Product update

Soldo’s Summer Update: Helping you accomplish more with new platform updates

3 July 2024  |   5 minutes read

For us, 2024 is about ensuring that finance teams are liberated from the laborious admin of spend management – freeing them and their business to focus on strategic activities that drive competitiveness. Our latest updates continue to listen to you and your needs – so we’ve gone back to basics to ensure more productivity and reduce inconveniences when managing your spend.

Maximising your productivity, putting you in control:

Make all forms of payments through one solution

We’ve introduced more options to make payments via Soldo than ever before. Teams can now handle different types of payments under one roof, without having to seek different methods elsewhere. ‘Pay Someone’ brings the flexibility to make outbound bank transfers to employees or suppliers directly from the Soldo platform. So for moments when using your Soldo card isn’t an option, Pay Someone acts as the alternative to ensure you can pay supplier invoices or make one-off external payments from the Soldo platform.

Reach new levels of efficiency by setting card rules in bulk

For organisations with a large volume of cards to manage – setting spend rules for these cards is now a smooth and seamless task. Whether it’s setting spending limits or specifying how and when Soldo cards can be used (e.g. limiting use by geo-location or merchant category), these rules can now be set in bulk via ‘Card Rules Presets’. Not only does this reduce any manual effort but it means that different presets can be configured and applied to specific groups or teams – the result – full control of spend based on your business needs.

Enjoy greater flexibility with temporary virtual cards available via mobile

We want to ensure that anyone using Soldo is empowered to make a purchase as and when they need to, wherever they are. We’ve brought our ‘Pre-approved spend’ capabilities over to mobile to enable exactly that – giving admins and users the flexibility to request, approve and access Temporary virtual cards on the go.

Reducing those inconveniences:

Fewer disruptions when you’re in the zone

We’ve all been there, being logged-out of an app when working across different tools and trying to get things done. Our updated inactivity timer, means that you can be inactive for 15 minutes without having to log-in again, giving you more time to focus on the tasks at hand.

Want to maximise Soldo’s capabilities? Explore our new Business API portal

Our Business API Portal is a one-stop resource for teams seeking to automate financial processes. User-friendly, and comprehensive – our documentation covers how our APIs facilitate everything from transaction exports to virtual card management, driving productivity across the board.

Continuously building around your needs

Our Soldo team is on the ground listening out for your challenges and needs. Our platform improvements and feature releases aim to push you to greater levels of productivity.

If you want to learn more about these features and Soldo’s Amazon Business integration, check out our latest product update webinar.

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The Soldo Spend Index – Spring 2024: Rise of AI and key insights for financial leaders

2 July 2024  |   3 minutes read

Amid significant political and economic shifts, navigating the new business landscape has become ever more important for finance leaders who are being recognised as agents of growth.

Soldo’s Spend Index offers a clear, data-driven snapshot of current spending trends for over 18,000 companies using Soldo to help inform strategic decision-making in unpredictable times.

Harnessing artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence continues to be a significant driver of innovation and efficiency in business operations. According to our data, AI investment has surged 449% compared to last year. This substantial increase underscores the growing importance of technology in maintaining competitive advantage, improving productivity and adding value.

The report also identifies which industries and sectors are leading and lagging in their digital transformation efforts. Download the report to see how your business and sector compare.

Nomadic employee spending

By nomadic employee, we don’t mean the colleague taking video calls on a beach in Bali, we mean employees who spend an increasing amount of time working away from their home or office for work purposes, like a long-distance truck driver or salesperson.

Our data shows a 20% increase in travel and entertainment-related spending, reflecting changing trends in employee work locations and habits. For businesses with nomadic employees, this insight is particularly valuable for financial planning and employee enablement.

Download report

Practising sustainability

ESG is more than a buzzword – the report highlights a dramatic increase in environmentally focused spending with a 324% increase in EV charging station spending for large businesses.

This surge indicates a strong move towards more sustainable practices, a trend that is becoming increasingly important to customers, employees and investors alike.

Download the Spend Index

The Soldo Spend Index is a business tool offering detailed insights into the spending behaviours shaping industries. It provides finance leaders with direct year-on-year comparisons, which is essential for effective forecasting and strategic planning.

How are spending trends shaping industries in 2024? Soldo’s latest Spend Index – Spring 2024 report provides insight into business spend and saving in 2024 and what this means for financial leaders who find themselves at the heart of these decisions.

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Introducing Pay Someone: make outbound bank transfers directly from Soldo

13 March 2024  |   5 minutes read

Today we’re excited to announce Soldo’s new outbound bank transfer feature, Pay Someone.

Pay Someone is a significant step forward in enhancing Soldo’s payment capabilities, giving you more payment options than ever before. With Pay Someone you can make outbound bank transfers to pay others, like employees or suppliers, right from the Soldo platform. It’s a simple yet effective payment capability that helps you manage all types of payment from a single platform. This feature sets the stage for further supplier management and payment enhancements coming later in 2024 – so watch this space!

What is Pay Someone?

Pay Someone is a new feature available in Soldo that enables quick and easy bank transfers, directly from the web or mobile app. Pay Someone supports Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) and Faster Payments Service (FPS) bank transfers. It’s perfect for out-of-pocket reimbursements, invoice payments, and more. No more switching between banking systems – saving you valuable time.

“Soldo’s ‘Pay Someone’ feature has streamlined Nuage’s payment processes, making supplier payments and fund transfers quick and seamless.

It’s become a vital tool that has helped us enhance our client services in the travel industry.” – Carl Paes, Sales Director, Nuage

How can Pay Someone help you?

Pay Someone gives you more payment options to help with day-to-day business spending:

  • Easy reimbursement: Reimburse employees for out-of-pocket expenses with ease. As part of our Pay Someone capability, we have developed a dedicated, embedded workflow into our existing expense management process. This means that reimbursement can be initiated swiftly in Soldo, without switching to other systems.
  • Make payments to any third-party: Pay any person or organisation quickly through Soldo. When it’s not possible to use your Soldo card, Pay Someone can be used as an alternative to pay supplier invoices or make one off external payments. You can even set up and save regular payees to make future payments efficiently.
  • Proactive cash flow management: Easily transfer funds back from Soldo to your business bank accounts to help you manage your ongoing cashflow.

Bank transfers made via Pay Someone can come from your Main Wallet or from ringfenced funds assigned to Company Wallets. This ensures transactions are correctly allocated to the right teams or projects.

Who can use Pay Someone?

Pay Someone is only available to customers who are using our new plans “Standard, Plus or Enterprise”.

It can be used by Super Admins looking for a straightforward way to make outbound payments. For more details on how the feature works, please see our Help Centre FAQs.

How do I learn more?

To learn more about our new plans, please see our plan and pricing overview or click here to get a 30 day free trial.

If you’re a current customer and want to find out more information, please speak to customer support or your account manager or customer success manager.

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New integration: effortless bookkeeping with Soldo and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central

14 December 2023  |   3 minutes read

We’re excited to announce that you can now integrate Soldo with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central to make your bookkeeping effortless.

“At Soldo, our goal is to simplify tasks for our customers. Recognising that many of our users rely on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, we’ve integrated the two platforms, accelerating the reconciliation process and enhancing financial reporting and analysis.” – Martina Paolicchi, Integrations Product Manager at Soldo

This integration is available on Soldo Pro, Premium and Enterprise plans today at no additional cost.

Why integrate Soldo with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central?

Soldo’s direct connection to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central syncs your expense data for accurate accounting and easy reconciliation.

Save time and effort: Sync your Soldo expense data to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central in a single click. This integration seamlessly transfers financial information without the risk of human error.

Speed up month-end: Close your books faster with the data you need for easy reconciliation. The Soldo mobile app captures receipts, lists, and notes at the point of purchase. Validate and effortlessly send this data to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.

Improve accuracy: Eliminate the risk of manual data entry errors for hassle-free, accurate reporting. Make more informed decisions based on precise, real-time financial data.

How can you connect Soldo and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central?

To connect Soldo to your Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central account, simply log in to Soldo and look for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central in the search box of the Marketplace section.

Next, select Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central and authorise the connection. Then, choose whether you want to export transactions to Microsoft Dynamics 365 as journal lines or purchase invoices. And you’re ready to go!

Connect today for seamless and accurate financial reporting with Soldo and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.

For more information, speak to your Customer Success Manager or read though our FAQs.

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New integration: Automatically reconcile your Amazon Business expenses

28 November 2023  |   4 minutes read

Today we’re excited to announce Soldo’s new collaboration with Amazon Business.

At Soldo, we saw that our customers were processing thousands of transactions with Amazon Business. So we set out to make it a process that’s even easier to manage.

The new Soldo and Amazon Business integration automates the retrieval and reconciliation of Amazon Business invoices to eliminate errors and save your valuable time.

This integration is available on Soldo Premium and Enterprise plans today at no additional cost.

Why integrate Soldo with Amazon Business?

  • Save time: Always have the information you need for reconciliation. No need to download invoices or chase up invoices every month.
  • Save money: Use a dedicated virtual Soldo card for your Amazon Business purchases. Set custom spending limits, track budgets, and get granular control of your Amazon spending.
  • Save the hassle: Automatically match your Amazon Business invoices with transactions in Soldo to simplify reconciliation and eliminate errors.

“At Soldo we’re always looking for ways to save time for our customers. When we reviewed all the transaction data on our platform, it was clear that Amazon Business is a top merchant for our customers and having a seamless integration will add a lot of value.”
Martina Paolicchi, Integrations Product Manager at Soldo

How does it work?

When Amazon Business generates an invoice for one of your purchases on the platform, the invoice will automatically be sent to your Soldo account. Soldo then matches the invoice to the transaction, and reconciliation is done for you. Month-end made easy!

Get started today

To unlock this time-saving integration, simply activate the Amazon Business integration in the Marketplace section of your Soldo account.

Amazon Business integration

For more information, you can speak to your Customer Success Manager or read though our FAQs.

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Introducing mileage reimbursement

23 October 2023  |   6 minutes read

In speaking to our customers, we know two things to be true:

  1. Business mileage is one of the most common types of expense claims finance teams are managing day-to-day.
  2. Claiming and reimbursing business mileage is a challenge for both finance teams and employees.

That’s why we’re excited to introduce Soldo’s new mileage reimbursement feature, designed to make mileage claims and reimbursement easy and accurate for everyone involved. With this new feature, our customers can simplify business spending even further, managing every type of expense in one platform.

What business mileage reimbursement challenges are we looking to solve?

Here are some of the main challenges that have influenced our approach to mileage at Soldo:

  • Employees who use their own personal vehicles, don’t get receipts for miles done for work, and must manually capture odometer readings etc. This makes reconciliation tricky, time-consuming, and frustrating.
  • It goes without saying that finance teams need to reimburse mileage claims accurately. However, being fair and correct isn’t always easy with so many different types of vehicles and manual approaches to calculating distance.
  • Many businesses use multiple disparate expense management processes and systems. This makes it impossible to centrally manage and stay on top of mileage – despite this being such a common business expense.

How does Soldo help with business mileage reimbursement?

Claim business mileage with ease

Using the Soldo Mobile App, employees can now add business trips and vehicle details in just a few taps. Soldo then automatically works out the reimbursement amount.

Here’s the best part: Soldo integrates seamlessly with Google Maps. Simply add your trip and vehicle details, then let Soldo calculate the distance for you. No more manual calculations.

Take control of mileage reimbursement rates

As an Admin, you can set default mileage reimbursement rates for various types of vehicles in Soldo – without being limited to a one-size-fits-all approach. Customise your rates by country, vehicle category, or even specific vehicle for advanced control and complete accuracy.

This level of customisation ensures that every mileage reimbursement is fair. An SUV isn’t the same as small-family hatchback, so why should they all be reimbursed at the same rate? With Soldo, you can configure the most common vehicle types and corresponding reimbursement rates.

Works with Soldo’s expense review

Now, you can review and approve mileage reimbursement claims just like any other expense in Soldo. Managing every type of expense in one platform means you save time by streamlining and automating your processes.

No more jumping around between different systems or approaches to manage different types of expenses. Do it all in Soldo.

“I’m excited about the launch of our mileage reimbursement feature. This is a common business expense that our customers have asked to manage in Soldo, and from today they can. We’ve made it easy for employees to submit mileage claims and for finance teams to make sure that reimbursement is accurate and fair.”Sarima Opara, Senior Product Manager, Soldo

Get started with mileage reimbursement today

The mileage reimbursement feature is available on our Premium and Enterprise plans. Get started today!

If you’re an Admin:

  • Log in to the Soldo Web App.
  • Add vehicles by clicking on ‘Configure’ in the left sidebar menu, then ‘Vehicles’.
  • Fill in the vehicle details and set a mileage reimbursement for each vehicle category, or for specific vehicles.

If you’re an Employee or an Approver:

  • Add your mileage in the ‘Users’ section of the Soldo Web App or Mobile App, just like you would for an out-of-pocket expense.
  • Fill in the details, use our Google Maps integration to help you add the correct distance, and select the relevant vehicle to get the right reimbursement rate.
  • Review and approve in minutes.

For more information, speak to your Account Manager or take a look at our FAQs.

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We’re now integrated with SAP Concur

18 April 2023  |   4 minutes read

We’re excited to announce that customers on our Enterprise plan can now integrate Soldo transaction data into SAP Concur. This provides a better way to give employees access to company money, with trust and control, while keeping tabs on finances within SAP Concur.

Monthly financial admin doesn’t need to be a chore. This integration automates the data transfer process, which saves your finance team the time and effort they’d normally spend copying data between systems. It also reduces the potential for any manual input mistakes, giving you confidence in your data and reporting.

How will this integration help you?

This integration brings together the spending power and control of Soldo Company Cards with the finance management capabilities (such as invoice management) of SAP Concur to deliver a unified experience.

Empower your employees, give them a Soldo Company Card

Employees shouldn’t be expected to use their own money for business purchases. This integration gives companies who use SAP Concur a way of giving their employees access to company money while maintaining control and oversight over spending.

Improve accuracy and prevent errors

You can now automatically see your Soldo transaction data in your SAP Concur account. Instead of having to manually input data, which is open to the potential of inaccuracies and human error, you have automated, reliable data ready to use at your fingertips.

A single, consistent and accurate view of your expense data

It can be tricky to keep track of employee and business spending when you have to switch between lots of different systems and data sets. This integration allows you to create a single source of expense data truth, so you can keep track of spending in one place.

Speed up your reporting

Sync Soldo transaction data with your existing SAP Concur account to give you all the financial data you need for monthly reconciliation. This also helps with detailed reporting and spend analysis so you can identify key trends and patterns as well as opportunities for cost saving.

How does it work?

Joining Soldo with your SAP Concur account, via Bank Feed integration, is simple:

  1. Contact your SAP Concur representative
  2. SAP Concur will share the required integration details with us
  3. We’ll connect the two systems
  4. We’ll contact you to confirm the integration

If you need help getting set up, we’re happy to support you through this process.

Please note that exported transactions will be assigned to the corresponding employee based on their employee ID specified within Soldo.

Get started today

Now that you know how this integration can support you and how to sync the two platforms together, it’s time to get connecting! For more information, speak to your Customer Success Manager or take a look at our FAQs.


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ESG: a game-changer for sustainable investing or greenwashing?

17 March 2023  |   13 minutes read
Photo of a central business district, where sustainable investing often happens.

Interest in sustainable investing is exploding. In 2022, 65% of all investment in European exchange-traded funds (the most popular type of investment among retail investors) went into “ESG-compliant” products.

Businesses are under growing pressure to present themselves as ethical, and environmentally and socially responsible.

ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) has become one of the most commonly bandied-about terms in business circles. And ESG ratings and data have grown into a $1.3 billion (around £1.08 billion) industry.

But is ESG actually an effective way to evaluate organisations’ impact on the planet? Or is the term close to becoming — if not already — a meaningless buzzword?

What is ESG?

Essentially, ESG is a framework to help with sustainable investing. It measures the overall impact of a particular business on our planet. The assessment is carried out by evaluating performance under three key pillars:

Your effect on the environment (Environmental)

These include considerations such as:

  • Your carbon footprint
  • How much energy you uses to make your products or deliver your services
  • How you source raw materials
  • Waste management practices.

Your Impact on the communities you operate in (Social)

  • How do you engage with consumers, suppliers, and other stakeholders?
  • What are your employment practices like?
  • And what kind of approach do you take to product safety and protecting the locals’ quality of life?

How your business is managed (Governance)

  • Are there checks and balances in place to ensure management behaves ethically and responsibly?
  • Do you have a diverse leadership team?
  • Is there a culture of inclusion?
  • Do you engage in government lobbying or other political activities?

Sustainable investing: not a new thing

Sustainable investing might seem like a new-fangled invention. But letting ethics drive investment decisions isn’t a new concept.

When the Methodist Church and the Quakers began investing on the stock market in the 19th century, they intentionally avoided companies involved in alcohol production, gambling, and other activities they considered morally questionable.

The idea caught on, and the first ethical investment fund — a mutual fund, called the Pax Fund, set up in protest at the Vietnam War — launched in 1971.

ESG takes things further. It provides, in theory, a set of criteria that lets investors assess how ethical and sustainable any business is.

The idea is that businesses with high ESG scores are bringing about positive change. And, so, are more likely to keep thriving. While those with poor scores are harming the planet, putting their long-term future at risk in the process.

The benefits of ESG and sustainable investing

Mainstream thinking around ESG is that it’s critically important. For two reasons.

First, at a time when people are increasingly worried about climate change and actively seeking out sustainable businesses, ESG offers a set of objective criteria to judge businesses.

There are those businesses striving to improve the planet – and those that, despite billing themselves as sustainable, have questionable credentials. Or, as the ICAEW puts it, ESG is “a mechanism to hold institutions accountable for their operations…”

Second, and more to the point, ESG’s proponents argue it offers compelling financial benefits. Studies suggest that investments with high ESG scores deliver above-market returns. This is typically attributed to the fact that ESG-compliant, sustainable investing is better in the long term.

ESG also makes it possible to identify opportunities and risks that wouldn’t turn up in a traditional financial analysis. Such as the benefits of creating clean, renewable energy, or avoiding the harms of child labour.

Most significantly, ESG is sometimes boiled down to a question of supply and demand. More and more, the argument goes, investors want to put their money into sustainable businesses. So, to remain competitive, investment products need to be sustainable. And ESG offers a way to ensure this is the case.

Beyond the hype: what if Emperor ESG has no clothes?

While, at first glance, it’s hard to disagree with the idea behind ESG, its detractors believe the arguments in its favour are fundamentally flawed.

According to Stuart Kirk, HSBC’s former global head of responsible investments, there are two key problems with ESG in its current form.

First, he says, the financial risks from climate change are being blown out of proportion.

“A common argument,” he says, “is that [climate change is] going to hit GDP in year number, whatever, 2100? They reckon it’s going to lop off 2.5%. Their worst case model lops off 5%.

“What they fail to tell everybody is that between now and 2100 the world is going to be between 500% and 1,000% richer. Lop 5% off that in 2100, who cares? You’ll never notice.”

Second, he says, humans have a track record of adaptation which climate risk models fail to take into account.

He explains:

“Imagine you’re in 1920 or 1930  and somebody said, ‘Stuart, what do you think the effect on growth will be of carbon emissions over the next 100 years?’ And I’d get out my model and go okay, well, there’s a lot of gas guzzling cars, there are a lot of ships, there’s a lot of industry that doesn’t look very good. And we would put together a really, really nasty outlook for today from what we knew.

“We would never have understood deindustrialization. Or the rise of the service economy. We would never understand how machinery is getting more efficient. Likewise, we have no idea what the next 50, 100 years are going to bring.”

The ‘perverse’ incentives of ESG

Kirk’s presentation was roundly condemned for “making light” of the climate crisis and ultimately cost him his job. But even some of his biggest detractors acknowledge that, from a purely financial perspective, he’s talking sense.

PGGM’s head of responsible investment Piet Klop, for instance, observed that: “It’s hard to deny that the ecosystem is going down the tubes [but] within the financial system as we currently know it [Kirk is] probably right…”

Similarly, in an article that ostensibly defends ESG, Peter Krull says bluntly that “many of the ESG funds that retail investors expect to be green are far from that.”

Echoing Kirk, Professor Hans Taparia, of the New York University Stern School of Business, believes the biggest issue with ESG is that it does things backwards.

Instead of scoring businesses on how ethical and environmentally and socially responsible they are, it measures how much carbon emissions, dodgy labour practices, and other ESG factors could harm financial performance.

This, he says, produces perverse results.

“McDonald’s, for instance, was given an upgrade of its ESG rating [in 2021] which cited reduced risks to the company’s bottom line as a result of changes that the company made concerning packaging material and waste.

“But greenhouse gas emissions from the operations and supply chain of McDonald’s, which is one of the world’s largest buyers of beef, grew by 16 percent from 2015 to 2020. Those emissions are a direct cause of climate change, but because [they weren’t seen] as posing a financial risk for McDonald’s, they didn’t negatively affect the rating.”

ESG: right idea, wrong approach?

With scientists issuing increasingly stark warnings about catastrophic climate change and the United Nations observing rising inequality across the globe, it’s clear that the way we do business needs to change. For both ourselves and the generations that will come after us.

From this perspective, ESG is perhaps a step in the right direction. In the sense that it embeds the impacts bad business practices have on society and our planet into our collective consciousness.

As McKinsey’s Sara Bernow notes: “ESG puts the spotlight on sustainability not only in those companies where it is obvious from a value-creation perspective but also where it has been less obvious yet the value-creation potential is still there.

“For example, a company’s ability to reduce its energy consumption is a huge value-creation opportunity.”

Is ESG fit for purpose?

But if intentions are to become action and, in turn, create real, lasting change, the way businesses’ ESG rankings are assessed may need to be rethought.

“One of the tragedies of this whole debate,” says Stuart Kirk, “is that we obsess about mitigation and not enough on adaption financing.

“There are 1000s of opportunities out there. We have a trillion dollar car company that nobody predicted five years ago, including myself, and they’re the sort of opportunities we need to invest in.”

Hans Taparia is even more scathing.

“The current system,” he concludes, “works well for Wall Street. It keeps the raters in business because it ensures that their customers, the investment firms, have lots of stocks with which to construct portfolios.

It enables financial institutions to present themselves as contributing to the well-being of society and the planet. And it allows them to charge higher fees to investors, because ESG funds are seen as different from conventional index funds, in part because they tap into investors’ consciences.

“But this system isn’t good for the world. Just regular capitalism at its slickest: ingenious marketing in the service of profits. The best approach would be to measure the costs to society and the environment that are not directly borne by companies.”

Visit our blog for more articles like this one or subscribe to get them direct to your inbox. Find out more about Soldo here.

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Reducing business costs: How to cut without ruining morale

3 March 2023  |   6 minutes read
A business leader reducing business costs.

In his book For Profit, the law professor William Magnuson sketches a surprising history of the corporation. Throughout history, he shows that corporations were purpose-built to solve societal problems or tackle grand projects.

Corporations built Ancient Rome’s roads and aqueducts, helped the arts flourish during the Renaissance and facilitated the blossoming of the 20th-century middle class.

Things are different now. In many ways better – but, in some ways, not so much. Enterprise is more dynamic and more open to everyone. And the ways companies serve consumers are more diverse and specialised.

But perhaps, as Magnuson’s book illustrates, a more cooperative or social bent to commerce has somewhat diminished. Companies used to have a much more acute appreciation of society (both society at large and the society in miniature that exists in the company’s workforce).

Cuts and worker morale

We only need to look around us to get a barometer reading on worker morale. The UK is gearing up for its largest strike wave in three decades. General morale is dipping (particularly in sectors like care).

Household consumption is set to shrink by 2.3% in 2023. Business investment is set to contract by 3%. Even small creature comforts like Netflix are being eschewed. The streaming giant will shed 700,000 UK users over the next two years, analysts predict.

These are tough economic times. Cuts are a fact of life. Spending needs to be reined in, costs cut. And, perhaps most unfortunately, workers may lose their jobs. It’s easy for these cuts and changes to be adversarial. But that needn’t be inevitable.

Of course, you can’t please everyone when reducing business costs. There are no cost-cutting options available that don’t bring some collateral damage. And the impacts last: A Dutch longitudinal study of employee morale post-cuts, found reduced job satisfaction and less loyalty toward the organisation for at least two years after the cost-cutting event.

Reducing business costs (while minimising damage to morale)

There is no easy option when reducing business costs – but some are better than others. Let’s look at some choices available to company leaders.

Reduce executive compensation:

‘We’re all in this together’ is a common sentiment during an economic downturn. And employees often greet it with suspicion. To paraphrase Animal Farm, it seems that some are more ‘in this’ than others.

That’s why reducing executive compensation (and being open about it) is a powerful tool. By how much? Well, that’s an open question. But certainly enough to signal to employees that management is feeling the same pain. Especially in the case of layoffs.

Reduce expenses:

You need to look at expenses. And not just the costs – but also how you’re managing them. If your expense management system is rudimental and doesn’t allow granular analysis of costs, then investing in a new system is step one.

‘Investing’ doesn’t have to mean a high cost. Many expense management solutions are now in the cloud. Implementation is quick and it’s based on a monthly subscription.

The old saying in business that you have to ‘spend money to make money’ is also true with saving. Sometimes you have to spend money to save it. An expense management solution will make minimising T&E much simpler and also more humane.

When cutting costs, be very wary of items that are high-value but low-cost. Sure, getting in cheaper coffee might save a few pennies – but is that really what’s weighing down the company’s finances? Apply a weighting to these sorts of costs. The harm to morale could outweigh any money saved.

And don’t be afraid to open the floor when it comes to cuts. Get what’s known as functional leaders involved. These are people who aren’t necessarily formal management, but widely respected for their work and influence. Their buy-in when cutting costs is invaluable.

Manage out poor performers:

This should be standard operating procedure, even during easier economic times. Accelerate this process during a downturn. Especially when cuts must be made.

Psychologically, employees will view this as different to workforce cuts. A job loss tied to performance is different to an across-the-board downsizing. It can be a powerful shield for employee morale.

Pushing through the downturn

The downturn is temporary. At some point, it will abate and you can loosen your grip on costs and investment. For now, though, a defensive mindset is what’s needed.

No one is enthusiastic about cuts. But damage to morale can be managed. By making cuts more strategic, you can lower your costs and improve resilience without harming worker (or, indeed, your own) morale.

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Operational efficiency: Pushing through and beyond an economic downturn

3 March 2023  |   7 minutes read
Operational efficiency can be achieved with technology

“Money doesn’t disappear, it just changes hands,” as the adage in economics goes. The opportunities are still out there – but your business must be resilient to seize them.

It’s a difficult economic picture. But this is precisely the time your business should be priming itself to strike.

How to improve operational efficiency

The tried and true way to strengthen a business in a downturn is through operational efficiency savings. Simplistically, some people may view these as just ‘cuts’. But ‘cuts’ don’t actually capture the nuances and skill involved in cost saving.

Blind cutting will likely have a counterproductive impact on your company. Efficiency savings should strengthen a business, not diminish it. So let’s look at some examples of operational efficiency savings.

Renegotiate terms with suppliers

While ‘renegotiation’ could imply a bruising or gruelling reestablishment of terms, it can also be a mutually beneficial exercise. Indeed, it may mean temporarily prioritising certain suppliers at your own expense.

In a recent webinar with Soldo and the Generation CFO, M&S Food’s head of finance Sandeep Dasgupta identified cost pressure as a particular worry. This cost pressure is largely driven by supply chain disruption.

So to keep the supply chain moving, M&S has enacted joint business plans with suppliers (especially smaller suppliers). “We may need to support them in the interim while they are struggling – but then we work together to drive a long-term upside for both parties”.

Adapt to consumer habits

The thing about recessions is that we’ve been here before. They happen from time to time, although this particular recession has been hastened by a series of external factors. Namely COVID and the War in Ukraine.

Looking at previous recessions, it’s possible to sketch out a likely trajectory for this one. An International Monetary Fund (IMF) analysis of 122 recessions in 21 developed countries since 1960 found “that the typical recession lasted about a year and resulted in a dip in GDP of roughly 2%”.

The IMF analysis also found that “consumption trends rebound fairly quickly when the recession ends, though at different rates in different sectors”.

You sort of know what to expect. And that a consumer rebound is likely. The short to medium term will require some adaptation to consumer needs, however.

One notable trend is what the Harvard Business Review (HBR) calls “discretionary thrift”. Some people have to be thrifty through necessity – but a growing stratum of more affluent consumers are economising, too.

The HBR study notes that, “Our research among more affluent consumers has revealed mounting dissatisfaction with excessive consumption … They’re recycling more, buying used goods, and imbuing their children with traditional values.”

Monitoring consumer sentiment and behaviour is vital. Otherwise you can end up in a situation like furniture manufacturer and retailer It bought excess stock in anticipation of a consumer spending boom. But instead, customers reined in spending and left Made severely over-leveraged.

Spend management

During times of growth and economic prosperity, it’s easy to overlook things like expenses. A little here and a little there is more acceptable when things are going well.

A recession brings leaky T&E into sharp relief, however. Suddenly, every penny counts and employee habits might take a while to catch up.

For finance leaders, it’s a balancing act. It’s time to reassert a firm grip on expenses – but without shattering fragile worker morale. Employees, naturally, don’t want to feel like they’re being monitored or watched.

And yet, you’ve got a job to do. It’s a delicate dance. Fortunately, solutions for travel and expenses have progressed a lot in recent years. There exists now a viable alternative to workers paying out of pocket, all while providing you with added control of company finances.

This control is more important than ever. As Clear Channel’s head of audit Daniel Mensah points out, “As people are under more economic pressure, the potential for fraud is higher”. That is a sad reality – but it is a reality.

A spend management solution uses prepaid expenses cards. All of it is controlled through a mobile app. Purchases are pre-cleared by your finance team and logged by the worker in the app with a copy (or picture) of the receipt.

This expense is then seamlessly reconciled in your accounts. It’s not only more resistant to fraud, but it’s also a time-saver for you and the business.

Getting through a recession

This recession will pass. Although this one has unique causes and characteristics, it remains recognisable for what it is.

You need to get beyond the mindset of ‘holding on’. There are things you can do now – strategically and technologically – to not just survive, but thrive when the upturn comes. Operational efficiency gives you room to think and act.

The finance team and the finance leader are now more important than ever. Not just to the business. Also to the workers who rely on the company for their livelihoods. Transformation and fluctuation are facts of life. These highs and lows aren’t solely destructive. They are also an opportunity to begin anew.

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