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As part of a massive data consolidation effort begun last year, American Express has replaced multiple regional data card feeds with a single, global card feed for about 40 multinational card clients, The Transnationalhas learned. Amex made the change as the need for transparency, efficiency and cost savings has accelerated corporate demand for better and more timely global card data.
Corporations are increasingly moving purchasing to card or electronic platforms, revisiting central billing and demanding more data consolidation from suppliers, according to analysts, suppliers and recent surveys. By every metric, global payments by credit card and automated clearinghouse are growing by double digits, as payments by cash and checks shrink. But once the payments are made electronically, corporations want robust, accurate and consistent data to quickly reconcile and analyze spending.
In response, suppliers are standardizing and enhancing global data.
For Amex, the single feed replaced the multiple regional data files that clients or automated expense vendors previously received to pre-populate charges into expense reports. Previously, Amex provided clients separate regional feeds for cards issued in the United States and Canada; Latin America and Caribbean; Europe; and Japan, Asia and Australia.
American Express now scrubs the data, consolidates it, and formats it to provide just one feed in any of three data formats for clients at no additional cost. Global daily feed options include detailed or summarized un-billed transactions, card member listings and an interim aging report to monitor payments and delinquencies.
Although they have adjusted their solutions to accept multiple feeds from multiple credit card firms and other vendors, expense vendors are nonetheless anticipating the single new global feed as a means to deliver better data to clients. Extensity's A.G. Lambert estimates that 80 percent to 90 percent of his company's U.S. clients are now receiving payment feeds to populate expense reports. "The biggest drivers of multiple card feeds are purchasing cards and T&E cards," he said.
As just over half of CyberShift Necho's clients have deployed the expense tool across borders, the single, global card feed makes it much easier and faster for these companies to implement, said senior product director Craig Fearon. The midmarket is increasingly going global, he added.
Last year, US Bank joined an international consortium of banks branded as Global Commercial Payment Solutions, which aims to simplify contact and centralize data for multinational corporations implementing Visa commercial cards in as many as 37 countries. Launched in 2001 and headquartered in London, the GCPS joint venture is owned by Bank of America, US Bank, Visa International, ANZ Group, Barclays Bank, BBVA Grupo, BNP Paribas and the Royal Bank of Scotland. GCPS has brought in 25 additional banks in Central Europe, the Middle East, Africa, China, India, Japan, Scandinavia and Taiwan to help support implementation and data consolidation for clients.
At year-end, more than 30 companies worldwide had implemented card programs with overall charge volume of more than $1.75 billion through GCPS.
MasterCard last month also announced a major update to its global authorization processing platform on a common interface set to debut in the second half of 2007. "Through this standardized global authorization platform, banks that have, or are planning to have, global extensions, will be able to better aggregate and analyze transaction information," said MasterCard global technology and operations president W. Roy Dunbar. The new platform will be rolled out to all banks by late 2009.
Citigroup Diners Club also offers a multinational card program, compiling data from the MasterCard network in the United States and either Diners Club or MasterCard elsewhere.
In a survey earlier this year of 157 corporate executives involved in travel management, AirPlus International found that 55 percent of respondents use a central billing system and more are moving to this option, said president and CEO Richard Crum. The data, ease of reconciliation and rebate opportunities are prompting some to revisit this concept.
AirPlus this spring introduced a new means to consolidate data for those booking online using a lodge or ghost card as a form of payment for air, rail or other travel services. With this new functionality, named AirPlus Integrated Data and Acceptance, companies can use their AirPlus MasterCard to authorize payment to contracted suppliers and collect necessary data from cardholders, such as employee numbers, cost centers, project numbers or other details. If the AirPlus card is not accepted as a form of payment by the hotel, low-cost carrier or rail provider, AIDA automatically creates a MasterCard number for the transaction. While the payment is settled separately with the vendor, clients have the data they need to reconcile all charges. AIDA has been rolled out in the United Kingdom and Germany, and is expected to launch in Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.
AirPlus officials estimate that AIDA could eliminate up to 30 percent of back-end process work.
The faster companies can reconcile expenses, the faster they can schedule payments to maximize float and rebates, several expense vendors noted.
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