TABLE OF CONTENTS

Center's 3rd Annual Spend and Expense Management Survey reached out to 250+ finance leaders in U.S.-based companies for information and insights on: :

  • Corporate card distribution
  • Travel policies
  • Expense management tools
  • Time to month-end close
  • And more

Introduction

This is our 3rd annual Spend and Expense Management Survey report. As in previous years, we reached out to more than 250 finance leaders in companies across the U.S. to learn about their current spend, travel, and expense management systems. 

This year, we added a new cross-section to our analysis to evaluate companies both by company size and years in business. We found that younger companies are more likely to adopt corporate cards to facilitate spending, but they’re less likely to use expense management software to keep that spending in check. Older companies exhibit the opposite tendencies: they’re more likely to use expense management software, but less likely to distribute corporate cards. Whether young or old, both segments can benefit from integrated solutions bringing together corporate cards and expense management software.

Now that it's been more than a year since the beginning of the pandemic, we were also interested to learn how companies have adapted their travel and expense policies. We were surprised to find that over half of organizations still don’t have written travel and expense policies or that they haven’t updated them since the pandemic. We also learned that over 30% of travel is booked outside of corporate booking tools, making strong policies and controls even more critical for managing spend and protecting travelers.

How does your company compare?

Find out how your company’s expense management processes compare to organizations of similar size or age. Take our interactive assessment to benchmark your organization against the survey results, and receive a custom report including actionable recommendations.

Read on for insights into:

  • Corporate card distribution
  • Travel policies
  • Expense management tools
  • Time to month-end close
  • And more

Spend

Does your company distribute business or corporate cards to employees?

Overall 56% of companies distribute corporate cards to employees for business expenses. Smaller companies under 100 employees are somewhat less likely to have corporate cards (48%) as compared to midsize companies (67%) and large companies (57%). 

Find out how your company compares to organizations of similar size with Center’s interactive, online Expense Management Benchmark Assessment. Submit your answers and get a customized report, including recommendations tailored to your existing expense system.

TO THE POINT:

Modern businesses need a fast, easy, and secure way to pay for a range of expenses, and corporate cards can help facilitate better visibility and controls for the accounting team. Corporate cards can also ease financial stress for employees

Whether you have corporate cards in your organization today or are considering adding them in the future, know that not all programs are the same. Some corporate card programs can create additional reconciliation burdens for accounting teams.  A corporate card integrated with expense management software can give your team a real-time view into what employees are spending. 

We invite you to read our Ultimate Guide to Corporate Cards, for tips on better managing employee spend and selecting a program with integrated expense management technology.

 

Travel

How clearly defined is your employee travel policy?

Travel is typically the biggest driver of employee expenses. Over 75% of organizations surveyed across all company sizes have some kind of written travel policy in place. The remainder either don’t have a written policy but have set expectations, or don’t have any defined policy at all. 

TO THE POINT:

The world has changed since COVID, and now would be a good time to create or update your expense policy with clear guidance and expectations for business travel based on the new realities. 

Giving employees clear guidelines on travel helps to keep expenses under control and drive accountability with your colleagues. We recommend: 

  • Identifying what the policy should cover. Some areas to consider are accommodations, transportation, mileage and parking, meal allowance, and reimbursement policies.
  • Deciding who will be covered under this policy. Do you need separate policies for executives vs. more junior employees, or do you need separate policies for different departments? 

Get more travel policy recommendations for your organization by completing Center's Expense Management Benchmark Assessment

How do employees book travel at your company?

The way employees book their travel has been changing over the last decade. Over half of the organizations who participated in the 2022 Spend and Expense Management Survey said that employees book travel directly all or some of the time. Just 35% book exclusively with a corporate travel tool.

Responses varied depending on the size of the organization. Small companies were least likely to have a corporate booking tool in the mix. Mid-size companies were most likely to use a corporate travel tool exclusively (48%).  Organizations above 500 employees are twice as likely to use corporate travel tools than companies under 100 employees. This difference makes sense: with fewer travelers, small companies have less complexity to manage and fewer opportunities to leverage bulk discounts.

Twenty percent of companies overall said their employees use a combination of direct and corporate booking.

 

What percentage of travel is booked outside your travel management provider, i.e. booked directly with airline/hotel, consumer travel sites?

Even when companies implement a corporate booking tool, there’s no guarantee that employees will use it. Most companies--even those who mandate usage of the corporate solution--experience some “leakage.” Employees choose to book outside the tool for various reasons, including getting perks and rewards by booking directly, a superior booking experience, and believing they’re getting a better rate or better options elsewhere.

We asked respondents who either selected Corporate Booking Tool or Combination Corporate and Direct Booking what percentage of travel is booked directly. Overall, respondents estimated 31% of travel is booked directly, i.e., outside the travel tool. 

TO THE POINT: 

In our survey, we found that the amount of leakage from the corporate booking tool was roughly correlated to the age of the company. Newer companies, with less-established policies and procedures, experienced higher leakage. Older companies, with longer-tenured associates and more established policies, experienced lower leakage.

Get more information on the challenges created by using multiple booking systems, along with recommendations for better visibility and controls in our Expense Management Benchmark Assessment.

Expense Management

Which tools do you use to manage travel, entertainment, procurement, and other employee expenses such as software?

We found that paper and spreadsheets are nearly ubiquitous across all ages of companies. We surveyed a broad array of companies, from start-ups to well-established companies, and found that over 90% of companies of all types use paper and/or spreadsheets as part of their process.

Nearly 50% of respondents said they use expense management software. Many, however, use it in conjunction with other tools: 42% of expense software users also use spreadsheets  and 18% use paper as part of the process. Just 27% of respondents overall use expense management software alone. This is a slight uptick from our previous year’s survey, which showed that 25% using expense software alone.

Larger companies are more likely to use expense software (49%), as compared to mid-size (42%) and small (31%). Fifty percent of small companies use spreadsheets, compared to 37% of mid-size and large companies. This makes sense, as spreadsheets are broadly accessible and can provide good basic expense tracking needs. However, spreadsheets don’t adapt to larger or more complex organizations who need more automation and workflows for reviews, approvals, audits, and reporting.   

TO THE POINT:

If your organization doesn’t use expense management software, you are not alone. That said, you may be missing an opportunity to save significant time and resources for employees across the company, including travelers, managers, and the accounting team. Innovations in expense management software reduce manual work, accelerate month-end close, identify cost savings, and give finance team members time back to focus on more strategic work. 

 

How much does your organization spend on expense management software annually, including license, user, and report fees?

 

Expense management software can be pricey. We asked survey respondents to share how much their organization spends each year, including license, user, and per-report fees. The average cost was $111,399 and the median across companies of all sizes was $6,500. 

Find out where your expense management costs fall compared to companies of similar size.

TO THE POINT:

No matter how much you spend today, there are options available to reduce the cost of ownership. We recommend looking for an solution with an integrated corporate card, which can enhance visibility into spend as it happens and deliver additional controls to manage costs. Best of all, a card-and-expense bundle can reduce and even eliminate per-user, per-expense report, and annual card fees. Based on your spend, you may even qualify for a cash-back rebate. 

 

How clearly defined is your expense policy?

As with travel policy, the majority of companies have some sort of written policies in place. Nearly 50% have a formal policy that is updated frequently, while 27% have a written document that hasn’t been updated recently. A quarter of organizations either don’t have a policy at all or have set verbal expectations. 

The larger a company is, the more likely it is to have a formal policy in place. Seventy percent of companies over 500 employees have such a policy, as compared to 44% of mid-size and 31% of small companies.

TO THE POINT:

An expense policy is an important tool for controlling spend and managing expenses. If you don’t have one or yours is out of date, here are some recommended steps you can take: 

Our recommendations include:

  • Write out your employee and manager expectations for expenses. Gather a group of key stakeholders, such as finance, senior leaders, and HR, to document expectations and best practices. 
  • Answer key questions like who should get a corporate card, receipt and reimbursement expectations, and spending limits. Tip: The shorter the better. A long, complicated document will lead to more confusion vs. a concise one-pager.

For more recommendations, tailored to your organization’s size and current expense policy format, take the interactive Expense Management Benchmark Assessment

Which best describes your approach to reviewing and approving expenses?

Approval policies frequently align to business complexity. The simpler the accounting needs, the simpler the review and approval process will likely be. Larger organizations surveyed tended to have more complex, multi-level approval policies compared to smaller companies (43% vs. 17%).

Complexity is often related to industry as well: if a business has project expenses, billable expenses, multiple locations, and so on, additional reviewers may be included in the approval workflow. Organizations may also want to route IT expenses to the IT manager and travel expenses to an employee’s manager.

TO THE POINT

The goal here is to empower approvers to focus on the expenses that matter to them so transactions don’t get lost in the clutter. Your expense management system should automatically flag anomalies or potential issues to approvers, like missing receipts or expenses that exceed policy limits. Some organizations with a mature expense management process will auto-approve certain transactions with lower dollar amounts to further save time for approvers. 

 

How do you describe your approach to auditing employee expenses?

 

Almost all organizations we’ve surveyed (89%) audit expense reports in some way. Employee fraud is real and costs businesses millions of dollars a year. That said, mistakes happen. They can be as harmless as an employee accidentally grabbing the corporate card instead of a personal card for a purchase. 

TO THE POINT:

Auditing expense reports is important to ensure policy compliance and accounting accuracy, but it can be a time-consuming process. Traditional batch-based expense reports make manual auditing a challenge since reviewers have to sift through so many transactions. Auditing software that reviews all expenses can help, but it’s often a costly add-on that few companies use. 

Look for expense management software that audits 100% of transactions automatically and flags non-compliant spend for further review by managers and the finance team.

 

Which of the statements below best describes your feeling about the month-end process at your company?

  • Great: We close the books quickly, and information is readily available 
  • Acceptable, but there's room for improvement
  • Unacceptable: We need to improve our month-end close process

Timely, accurate financials are critical to companies, especially during times of economic uncertainty. The faster finance teams can close the books, the faster they can review results, build forecasts, or adjust plans. 

One-third of respondents said that their month-end close process is “great” and that they close the books quickly. The majority of respondents feel that their month-end process needs improvement, with 7% saying the process is “unacceptable.” 

TO THE POINT:

Previous Center surveys have shown that manual work, lack of resources or people, and time spent on accruals contribute to month-end close problems. In the past, the answer might have been as simple as hiring extra help in accounting. However, with constraints on budgets and a tight labor market, hiring isn’t always an option. Organizations will need to automate routine processes and find more efficient systems to take the burden off resources that are already strained. 

 

How many days did it take to close the books last month? 

We asked respondents how much time the month-end close took last month. The median across all size segments was 7 days, with smaller companies closing the books somewhat faster (5 days) and larger organizations reporting a median of 9 days. While the median number of days reported is relatively efficient, a significant portion of respondents said that their month-end process can take more than three weeks. 

TO THE POINT:

Automating manual tasks and eliminating paper-based activities will help trim time off the month-end close. Chasing down receipts and manually reconciling credit card statements are tedious tasks that demand significant time from the finance team. Technology can automate routine tasks, so that the finance team can deliver additional, strategic value. See how Emerald Aire cut their month-end close by a month. 

Conclusion

We were eager to hear about how organizations today are thinking about spend and expense management, especially as business slowly emerges from the pandemic. Organizations are starting to think ahead to a return of business travel, as well as ways to gain visibility and controls over employee spend. They are also looking to improve processes for tracking and accounting for travel expenses, as well as the many other types of expenses paid for by employees today. 

With the ongoing challenges of economic uncertainty and real pressure in the labor market, it’s clear that organizations of all sizes benefit from better automation and reporting to ensure they stay on budget and work efficiently. 

To find out where your organization is on par with peers, and where there's still room for improvement, take the interactive Expense Management Benchmark Assessment. You'll receive a customized report, with recommendations tailored to your organizations current systems and processes.

About Center

Center is a complete corporate credit card and expense management solution that delivers real-time visibility and flexible spend controls to automate expense tracking.

Center simplifies expense processing for the entire company, saving time for employees, improving operations and compliance for the finance team, and delivering live insights for managers and executives. 

Our goal is to help companies make the most out of every dollar – and hour – spent, so they can keep growing into thriving businesses. Center’s integrated corporate card and expense software is a complete system for managing expenses.

Best of all, Center is free. No asterisks. No fine print.

To learn more, visit www.getcenter.com, and sign up for a personalized demonstration today.

About the 2022 Spend and Expense Management Survey

The survey was conducted in October 2021. Over 250 finance leaders from organizations across the United States participated. Respondents were broken down by size and age of organization. 

Additional data was pulled from Center’s 2021 Expense Management Survey.