MasterCard Europe: In the Driving Seat - Rene Stynen

Being on top of the critical information that is generated throughout the procurement cycle gives financial managers the kind of insights they can turn into higher productivity and lower cost to the benefit of their organisation. Rene Stynen, VP Large Market, Global Commercial Products, MasterCard Europe, looks at how businesses can drive value by using advanced payments solutions.

According to recent research by Aberdeen Group, travel and entertainment (T&E) spend per company is expected to rise by 24% in 2008 compared to the previous year, while spending on purchasing cards will grow by 27% at the same time. With rising volumes, organisations increasingly demand seamless end-to-end solutions.

'Companies need a commercial payment programme to provide a data solution that allows for combining data from a range of sources, and includes refined mechanisms to ensure data integrity.'

Advanced payments tools provide an efficient and effective solution to addressing these needs.

With increasing pressure for fast decision-making, financial managers demand information management systems that make sense of data quickly and comprehensively. Moreover, a sophisticated approach to authorisation parameters and payment routing, as well as better integration into an organisation’s procurement workflow, become key requirements. At the same time, stringent financial regulations and the need for an effective defence against fraud and abuse, especially given an ever increasing level of sourcing through web applications, further highlight the importance of efficient tracking processes and reporting.

To help meet the needs of financial managers, a commercial card programme can provide powerful data capturing tools, along with processes that help to ensure high levels of data quality. In addition to card data, companies need a commercial payment programme to provide a data solution that allows for combining data from a range of sources, and includes refined mechanisms to ensure data integrity.

Reporting and analytical solutions can then help financial managers to turn the data into meaningful information. This information can be used, for example, to manage compliance and sourcing initiatives in a more effective way. The reporting solution can also assist the financial manager in negotiating better supplier contracts and streamlining accounting processes.

According to research commissioned by MasterCard, three major trends are shaping the future of European purchasing – the deregulation of the travel industry, cost reduction and an increased focus on audit and compliance.

These changes are affecting both the needs and demands of employees and the entire purchasing process from planning to allocating corporate expenses. In order to adapt to and fulfil these changes, financial managers are expected to have increased knowledge of systems, technology, budgeting, and negotiation.

Commercial cards, whether T&E or purchasing, in combination with enhanced data and smart reporting applications are ideally placed to help companies address those challenges.

Such integrated platforms enable organisations to consolidate, analyse, and manage financial data from their commercial spending programme.

They help companies to generate comprehensive spending reports for employees, and to integrate transaction data into their existing accounting systems. An integrated platform must also address the need for customisation so that it can be adaptable to management needs and be made compatible with standard expense management and ERP systems.

For businesses that want to check how they can improve their T&E and Purchasing programmes, the MasterCard Optimiser is a simple and effective tool.

It enables organisations to benchmark themselves against best-in-class industry practices and to identify savings opportunities.

The requirements that businesses are facing are constantly evolving, therefore payment service providers need to continue to be responsive in the solutions and products they develop. MasterCard understands its role in supporting organisations in managing the entire procurement cycle including sourcing, billing, settlement, data integration and analysis, reporting – and in providing innovative value added services for each step of the process. By leveraging the next generation of payments solutions today, companies can drive real value for their business and stay ahead of the game tomorrow.