Employees’ spend and expense filing, two areas that have given headaches to even the largest organizations lately, may be able to leverage AI technology to help improve finance operations. In particular, generative AI’s ability to monitor and predict employee spending may be a way for companies to have greater visibility and clear governance over employee spend when on the road.
AI is helping to eliminate business travel issues popping up since travel has bounced back post-pandemic, with 70% of companies saying they use AI and other technologies to manage certain aspects of business travel, according to new data from American Express’ Trendex Business Travel Edition.
As nearly three-quarters (73%) of all respondents said they currently use some type of expense management software, the incorporation of AI into the expensing process may turn a classically-dreaded process for business travelers and CFOs alike into a simplified one. And according to surveyors, American Express and Microsoft are developing new technology that addresses the issues faced by expense managers and travelers alike. AI and machine learning capabilities offer solutions to make expense reporting and approvals simpler, as well as streamlining reconciliation and reimbursements for accounting teams.
To ensure employees stay within per diem allowances and aren’t held responsible for changes to accommodations outside of their control, AI tools may be a way to safeguard against unexpected expenses. Forty percent of survey respondents said they are planning to use AI products that handle these types of things.
By automating the creation of expense reports and the approval process, travelers hope these types of technologies can help create a smoother and more cost-efficient travel experience. However, its incorporation has many leaders skeptical about the practicality of an immediate implementation. Safety and security (67%), functionality (56%), training, (53%), and the cost of the AI itself (53%) were all top concerns among leadership.
A Shift to Virtual Cards
Whether employees are fronting the money themselves or using a corporate card to reconcile travel expenses, cybersecurity, cost, and ease-of-use are all shifting the future of employee spend towards a virtual card system, data shows. Virtual cards can be trip-specific and use data to automatically configure policy controls and spending parameters to stay within company policies.
Of business travelers already using virtual cards, 73% say they will increase their use for employee business travel over the next year. For those who aren’t using virtual cards yet, over eight in 10 (82%) say they are likely to consider using them in 2024.
“Virtual cards provide enhanced security, customization, and cash flow management while providing better visibility into an organization’s spending,” said Aliya Bokhari, senior vice president of American Express. “Automation continues to make virtual cards useful with controls for spending limits, expiration dates, and allowed merchant categories.”
The American Express Business Travel Trendex polled 1007 business travelers between July 10 and 17, 2023.