Payments is Changing the Role of TMCs

Last month I was invited to participate on a panel about Payments for Business Travel News’ annual Innovate conference. The two-part panel addressed some interesting points, including the adoption of virtual payments and how the COVID-19 pandemic has completely accelerated payment technology and adoption, as well as what lies ahead.

>> Related: Anatomy of the New Corporate Travel Tech Stack <<

As a travel and expense management solution provider, TravelBank is at the front lines of what travel buyers want and need, and it’s become increasingly clear that payments are going to play a big role for what’s ahead. Below are some of the ways our team is thinking about what that future looks like:

The Needs of Businesses Are Driving Innovation

With travel volume down, one thing we’ve heard from customers is that they’re looking for solutions that streamline expenditure reconciliation. Every dollar is being measured for ROI and as distributed workforces adjust to continued remote operations, keeping finances in shape has become a top priority. Furthermore, financial managers want better software for both themselves and their employees, as well as better reporting. They want solutions that are intuitive and make big tasks like closing the books at the end of every month, not only efficient but insightful. They want real-time data that is going to help them make business decisions.

The need to bridge financial management with travel is key in helping businesses get through this time. More and more companies are realizing this and its leading to an influx of new platform offerings and features in the market.

…Thus the Role of TMCs is Changing

Expectedly, customers are now looking to their travel management companies (TMCs) to deliver product features and services that address their new problems, such as safety tracking, unused ticket management, corporate card management, and more.

Our team has been focused on building out an expense management platform that not only addresses these problems but also allows for more customization when it comes to internal interfaces and even the expense fields in reports, to accommodate for different industries, including healthcare and construction.

TMCs are going to have to be agile to see through this challenging time and collaborate with customers more. Those that won’t build more tech-focused and intuitive platforms will likely be acquired or find it difficult to recover.

Undoubtedly, COVID-19 Has Accelerated The Use of Virtual Payments

According to a recent survey, mobile wallet adoption has almost doubled in the past six months. Prior to the pandemic, only 38% of consumers utilized a mobile wallet, and now over 64% of people use this technology due to the touch-free and seamless experience it provides.

This acceleration will not only benefit consumers, but provides a unique opportunity for the industry to further innovate this technology and potentially create a new, preferred method of payment. It also allows for credit card providers to gain more footing into the travel business, and for businesses to further utilize more of their company credit, without having to issue more physical corporate cards than they’re comfortable with.

Virtual Payments is Key to Reaching and Potentially Surpassing Other Countries

Other industry competitors with operations overseas have tapped into local trends and leveraged virtual payment technology like that in China where in-app purchases and mobile wallets are the norm, not a novelty. Through the adoption of virtual payments, the U.S. has a clear opportunity to not only catch up but potentially surpass other countries that are leveraging technology in everyday life.

Right now we’re still using cash and checks but virtual payments are laying the groundwork for the next wave of innovation.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The consensus from the panel was that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a unique challenge for travel managers: they need to ensure every precaution is taken along the way as they conduct light business travel and they also need to keep their budgets more organized than ever before.

Here at TravelBank, we’re using this time to innovate and address the rising needs of our customers. Travel and expenses have always run in parallel and through our evolving platform and features dedicated to streamlining the expense process, we’re continuing to bridge the gap between the two and enable more efficiency.