U.S. Bank To Offer Cos. Web Version Of Gov. Reporting Tool
Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank Corporate Payment Systems this month plans to release a new Web-based reporting platform, called Access Online, a commercialized version of its Care product originally designed for the government sector. U.S. Bank also is considering building an expense reporting solution.
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The Visa card issuer had rolled out the Care product—which provides account setup, maintenance and status, reporting and transaction management for both purchasing and T&E cards—to some corporate clients in mid-2000. "We built Care back in 1998 based on government requirements, but we found it didn't work as well for the commercial audience," said Rob Abele, president of U.S. Bank Corporate Payment Systems. In terms of expense management, he said, "We've tended to let others build that capability and we have aligned with them to make sure we do a good job of integrating, and we continue to do that," he said. "We are taking a look, however, at developing perhaps our own expense reporting solution within Access Online or Care. We're now analyzing whether that's where we want to go as we've seen some competitors move there."
JP Morgan Chase has a two-year-old expense reporting tool that is not intended "to compete with the major providers, but to have a product that is basic-featured and probably would appeal to the midmarket," said senior vice president Gene Ryzewicz. "There are two reasons we went after the midmarket with expense reporting," added a JP Morgan Chase spokesperson. "Some companies are just too small, and there's not enough return on investment with not enough cardholders, so you don't need all that added functionality."
U.S. Bank's Abele questioned the viability of a model in which, he said, some corporate card vendors are "giving away" an expense management system.
Most corporate card and expense management providers partner to share data for joint clients. "We're also looking at alliances with expense management providers," said Jim Pratt, director of corporate card services for Cendant Corp.'s Wright Express in Portland, Maine. "The knock on them is that it's hugely expensive and middle companies are not in a position to consider it, so they might like 'expense management lite' from their card vendors."
Regarding the financial health of corporate expense management software providers, Abele said, "It will be interesting to see what happens. In purchasing, the equivalent is the front-end procurement systems, the two biggest being Ariba and CommerceOne, and they are bleeding. That contrasts with the expense reporting space, where some are starting to do better and some are not. Many are not at critical mass yet." Asked why a client would select a less full-featured expense system from its payment provider, Abele said, "It depends on the sophistication of what clients want. Scaled down is great, but lots of the Fortune 500 want to customize the solution and that takes investment. Even some of these companies are out of investment dollars."