Advance planning makes it much easier to transition to a new commercial card program — regardless of whether you’re switching card providers or launching a program for the first time. Done right, the implementation process will give you the opportunity to improve finance operations. These suggestions can serve as a roadmap while your bank helps you along the way.
1. Set your priorities
Once you’ve decided to go with a particular card program, sit down with your bank advisor to talk through the details of how your card program will work once it’s up and running. Be sure to cover your company’s specific needs related to purchasing, reconciling expenses, reporting, and travel and entertainment transactions. You should also discuss available options for setting controls on cards.
2. Understand all steps in the process
Implementing your new card program requires you and your bank to work together until everything is up and running to your satisfaction. Sean Ernes, SVB Credit Card Implementation Advisor, advises customers to keep in close contact with your bank’s implementation team until all the cards you’ve issued are fully operational and you’ve been able to reconcile accounts successfully. At SVB, Ernes and our team dig into the details of the transition, which may include tailoring your existing internal controls to the new program, integrating your program with your enterprise resource planning (ERP) or accounting system, or considering the adoption of a third-party expense reporting system. You can expect to work out a transition timeline that includes things like training your finance and servicing staff and distributing the physical cards.
3. Get buy-in with key personnel
While you’ll no doubt have gotten sign-off from upper management before deciding on the new program, you’ll also want to consider which key personnel should have input as you begin implementation. SVB encourages companies to think about the staff members who are going to be working with the day-to-day functions of the program. Their preferences and processes should be factors in your plan, and you want to be sure that you are solving old problems without creating new ones. Depending on how the card program will be used, you may involve purchasing, accounting and finance staff. Your IT staff may also have input, especially if the transition involves integrating card account data with financial systems. Also, decide who will need training — implementation will run more smoothly if the right staff have hands-on experience with the new reconciliation process before launch.
4. Update policies and procedures
If you’re switching to a new card program, it’s a good time to review your old card program policy and consider improvements. For example, many companies use this time to update their employee card usage policy and expense reporting guidelines. It’s likely that questions about policies will naturally come up as companies dig into the details of switching — SVB advisors such as Ernes typically offer advice based on each business’ unique situation and goals.
"Your bank may offer services to help facilitate credit card acceptance"
It’s also a good time to ask your bank for help encouraging more suppliers to accept credit card payments from you. Your bank may offer services to help facilitate credit card acceptance, including reviewing your vendor list, contacting suppliers and explaining the benefits. Suppliers that deal only with checks may find it’s to their advantage to accept cards, and your bank can facilitate this process.
5. Establish controls and timing
Decide how you plan to transition employees to new cards — and give people plenty of advance communication if you are switching from one program to another. Flexion Therapeutics, a biotech startup, rolled out its new SVB card program by making all cards available at the same time, but employees had to turn in their old cards before picking up new ones and old accounts were frozen on a certain date. Marketing company Movable Ink took a different approach, first issuing new cards to only a few upper-level personnel for a testing phase. A pilot program like this gives you time to see that transactions and automated reconciliation are running smoothly before the rest of the company’s cardholders make the switch.
"SVB advisors offer advice and help until the new program is fully operational"
SVB advisors offer advice and help until the new program is fully operational; make sure you stay connected to your bank’s team until you’re comfortable that your new program is off the ground.
The views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of SVB Financial Group, or Silicon Valley Bank, or any of its affiliates. This material, including without limitation the statistical information herein, is provided for informational purposes only. The material is based in part upon information from third-party sources that we believe to be reliable, but which has not been independently verified by us and, as such, we do not represent that the information is accurate or complete. You should obtain relevant and specific professional advice before making any investment or other decision. Silicon Valley Bank is not responsible for any cost, claim or loss associated with your use of this material.