American Express is expanding its decades-long relationship with Microsoft to develop a suite of solutions built on Microsoft Cloud and AI technologies focused on reducing business travel friction for employees and businesses.
The first solution developed through this collaboration will enhance the expense management process by addressing some of the pain points business travelers and expense processors face.
Using AI and machine learning capabilities, the solution will bolster clients’ existing processes and tools by simplifying and automating manual expense reporting and approvals, enhancing audit efficacy, and streamlining reconciliation and reimbursements for accounting teams. Microsoft will pilot the solution with its employees, by integrating it into the company’s internal expense system later this year. The solution will be made available to other American Express Corporate clients over time, with the ability to integrate into other expense management tools.
This is how the solution will work: When a business traveler swipes their American Express Corporate Card, they’ll be prompted to upload a picture of their receipt. An AI-powered decision engine then categorizes the transaction and assigns a risk score based on transaction details, the company’s travel and expense (T&E) policy, and the traveler’s purchase and payment history on their American Express Corporate Card. The risk score is coded as green (recommended for auto-approval), yellow (needs another look), or red (not recommended for approval) depending on factors like company expense policy, consistency with existing spend patterns, indications of fraud, and more. The information is then passed to an expense management system, along with receipt details to auto-generate reports and help managers and auditors in their decision making. Through machine learning the solution will get smarter over time, adapting its algorithms based on patterns and gradually increasing its ability to maximize expense auto-approval with lower error rates and escalations.
“Expense reports are a necessity, but we all hate doing them. At the same time, every company has an increased need for control and compliance with expenses. Now imagine a future where the majority of your expenses are simply ‘auto-submitted’ and ‘auto-approved,’ requiring no manual intervention and adhering to your companies’ policies and spend limits. By combining our customer insights and data, purposeful technology innovation, and a collaboration with an industry leader like Microsoft, we are creating a solution that addresses these needs with a seamless experience for the employee,” said Gunther Bright, Executive Vice President, Global Commercial Services at American Express.”
“Advanced technologies like Microsoft Azure AI and machine learning provide powerful, new opportunities to reimagine pervasive, time-consuming manual processes,” said Bill Borden, Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Financial Services at Microsoft. “We look forward to collaborating with American Express to simplify expense management and deliver intelligent digital capabilities to improve the lives of business travelers and employees.”
Expense Management Sentiment Revealed in New American Express Trendex Survey:
According to a new American Express Expense Management Trendex survey, which polled business travelers and travel expense processors, the expense management process is a major pain point today that needs to be updated.
Four-in-ten business travelers say they would rather have a performance review (41%), weekly meetings on Monday at 8 a.m. (40%), their flight delayed by an hour (40%), or a full day of virtual meetings (40%) than have to complete their expense reports. Additionally, 59% of travel expense processors, who don’t currently have a completely autonomous expense report management system, say the greatest benefit to having a more automated expense report management system would be saving time, and 94% of all travel expense processors agree there needs to be more innovation, signaling the need for more automated solutions.
Other key findings from the Trendex include:
The majority (73%) of business travelers agree that business travel would be less stressful if managing expenses was less of a hassle.
More than half (52%) of business travelers and over one-third (35%) of travel expense processors report a negative reaction when describing their employer’s current expense management process.
Business travelers say their most common (54%) pain point associated with expense reports is the gathering and keeping track of receipts.
The most common pain points for travel expense processors are employees missing submission deadlines (50%) and ensuring expenses comply with company travel policy (49%).
60% of business travelers agree their least favorite part of business travel is completing/ turning in their expenses.
Most business travelers (76%) spend at least 30 minutes on their monthly travel expense reports and, on average, two-thirds (65%) of travel expense processors take at least one hour to review one monthly expense report, signaling the need for efficient time management solutions.
Among the travel expense processors who don’t currently have completely automated expense report management systems, nearly all (95%) wish they did.
The new solution is part of American Express’ ongoing work to redefine the end-to-end payments experience globally, both for travelers and companies. For more information about American Express’ existing business travel and expense management solutions for Corporate clients, please visit here.