We have witnessed strong growth in business use of virtual cards over recent years. This is being driven both by the availability of new technology and the growing consumerization of the business as employees increasingly demand a workplace experience of technology that is more closely aligned with what they are used to in their personal lives. Yet, despite all this, virtual cards still account for a relatively small share of the commercial cards market today.
Currently, Apple is doing an excellent job of introducing the virtual card concept to the masses with its Apple Pay solution, which enables users to make purchases at participating merchants on their Apple Watch or iPhone. Certainly, as awareness and understanding of virtual cards has increased and their use has become more commonplace, we have seen growing demand from younger employees, in particular. After all, if the technology is available and widely used by consumers, why would it not also be widely adopted by businesses?
For virtual cards to really take off in a commercial context, however, businesses need to put the right processes in place to make it easy for employees to get up and running with them. In order for this to happen, it is all about implementing the right procedures to drive fast uptake in a business context. Again, this will involve working with technology that employees are familiar with to make it possible.
Fortunately, the only device employees would need for this is a mobile phone onto which they can download an app – making the process not only simple but fast and cost-effective. For example, staff can use the app to request a virtual card, with this request being sent quickly to their line manager for approval and allowing them to instantly sign-off on it. The process then triggers the card to be automatically issued to the employee’s mobile app, effectively bringing the power of virtual cards into their hands quickly and easily. This immediacy means new users don’t need to wait around to be issued a physical card and can instantly make the transactions they need to fulfil their role.
While that makes sense for businesses, to drive further usage, organizations also need to extend the range of applications for which virtual cards can be used: moving beyond simple expense management into the procurement process, for example. The business case for this is strong as organizations are likely to experience a number of benefits. After all, it is faster, easier and cheaper to establish a procurement process underpinned by virtual cards than traditional paper-based processes.
Once virtual cards have become an established part of business processes, their effects will be felt across the entire organization with the impacts of implementing virtual cards able to be broken down into three areas: the reconciliation, automation and security of processes.
They also provide businesses with the tools to empower employees and remove many of the paper aspects of their roles, while also giving them trust, control of spend and a greater degree of transparency. Similarly, with a larger percentage of the workforce now classed as ‘millennials’, businesses are changing, and virtual cards allow businesses to keep up with the demands of a changing workforce, offering the tools and technology the younger generations have come to expect.
For most businesses, migrating from traditional forms of payments to virtual cards not only makes processes such as expense management and the procurement process faster, it also reduces costs, and provides more immediacy and transparency. In addition, there are a range of benefits for employees more generally. The ability for managers to approve employee spending via an app on their phone, empowers employees, making them feel trusted, and giving them confidence that their employer is forward-thinking and investing in the latest technology to help them perform at their best.