Nov 10, 2022
4 min read

How to design and launch a global expense policy

Trish Toovey - Content Director at Payhawk - The financial system of tomorrowTrish Toovey
Employee wondering how to design expense policy for corporate cards
Quick summary

Whether an SME or large enterprise, your business needs defined expense policies to help manage spend. But how do you build an expense policy that empowers your people without losing control of spend?

Table of Contents

    Expenses are essential for businesses. And while in the movies, bad 'business expenses' might look like yachts and diamond watches, you know first-hand that in the real world, they're often much smaller and occur because of a lack of structure around policies.

    For your non-finance colleagues, chances are checking the expense policies is low on their list. But as a company, you need policies to ensure everyone follows the rules and sticks within your painstakingly planned budgets. So, how do you create easy-to-follow business expense policies for your employees and teams?

    From reducing overspending to boosting compliance, you should design each spend policy to help the business make the most of its resources. And use intuitive tech to remove the barriers that make compliance hard for your colleagues.

    What is an expense policy?

    At its core, an expense policy is a strategic document that sets clear guidelines on employee spending. It's designed to help employees understand what expenses are business-related, how they should report them, and the reimbursement procedures. A comprehensive expense policy covers various types of expenses, from travel expenses to client entertainment, and delineates the limits and restrictions for each. By clearly outlining these aspects, an expense policy plays a pivotal role in maintaining financial control and ensuring responsible use of company resources.

    Make compliance a breeze with in-built policies & workflows

    Common challenges in expense management and how expense policies help address them

    Effectively managing corporate expenses is crucial, but it comes with its set of challenges. Here's a rundown of the four core problems facing finance professionals:

    1. Ensuring compliance: Using clear spending rules stops mistakes or fraud caused by manual oversight.
    2. Reducing manual errors: Digital solutions reduce errors from the manual handling of corporate cards and can put the policy right in the hands of the employees as they make payments (meaning compliance is easy, and they don't have to search around for any rules and regs).
    3. Improving tracking efficiency: Make expense tracking easier by moving away from manual methods.
    4. Enhancing visibility: Defined rules help employees log expenses correctly, letting you easily spot deviations and understand spending in real time.

    With Payhawk, these challenges are addressed by creating a custom expense policy to ensure efficient and compliant expense management.

    The role of technology in streamlining expense policies

    Technology plays a transformative role in enhancing expense policy management. There are four main benefits to using such solutions in your corporate expense management operations.

    1. Automated invoice processing: Reduces the risk of manual errors, streamlines operations, and speeds up the expense management process.
    2. Data integration and real-time analysis: Provides immediate insights into company spending, helping with better budget control and financial decision-making.
    3. Ensuring policy compliance: Automated systems can flag expenses not complying with company policy, thereby maintaining strict adherence.
    4. Efficient reporting and analysis: Facilitates in-depth analysis and reporting of expenses, aiding in strategic financial planning.

    Leveraging expense management solutions like Payhawk not only simplifies and automates these processes but also brings a level of precision and control that manual methods cannot match, revolutionizing how companies handle expense policies.

    The requirements of successful expense policies

    Although every enterprise has unique expense policy requirements, there are lots that they have in common, including determining what kind of expense type, reimbursement eligibility, and spend limits should be factored into the policy.

    No matter the shape or size of your business, your policies should also include some kind of approval chain, too, so that the team managers and finance team can have a good overview of spend, and nothing strange can slip through the cracks. But what should an approval chain look like? In the old world, if one of your non-finance colleagues needed to spend money on a particular item or software subscription, they'd likely first submit a request to access funds or follow a procurement process.

    Now with a solution like Payhawk, featuring cards and expense management software, you and your finance colleagues can ensure each card has the right associated budget, and when the card user needs to request more funds, they can do so via the app in a couple of clicks.

    The number of approvers you choose to feature in the workflow is up to you and will depend on your own business structure. According to our customers, two levels or more is the most popular option, with 37.84% choosing to include two approvers in their workflow. (Data taken from customers using Payhawk corporate Visa cards between 1st January and 30th September).

    At Payhawk, you can build your expense policies into the software with features like the workflows mentioned above, meaning that only approved expenses make it into your accounting system (and you can be as strict or as flexible as you wish).

    In addition to the workflows, every company should consider adding specific categories or subcategories to expenses that are unique to its industry or role. These categories will help with accounting, data collection, and budgeting.

    Exhaustive policy documents and folders

    Traditionally, these policies include long itemized lists detailing what employees can and can't pay for using their company cards which creates unnecessary rigidity between them and management. And can even cause dissatisfaction and low productivity for team members who feel stifled by strict rules and regs.

    For example, suppose you have business expense policies that include lunch and coffee as an expense type. Employees should be free to go through super simple procedures when they meet up for lunch with potential clients. From coffee to office rent, whatever the expense, you need tools that seamlessly help you control company spend, such as company cards backed by software with built-in expense policies.

    Expense reports that don't get approved fast enough

    Expense reports can get complicated in some companies because they often require more information from both parties; the employee and the manager.

    In general, many businesses have policies that are too long and detailed, which causes problems when employees are expected to read and understand them. The best way to avoid your policies gathering dust is by having a spend management solution in place. The employee can make a fund request or spend via their company card, which is connected to smart expense management software. The software already has the expense policies built-in, so the employee doesn't have to search and make sure they're being compliant. And what's more, the finance team and / or manager can see and approve the expense instantly as they're using the same solution and not waiting for different tools to sync.

    Using our solution, team leaders and finance teams get automated reminders to check and approve requests as soon as they're raised. And they can approve them in seconds via the app without losing any spend visibility and control.

    Worried that approval processes will be too lengthy? At Payhawk, 75% of our customers approve requests within just one hour. (Data taken from customers using Payhawk corporate cards between 1st January and 30th September).

    Benefits of effective expense policies

    Businesses must set rules around expenses in order to control spend. By creating expense policies, companies can manage their spending, ensure compliance, and provide data to make better business decisions.

    At Payhawk, we offer a unique approach to your company spend management that includes several key features:

    In-built guidance: You can use spend policies to create rules that explain which type of expenses and /or vendors are allowed.

    Set up recurring spend limits: Set limits on the amount an employee is allowed to spend on certain types of expenses as a percentage of their total budget.

    Set per diem rates: You can set custom rates for per diems and reimburse employees in a couple of clicks from the portal.

    Spend policies and approval flows: Create approval flows so managers can approve or deny requests for funds or reimbursement based on company policy. This gives managers more control over spending at the department level, if required, rather than having someone outside the department handle all approvals manually (which can lead to errors).

    When creating smart business expense policies with Payhawk, you can create, submit and approve expense reports from anywhere. You can also track expenses as they happen to get a complete and real-time view of spend.

    Best practices for implementing an expense policy

    Implementing an expense policy effectively requires a blend of strategic planning and practical approaches:

    1. Develop clear and comprehensive guidelines: A detailed policy covering various spending scenarios helps set clear expectations.
    2. Frequent updates and policy reviews: Regularly updating the policy to reflect changes in business operations and market conditions ensures relevance and effectiveness.
    3. Comprehensive employee training and engagement: Educating employees about the policy and its importance in the company's financial health fosters a culture of compliance.
    4. Enforcement and monitoring: Consistently applying the policy and monitoring for adherence prevents policy violations and ensures fairness.

    These best practices, bolstered by Payhawk's advanced tools, create a robust framework for expense policy implementation, driving financial integrity and operational efficiency across the organization.

    In conclusion

    With Payhawk, you can create spend policies where you can easily configure built-in approval workflows and spend limits to give your employees the freedom to spend while still staying in control and reducing manual effort.

    Book a demo to learn how to set up hassle-free company expense policies using Payhawk's all-in-one spend management solution.

    Trish Toovey - Content Director at Payhawk - The financial system of tomorrow
    Trish Toovey
    Senior Content Manager

    Trish Toovey works across the UK and US markets to craft content at Payhawk. Covering anything from ad copy to video scripting, Trish leans on a super varied background in copy and content creation for the finance, fashion, and travel industries.

    See all articles by Trish →

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