Airbnb listings now available within SAP Concur

In 2014, Concur announced a partnership with Airbnb that allowed corporate bookings from Airbnb to directly import into Concur via TripLink and integrated into Concur’s duty of care and spend visibility tools. This was at the same time Airbnb announced “Business Travel on Airbnb.”

The partnership now allows Airbnb homes to display WITHIN the SAP Concur platform – side by side with traditional hotel properties. The feature must first be activated by the company’s Concur Travel Administrator before employees will have access to the new feature (more on this below).


The Pros & Cons

My personal disclaimer here: Airbnb is not the choice for everyone. It might not fit your personal or company culture… but some people DO enjoy the benefits. Personally I like Airbnb in the right circumstances and appreciated having the flexibility to use the service when I needed it – I used Airbnb for several business trips, including a GBTA trade event and an amazing place in San Francisco (when all of the hotels were already sold out). The San Francisco host even put one of my favorite local beers in the fridge (for free) when he learned that my flight landed late at night.

Corporate Benefits:

  • Happier travelers improves retention and reduces burnout
  • Cheaper options in high cost markets like Seattle or NYC
  • Cheaper options for long term project related travel

Traveler Benefits:

  • More choices – Airbnb homes might be located closer to the meeting or in parts of the city that the traveler would like to experience in the evening
  • Flexibility for work life balance – Airbnb makes longer business trips more ‘live-able’ and offers some travelers the ability to bring their family with them
  • Better value in high cost markets like Seattle or NYC

I have seen some articles recently on the ‘security risks’ of Airbnb. While these risks do exist, I suggest to my clients that they ask if those same risks also exist with traditional hotels (generally yes) and then ask the client if/how they are addressing those risks? If the risks are the same and the client feels it warrants special communication then it should be applied equally.

A feature we all knew was coming

Last year, in July 2017, it was announced that Airbnb homes would soon be visible WITHIN the SAP Concur platform. The functionality was originally expected to launch ‘in the coming months‘ and then delayed to February according to The Company Dime.

Approach to Training & Corporate Communications

In order to search for Airbnb with Concur Travel, first the company’s Concur Administrator must activate the “Airbnb for Work App” feature within Concur App Center and then configure the new feature in Concur’s Travel System Admin menus. Complete instructions here.

As a traveler, searching and booking Airbnb within Concur is simple as the homes are displayed within the search results along with the traditional hotels. For internal change management communications you can use the details on this page.

AppZen’s new AI supports Same-Day Expense Reimbursement

AppZen’s newest enhancement, announced this week, is called “AppZen Audit Insights” that enables Same-Day Expense Reimbursement and enhanced reporting capabilities.

AppZen Concur Same-Day Expense Reimbursement

AppZen is an automated expense report auditing system that instantly checks for compliance and fraud. AppZen is integrated with most all of the top Travel & Expense Management systems (TEM) and also invoicing solutions. These integrated partners include: SAP Concur, NetSuite, Ariba, ChromeRiver, Coupa, Workday and Oracle.

The AppZen platform “combines computer vision, deep learning, and natural language processing to automatically read and understand expense reports, receipts, and travel documents and cross-check them with hundreds of data sources in real time to determine the accuracy and legitimacy of every expense.” Client’s don’t need to change their expense or invoice software as AppZen integrates seamlessly behind the scenes of the current approval process. This works with Concur by becoming part of a company’s Concur Approval Workflow – it can either work as an additional approval step, an automated replacement to a manual step or to fully automate an expense report.

AppZen Expense Report AI and Audit Insights

The company was founded in 2012 and today works with more than 25 Fortune 1000 companies.

AppZen’s Official Press Release & Blog Update:

San Jose, CA – August 13, 2018 – AppZen, pioneers of artificial intelligence (AI) for business process automation, today announced the launch of Insights, a vanguard product sitting atop its audit platform allowing finance executives and team managers from across an organization to step away from the daily churn of expense review cycles, with confidence. The enhanced platform allows managers to monitor and review team behavior and spend, while extracting themselves from mundane approval workflows.

Using the combination of AppZen’s Insights and real-time audit product, managers no longer need to approve — or even look at — employee expense reports while the company remains compliant with internal and SOX controls. AppZen audits and approves each report in real time, not only saving time for managers but improving the overall employee experience by giving companies the ability to reimburse employees same-day — without compromising controls, accuracy, or peace of mind.

“This is an exciting update for us as it proves how AI can truly disrupt an age-old control and reimbursement process in finance, while massively improving compliance and employee satisfaction,” said Anant Kale, Co-founder & CEO of AppZen. “This new product allows managers to spot leakage, misuse, and bad behaviors across the organization. We also understand that approving expense reports is not the best use of these talented peoples’ time. That’s where this new product comes in — as the insight layer to our expense audit product.”

The Insights product was developed in response to popular demand from existing customers, several of which are listed on the Fortune 500. While AppZen Expense Audit answered the request for real-time auditing, manager approvals could not be eliminated without compromising on controls until expense spend behavior was tracked and reported. Now, Insights gives managers inside the company the ability to improve their teams’ expense behavior over time while simultaneously removing the need to approve every expense.

The Insights product is currently available as an add-on to purchase by anyone currently using Expense Audit. Please see the AppZen Website and Blog for further details.

FINRA Rule 2010 impacts Expense Reports

FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) is a non-governmental organization that regulates member brokerage firms and exchange markets. FINRA works along side the government agency, Securities and Exchange Commission.

According to the Broke and Broker blog which focuses on securities fraud, “FINRA alleged that Crossman made intentionally false statements to Merrill Lynch through his submission of the January 2017 expense report in an attempt to obtain an unjustified reimbursement for expenses that had not been incurred, in violation of FINRA Rule 2010.”

FINRA Rule 2010 requires all associated persons to observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade. A registered representative who provides false or misleading information to his member-firm employer violates FINRA Rule 2010. It is a rather broad rule for ethics and accuracy and reminds me of the “Books and Records” rule of the Securities Exchange Act (Section 17(a).

This puts the blame specifically at the employee level but the issue of ‘errors’ on expense reports is not new to Merrill. According to a memo reviewed by AdvisorHub, the firm found that 66% of  business development account (aka BDA) claim submissions were returned “due to errors and ineligible expenses.”

FINRA’s Disciplinary Actions Report (link)

Joshua Thomas Crossman (CRD #2633781, Jupiter, Florida)
May 2, 2018 – An AWC was issued in which Crossman was assessed a deferred fine of $10,000 and suspended from association with any FINRA member in all capacities for six months. Without admitting or denying the findings, Crossman consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that he intentionally made false statements to his member firm in an expense report in an attempt to obtain reimbursement of approximately $524 for expenses that he did not incur. The findings stated that Crossman instructed his assistant to submit the expense report seeking reimbursement for mileage and dinner expenses. Crossman represented that these expenses were incurred during two meetings and a dinner with prospective clients. Subsequently, Crossman admitted to the firm that the meetings and dinner did not take place and that he submitted the false expense report to avoid forfeiting the unused funds in his business development account. As a result, the firm rejected Crossman’s expense report and no funds were disbursed to him. The suspension is in effect from May 7, 2018, through November 6, 2018. (FINRA Case #2017053816101)

Firms should also be mindful of how they track and control gifts and ‘expenses with others’ as per FINRA Rule 3220 (Influencing or Rewarding Employees of Others), 3221 (Restrictions on Non-Cash Compensation) and 3222 (Business Entertainment). Many firms are using pre-spend approval processes on these higher risk categories of spend.

Divvy Expense Management Solution Raised $55M in Funding

Divvy is software start-up expense report and spend management company based in Utah that raised $55M in 2018 funding from a combined Series A and B. Divvy is hiring many new roles to meet their claimed 60% monthly revenue growth.

Divvy is trying to take reduce the friction of the entire expense report process for both users and clients. The Divvy pricing model is free for users and clients. The model actually gives 1% of card spend BACK to clients. Divvy corporate revenue comes from a share of the interchange fees between the merchants and credit card issues.

“Every time you spend using Divvy, that merchant pays a fee (called interchange) to MasterCard and the issuing bank. This fee is shared with us, by them.” – Divvy Pricing Page

The solution is focused more on small and mid-market clients that need an easy, and affordable, way to manage their T&E spend. Divvy’s approach is to manage spend at the credit card level – often a virtual Divvy card that can be matched to specific vendors. These virtual cards can be ‘burner’ cards for individual employees that can be instantly revoked or a ‘subscription’ card for use only on specific vendors accounts.

Divvy has recently partnered with corporate payments company WEX to offer solutions for workers that don’t want to use their own personal cards.

Some items to keep in mind if you are looking for a small to mid-market solution like Divvy. This could be a good solution if low to no ‘cost’ is important and you don’t have enough spend volume to negotiate directly with a credit card issuer. But you need to confirm if your organization needs to frequently cross charge or split allocations to different business units (aka cost centers) on a single transaction; if this is the case then make sure that Divvy functionality can support your business processes.

Certify acquires Abacus’s real time expense management solution

Last month, expense management software company Certify announced the acquisition of Abacus. Certify itself was recently purchased by K1 Investments and merged along with a portfolio of spend management solutions which included Nexonia, ExpenseWatch and Tallie. It was almost one year ago that Certify acquired a corporate online booking tool platform from nuTravel. K1 has $125M of equity in their expense management portfolio before the additions of Abacus and the nuTravel booking tool.

The Abacus acquisition will increase Certify’s client base by 10% to about 11,000 enterprise customers. In 2014 Concur publicly stated having 23,000 customers globally and that number might have reached 30,000 since the SAP acquisition.

What is real-time expense reporting? Abacus uses a rather unique way to process expenses. Employees are encouraged to submit expenses as-they-happen unlike traditional solutions that encourage users to bundle all expenses into a single report. Managers then see the expenses for their approval in real-time in what Abacus calls Live Reports – “customizable reports you can review and approve expenses by location, by project, by employee or dollar thresholds, or any other criteria you want.” Abacus calls the traditional report based process a bottleneck to the visibility of spend as it happens. As such, the pricing model is based on active user and not per report submitted. Pricing is structured at two levels, $9 and $12 per user, and custom pricing for larger organizations. Most companies average just above 1 ‘report’ per month per employee, if you are trying to make a comparison then a review of your own historical data should be easy to calculate.

They define ‘active user’ as anyone that has submitted an expense during a given month. Since users are submitting individual expense transactions, and not whole reports, you might expect to see a modest program cost increase depending on your user behaviors.

Abacus has a heavy marketing focus on recruiters that need to quickly reimburse candidates for interview related expenses as the platform can make direct deposits into a candidate’s bank account within 2 business days. Interestingly, Abacus offers direct deposit reimbursements as a free service while this generally comes at a cost with Concur Pay.

Slack integration with Abacus allows employees to submit expense and draft expense reports directly within Slack. Abacus’ platform learns a user’s behavior and then make automated expense ‘suggestions’ for spend categories, vendor names and more. Both Slack and AI based ‘suggestions’ adds features that compete with those of Concur. However, configurations of policy controls appear intuitive for companies that need to manage T&E spend without dedicating full time resources with specific platform domain knowledge.

Another distinction between Certify and Abacus is the global footprint. Abacus is available only in English and while it can accept other currencies the reimbursement process is in USD. Certify supports 50+ languages and 130+ currencies.