Real-time reporting for individual spenders and finance
Streamlined expense process, leading to more efficient work
Very user-friendly, all teams have been able to implement easily
Since 1952, CATS Education have offered high-quality boarding schooling for students around the world. Headquartered in Cambridge, they have campuses in Canterbury and London in the UK, and Boston in the US.
They now run nine schools with programmes from nursery to A-level and they recruit staff and students internationally.
We spoke to Claire Graham-Rudd, Finance Manager, Joanna Mazurkiewicz, Accounts Payable and Banking Assistant, and Niki Clay, Accounts Payable and Banking Manager at CATS, about their experience managing spending before and after Soldo.
As with all schools, the COVID-19 pandemic had a massive impact on CATS. Travel restrictions, combined with closed schools, kept the business from growing for two years. And they’re still working hard to get back to normal.
With inflation at a 40-year high, rising prices have become a worry for many schools, as non-staffing costs account for approximately 30% of school budgets. (https://www.soldo.com/en-gb/blog/what-schools-and-universities-can-do-to-understand-what-theyre-spending-and-what-they-could-be-saving/ ) These challenges are also affecting CATS. With large numbers of boarders to cater for, the rising cost of food and energy are particular concerns. And they’ve started taking action, like introducing more energy-saving equipment, to mitigate further risk.
Before using Soldo to manage their spending, CATS combined credit cards with out-of-pocket expenses and reimbursements.
This involved a lot of time-consuming admin work. And the structure of CATS didn’t help. Financial decisions are made in their Cambridge offices but implemented across all their campuses, which meant even more paperwork. The team estimated that this took the same time as half an FTE.
In fact, the CATS finance team uploaded between 1200 and 3000 transactions every month. This often meant 40-100 transaction per individual per month. Not only were they managing large numbers of transactions, but also a large number of teams who needed to spend. They were trying to coordinate different types of spending (including things like excursions, online ads, catering, equipment, sales trips, and buildings) from operating teams, sales, marketing, facilities, and maintenance.
Reimbursing out-of-pocket payments was a slow, frustrating process for everyone involved. Employee satisfaction was negatively affected and manual input errors caused finance teams problems with reconciliation and forecasting. These manual processes also meant that teams didn’t have full visibility of rising prices in real-time – they had to wait for month-end when they were processing payments.
Additionally, they used travel and expense management software. But this didn’t give them a complete overview of all their spending as it happened. Purchases like hotel bookings, classroom equipment, personal essentials for students, taxis, and staff meals were still hard to track, organise, and control. To get ahead of rising prices and take control of all their non-staffing spending, CATS needed to be able to highlight unnecessary spending, identify savings, and take action to cut costs. They needed a tool to organise different budgets across the business, all in one place.
Manual admin was slowing their team down, so they decided to look for new solutions. And Soldo ticked all the boxes.
Since signing up, they’ve equipped staff with Soldo cards so they can buy what they need without having to share cards or wait for lengthy sign-off processes. When staff members make a purchase, they take a photo of their receipt and add the right codes with the mobile app. Then the finance team have all the information they need in real-time – they don’t need to wait for the end of the month.
“It’s giving the individuals the responsibility, not just us. Instead of manually tracking receipts for all these people, we’re now asking them to upload it directly, and we can manage the rest from there.” Claire Graham-Rudd, Finance Manager
And they stay in control of what’s being spent by setting geographic restrictions, and other spending limits, on cards. By adding auto top-ups, staff always have the funds they need. CATS can now organise their spending in a way that suits their unique structure – they can set funds aside, give different employees different roles and responsibilities, and track and manage costs by country, school, team, or user. Soldo’s multi-use set-up makes it possible for CATS to create budgets for each employee, faculty, function, or department. And it’s flexible enough to work with varying procurement practices in differing countries.
In Claire’s words, “Soldo enabled us to streamline our expense process and work more efficiently.”
Now, staff don’t have to endure long waits to get a spend request approved, receive cash, or get reimbursed. They feel empowered, and this brings a crucial result – they can track their own expenses in real time, and report on them right at the point of purchase.
They also don’t have to fill out lengthy expense forms, so they can concentrate on attracting prospective students and improving the overall education experience. And the people who actually make these purchases are grateful for it:
“Soldo is very user-friendly. Very straightforward. We wanted a system that was as user-friendly as possible, since lots of people use it on different levels, and this is really good.” – Niki Clay, Accounts Payable and Banking Manager
The team at CATS see Soldo’s potential to do more for their business in the future. Using automatic reminder features, for instance, will ensure invoices and their codes get uploaded in time. With access to real-time data related to spending and expenses, they can take reporting and analytics to another level.
They’re planning to do even more with their spend management. Comparing year-on-year spending, setting more granular spend limits, analysing expenses by category, and additional budgeting are top of the agenda. Things they couldn’t do before. This will allow them to be proactive and anticipate issues, rather than always feeling like they were fire-fighting. For Claire, this much is clear: “The more the system can do for us with that raw spend data, the better.”
Soldo is going to keep working with CATS to help them make the most of our platform, saving even more admin time and effort. The live chat is a resource the team find particularly useful.
“It’s just so quick,” said Joanna Mazurkiewicz.
Despite the challenges of the last few years, CATS are excited about the opportunities to do even more with their financial reporting and spend controls. Claire says, “in a year’s time, we’ll be in a very different position”.
If you’d like to see more about how Soldo helps those in the education sector click here