Beware the Ides of December!
Next Monday, Dec. 15, will almost surely bring the year’s greatest volume of expense-report submissions for travel and entertainment. In fact, that can be counted on happening every year on the third Monday in December, according to information released this morning by Concur, a provider of T&E spend-management services.
Last year, for example, among the company’s U.S. customers, 221% more reports were filed on Monday, Dec. 16 than on the average day of the year up to that point.
“Knowing what lies ahead is the first step to streamlining expense processes,” says Concur vice president Neil Charney. “Our data show that this is a critical time of year for employees to tackle their backlog of expenses.”
It’s a perfect storm in the T&E expense-reimbursement world: The third Monday in December is near both the end of a quarter and, for calendar-year companies, the end of the year; people realize in mid-December that they’d like to claim some cash for the holidays; and many workers prepare expense reports on weekends.
While companies generally like to delay paying for things as long as possible, some managers may be caught short of budget if they get an avalanche of expense reports so close to year-end. With online spend-management systems like Concur’s, through which employees not only submit expense reports but also book travel, managers can see what they’ll owe in the future. But how much control they have over when business travelers file expense reports depends on their particular company’s policies.
While Concur only assessed data for expense reports filed in the United States, the deluge of expense reports in mid-December is a worldwide phenomenon, Charney notes, with China the only exception among major countries.
Concur’s data can truly be viewed as representative of business travel generally. The company has 23,000-plus clients across more than 150 countries and 27 million individuals using its services, who submit approximately 100 million expense reports per year with an aggregate volume that surpasses $50 billion, according to Charney.
An interesting piece of data would be a “tipping point” in terms of company size below which CFOs are likely to be personally involved in managing travel spend. Concur doesn’t have data on that, but Charney notes that since T&E is among a company’s most controllable costs, virtually all of its customers’ finance chiefs favor having real-time visibility into aggregate spending data.
He also says that these days, when CFOs look to their IT organizations to create mobile solutions, travel purchasing and approval is often near the top of the wish list. The most popular feature in Concur’s mobile app — “by far,” the company says — lets business travelers take photos of their receipts and attach them to expense reports submitted from mobile devices. Last year, the surge of receipts attached to reports submitted on the third Monday in December — 259% above the daily average for the year before that date — was even greater than that of the eye-opening 221% leap in the number of reports.