BTN's annual answer book for business travel managers.
KDS's Roxana Bressy & Amex GBT's Oliver Quayle talk:
It's been over a year since American Express Global Business
KDS and Roxana Bressy took over as KDS CEO, following Dean
Forbes departure in 2016. The T&E provider kept a low profile last year
as it found its footing. KDS also is expanding its team so much that Amex GBT
VP of product marketing and innovation Oliver Quayle, who is British, joked
about inventing the double-decker desk. Quayle, who came onboard when Amex GBT
bought KDS, and KDS CEO Roxana Bressy spoke with BTN payment and expense editor
BTN: KDS has been
quiet. What's been keeping you busy?
been very quiet for a long time because we've been internationalizing and
globalizing our product to become a local solution in each country, and there’s
nothing really sexy about that.
BTN: You had a
"very good year" in 2017. What does a good year entail?
Bressy: After an
acquisition, anything can happen and customers can leave, but we've had 100
percent customer retention. We've gotten new customers, too. One of the deals
we signed was a major French utility company client for travel. They will add
expense at the end of 2018. We also signed a T&E deal with La Poste, France's
postal service company, which has 260,000 employees. All of their 80,000 postal
[workers] will use KDS Expense solely on their mobile, as they don't have computers.
For the 12 months of 2017, we had between 13 percent and 14 percent transaction
growth, which after an acquisition is really great.
BTN: What market
experienced the biggest percentage growth?
Nordics. Amadeus is closing down e-Travel and migrating to Cytric. A lot of the
Nordic [customers] didn't want to go to a forced migration. That definitely did
it, and with the backing of Amex GBT, we get a lot of development [support] to
the region, as well.
After an acquisition, anything can happen and customers can leave, but we've had 100 percent customer retention."
BTN: Before the
acquisition, KDS's penetration into the U.S. was slow. How are things progressing?
Quayle: Our owner
is [U.S. based], and they've been very stringent on what the entry criteria is
before they hand us the keys and push all their customers onto KDS. If it were up
to KDS, it'd be a lot quicker, but before the first half of 2018, you'll start
to see a huge amount of migration of U.S. customers onto the KDS platform—I'm
talking about thousands [of travelers]. The first three quarters [of the year will
be focused on growing] in the U.S., and then the fourth quarter we'll move into
BTN: KDS released
a new Neo Expense interface for both mobile and desktop on Jan. 20. Why did you
decide to change it?
Quayle: When we
first did NEO Expense, we used the iPad as the reference platform and it was
all drag and drop. It looked cool and was great, but the user feedback was that
if you're not on an iPad, then it's hard to drag and drop. So we changed the
reference platform to mobile. Now it's just touch. As you touch [the interface]
it knows what you're likely to want to do next and suggests which expense items
will be put into the calendar for you. It's a lot more intuitive and faster.
BTN: France used
to require companies to keep paper records of all paper receipts and invoices
but updated legislation in December 2016 to allow PDF records instead. How is KDS
helping clients with this dematerialization, as it's referred to in France?
digital process must comply with the legislation in terms of security and PDF
certification. KDS provides the electronic signature on behalf of our customers
that is recognized as following the legislation requirements. It is not an
obligation to go digital; however, due to the cost of receipt storage and
internal logistics, most companies want to go for a paperless process. One KDS
customer said they had about 40 kilometers of receipt boxes. So finally we've
enabled customers to be 100 percent digital. That was a big achievement.
Bressy: With the
help of one of our customers, which is also one of the biggest
[telecommunications] companies in France, KDS developed the process beginning
in 2017 and for all customers in April 2017.
Before the first half of 2018 you'll start to see a huge amount of migration of U.S. customers onto the KDS platform. I'm talking about in the thousands [of travelers]."
Concur, KDS and Deem have made up the integrated T&E sector, but in
acquired NuTravel's corporate online booking tool. How do you feel about having
get bogged down because travel is very complicated. I'm certain innovation for
them will slow while they take onboard that complexity. Additionally, Certify
is mainly in the U.S. If they want to come into Europe, moving to Europe is
like relaunching in the U.S. times 20 and with one-twentieth of the revenue. It'll
be difficult for them to scale while also internationalizing. Good luck to
them. It validates the fact that T&E, travel and expense pulled together is
a valuable solution. Having another player will only be good for the ecosystem
because it will bring innovation, bring competition. What we need right now is
BTN: Roxana, how
have you grown into your role as CEO of KDS and what are your goals for this
Bressy: I learned a lot and I'm happy the year was
successful. Our employee retention was the best ever. We kept all of our
people. We are also adding a lot of people by increasing our R&D and
product team by more than 50 percent. In 2018, we'll continue to grow our
market share in the new regions, and [we'll focus on] the growth of our company
by integrating all these new people. We want to come back to the market with
innovation and announce something before the end of 2018.
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