtual Cards Procurement equip you with the data insight to allocate payments efficiently in your financial processes. Read the complete interview below.
For those who are not yet familiar, what does AirPlus International do?
We provide corporate payment solutions for businesses helping them gain control over travel expenses. In addition to travel expenses, we also handle corporate expenses. You receive data with clear answers to the questions: what am I spending now and on what? At AirPlus, we enrich that data allowing companies to streamline payment processes more efficiently.
Why wouldn't companies do that themselves?
When companies do it themselves, you often see that they receive a large number of invoices from travel agents. Separate invoices per trip. It becomes somewhat chaotic and lacks transparency. We can provide a consolidated statement. Once a month, our customers receive an overview from AirPlus that includes all those transactions. For example, in a CSV file that we can automatically import into an accounting system.
Do they also gain better visibility of the entire travel budget?
Absolutely, when you analyze multiple trips, you get a complete overview and then a company can start making certain choices. The detailed invoices you receive from AirPlus make it simple to allocate and fully analyze all costs incurred. This data helps you adjust your travel policy and provide a good basis for price negotiations.
You have a so-called virtual card for that? How does that work in practice?
Companies that are our customers receive an account. You can set it up yourself for which department or for whom. Every card number can be limited to a specific purpose. In addition, you can add restrictions including a maximum amount, period of validity, and currencies. This makes AirPlus Virtual Cards extremely secure and flexible and you can offer it to staff members who do not have a corporate card or to external service providers traveling at your expense.
The business traveler can rely on AirPlus for all aspects of the trip?
Absolutely. Hotel, flight, car rental, on-site expenses, and so on. We actually have the entire product portfolio for the business traveler to settle with AirPlus.
Who is your target audience?
Companies that incur travel expenses. We have customers in the SME segment as well as large Dutch companies and international corporates. We can serve everyone, but the more travel expenses, the more we can optimize.
How did you weather the pandemic?
Originally, we are a Business Travel Payment Company. However, due to the pandemic, we did indeed experience a significant decline in revenue. We also noticed a growing demand from our customers for a payment solution for ad-hoc online purchases. Employees had to work from home, needed office supplies, and companies had the need for a secure and convenient payment solution. That's when we realized that our payment solutions could also be used for those procurement expenses.
Very often, there is a need to make online purchases from platforms like Bol.com or Amazon, and our products can also be used for those specific costs. Our Virtual Cards for Procurement can be utilized in those cases. It's a completely different world from traditional business travel. We now also handle the expenses of the workplace and, very relevantly, the home office. Essentially, all corporate expenses. It's a transition from being a Travel Management Company to offering a broader range of services, including procurement. And, we don't do it alone; we collaborate with procure-to-pay partners to further professionalize the long-tail process, such as Coupa, THL Pay, and Mazepay.
Lastly, as an expert, how is the market doing now?
We are actually almost back to the pre-Covid level, which is a very positive sign because everything is "back to normal". However, there have been changes in certain aspects. Sustainability has become highly important. In fact, many customers have incorporated it into their strategies. Naturally, we have various tools to advise and support the customer in achieving their objectives, including in the areas of sustainable travel and procurement.
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