Managing the finance workload with a lean team requires a keen focus on efficiency. One tactic used by busy finance managers is to take advantage of the wealth of data stemming from business credit cards. This information provides unique insight into spending and streamlines expense tracking.
Lighten the admin load on your finance team
Tech companies are often looking for data- and tech-driven efficiencies for managing finance and accounting. Linking card data to expense apps can streamline expense-report processing and card-account reconciliation, and make it easier to enforce expense policies.
In a typical integration scenario, employees who use credit cards for company spending — both for purchasing and travel and entertainment — log into an expense app to find their card transactions already uploaded. They can add or confirm company-specific information such as cost center or expense codes, and attach receipts. In most cases, the expense apps can be set up to require those steps before the cardholder submits the report. That saves the finance department time spent chasing supporting documents and information required to properly account for an expense.
Feed financial analysis with integrated card data
Accessing up-to-date card transaction data allows you to rapidly determine whether budgets are being maintained and employees are sticking to purchasing policies. For example, generating a consolidated view of a category, such as office supplies, is a straightforward process and helps show how much the company is spending with each merchant. With that information, you can consider cost-saving procurement strategies such as negotiating a favored-supplier contract. Or, if such a contract is already in place, it allows you to see who may be spending with an out-of-policy merchant so that you can investigate why.
Also, keeping careful control of expenses is a key part of managing and understanding your burn rate.
Identify your best access and integration approach
Finance teams using credit card accounts have several options for tapping transaction data, but the most common is to set up integration with an expense reporting app. Consider which may fit your situation best:
- Startups or smaller companies that use fairly informal tools such as spreadsheets to report and track expenses can use a tool such as Mastercard's SmartData to improve those processes and provide analysis capabilities without adding cost (assuming they're using Mastercard credit cards). Individual cardholders can review and annotate their transactions through SmartData, as well as attach receipts or other documentation, then pass them on for approval. Finance managers can set up reports and export files in standard formats that can be read by accounting software.
- Companies that are considering investing in expense management software can choose a configuration capable of ingesting a data feed provided in Mastercard’s standard CDF3 (Common Data Format). This enables the more sophisticated reconciliation and tracking functions available through these packages. Because the expense software packages typically link into accounting apps, this data should also be available to your operational software.
Choose software that syncs with your data plan
Most leading expense management apps sell packages that will accept a CDF3 data feed, but not every configuration in their lineup may support it. Some entry-level expense products use screen-scraping technology via a third party to pull in card transaction data, which may introduce delays. Make sure that the system you select can directly ingest that industry-standard feed to increase the likelihood that the data is always up to date.
Involving the experts at SVB early in your decision process will allow us to share our advice and experience. Feel free to reach out to your SVB Relationship Manager to get started.