Adds "variance" reports to pinpoint gap between what travelers book and actually spend, doubles countries for detailed T&E and purchasing data
Orlando, FL — August 4, 2004 — The dollars are in the detail — at least when it comes to managing travel, and as businesses are taking to the road again, American Express Global Commercial Card is expanding its data management offering with an eye toward helping companies drive savings and compliance.
With corporations' need for more detailed management information and their increased interest in globalizing travel and expense (T&E) management, American Express will be launching two major upgrades to its Global Information Services later this year.
The company is unveiling what it is calling an industry "first" — a set of consolidated reports that show the gap, transaction by transaction, between what business travelers reserve and what they actually expense. American Express is also expanding the scope of its corporate card data, offering detailed transaction-level reporting for 80 countries, which is more than double the number of countries in the data set that has been offered to date. This expansion is intended to strengthen customers' capability to track their corporate card spend and to use the data to drive negotiations with suppliers.
"Our customers recognize the power of leveraging their spend information, and our new reporting capabilities will let them take two giant steps in their campaign for better cost control," said Anré Williams, executive vice president for U.S. commercial card at American Express.
According to the card company, both new offerings are the result of American Express' investment in building and expanding its global data repository, which captures corporate card and business travel information.
Looking for the Gaps
In December, Global Information Services, the group within Global Corporate Services that creates and produces commercial card and business travel reporting, will launch a new tool called the "Variance Report — Billed vs. Booked." This set of reports includes individual transactions (by supplier sector) showing the cardmember's charged expense versus the cost captured at the point of reservation. With this consolidated report, travel managers can identify any gaps that might suggest out-of-policy activity, and it will help companies manage supplier contracts, American Express said.
The reports will combine charges made on the corporate card with corresponding booked data from American Express Business Travel. The new tool will be added to American Express' Market Level Enhanced Reporting package and will be offered, without additional fee, to all clients that use both the corporate card and Business Travel Services.
Variance reporting will reflect summary and detailed air travel, lodging and car rental spending data, at both the vendor level and cardmember level. Columns will show the variance between booked and charged information.
Variance Reports will be available to customers 24/7 on American Express @ Work, a Web-based platform where cardmembers and card program administrators can manage their programs, access data and handle expense reconciliation online. Currently, customers can view both travel and card reports separately on the system.
In addition, Global Information Services is developing a series of proactive compliance reporting designed to help T&E managers further pinpoint errant spenders, for example, a report that identifies travelers who book "Web" fares rather than a firm's negotiated airfares.
"Variance reports will make my life a lot easier," said Lorraine Rostanzo, director of global travel and support services, at Columbia, MD-based W.R. Grace & Co. "The big advantage is that they'll clearly point out the variance between booked and charged data, and I'll be able to drill down to the transaction level. Not only will it help me identify the total cost of an airline ticket, it will be much easier to identify employees who, for example, use the approved card but not the approved agency, as well as those who book coach and charge an upgrade to first class at the airport. The reports will also be another tool to keep track of vendor leakage to maintain the integrity of my programs."
More Buying Power in Emerging Markets
In another upgrade, American Express said that in the fourth quarter it will more than double the number of countries in which it can provide detailed transaction-level commercial card spending data to companies. The move to expand Market Level Enhanced Reporting to more countries will further assist companies, many of which are operating in developing markets, to refine how they manage expenditures and boost buying power, American Express said.
Through its global data repository, American Express currently provides summary level commercial card spending information to companies in a total of 121 countries, plus transaction-level detail reporting in 39 countries. But this fall, the company will add more detailed reporting for an additional 41 countries, all of which are in the Latin America and Caribbean region. Next year, enhanced reporting for the remaining European and Asian countries will follow.
Market Level Enhanced reporting allows firms to study spend in a variety of ways, including from hundreds of spending categories, including major T&E and other everyday business purchases (such as air, car, hotel, office supplies and computers), to subcategories such as telecom, rail, limo and taxi; as well as by vendor level, by region, country or market, business unit, department and cost center, and by employee level or employee ID and transaction-level.
The expanded reporting will be accessible round-the-clock to clients via American Express @ Work. To ensure the most inclusive picture of spend possible is captured, the reports will be updated daily, including unbilled cardmember charges, American Express said.
In a recent study of more than 100 companies across the globe, Accenture found that companies that don't use the most comprehensive corporate card management information for negotiations and expense processing are potentially missing out on a savings opportunity of up to 9 percent of their total travel and entertainment (T&E) spending. That figure is made up of an additional 7.2 percent in price savings, above and beyond the deals they already have with airlines, hotels and car rental companies, as well as an additional 1.8 percent in savings on processing and paying for T&E.
For a large company with $25 million in annual T&E spending, this equates to $2.25 million in hard-dollar savings.