Study Group on course for continued growth with expense automation and insight.

Concur and American Express have provided us with travel insights, allowing us to revisit our policies and make significant improvements. It’s also really helped with our procurement strategy, so that we can look at our merchant spend and negotiate better deals and rebates with key suppliers, especially hotels and airlines,”

Rita Shelton, Head of Finance Shared Services - Study Group

Study Group is a global leader in the education industry, operating its own colleges and partnering with universities to prepare students for academic success and rewarding careers. In 2014, Study Group enrolled more than 63,000 students from 170 countries.

In Australia, Study Group partners with major universities and also operates its own educational institutions (ACPE, AIAS and Martin College). The company has grown rapidly in Australia through acquisition, most recently acquiring Endeavour College of Natural Health in early 2015.

Study Group’s Rita Shelton, Head of Finance Shared Services and Ricson Cenidoza, Assistant Manager Shared Services share some of the benefits the company has experienced by implementing Concur and the integration with American Express.

What were the issues with your travel and expense management process prior to implementing Concur?

Our staff would send in their receipts, complete a manual expense form and have it signed by their manager. We had no controls in place, we couldn’t monitor what people were spending, there was no timely capture of spending, so no true reflection in the P&L, and we couldn’t validate spending against policy or even build enforceable policy rules.

We also only had a limited number of corporate cards in use across the organisation, relied on spreadsheets, and manually checked each expense claim, line-by-line. It was difficult to assign costs to the appropriate business units and cost centres, difficult to correctly apply GST and FBT to expenses, and manual re-keying of data into our ERP system was time-consuming and prone to human error.

What was the catalyst for change and why did you decide to implement Concur?

Study Group operates a shared services model to manage the financial systems and processes for its operations in Australia, extending to a number of locations across the Asia-Pacific. It’s a highly complex organisation, with over 100 cost centres representing a range of business units and brands across multiple campuses. With its rapid growth and increasing diversification, we realised that our manual processes for managing travel and expense were quickly becoming unsustainable.

In choosing Concur, we gained the automation the company needed to streamline its travel and expense management, and accounts payable processes. At the same time, individual users were given the advantage of an intuitive online expense system, accessible anywhere and anytime – including from users’ mobile devices.

What aspects of an integrated global travel booking and expense reporting solution appeal to you?

Prior to the implementation of Concur and American Express, a surprising pain point was with our petty cash process. That pain was magnified by many physical locations and the significant number of incidental expenses that were incurred by the nature of the work undertaken by our staff. The approval process was manual, beyond cumbersome and very time-consuming not to mention open to a multitude of foreseen issues like incorrect signatures, lost cheques and delayed repayments to individual users.

With Concur, users can now enter their expenses for cash reimbursements by simply capturing an image of the receipt, which initiates the workflow process, automatically interfacing the ERP system with the date of the next cheque run.

What benefits are you and your employees experiencing from the mobile app?

Through the combination of both American Express and Concur, we are undertaking a program to promote Concur’s mobile app and encourage more extensive use. Whilst the mobile app is amazing, there needs to be active promotion to increase its uptake.

Currently, reporting and data analytics is only accessible to the administrators of the American Express and Concur systems. The plan is to redirect this capability to cost centre managers and business unit owners. Increasing data visibility and transparency is highly valuable and look forward to working with American Express and Concur to get rid of paper receipts altogether using e-receipts.

“We now have a very clear view on what’s being spent and who is spending, especially those people who are spending outside our preferred suppliers.”

The American Express @ Work reporting tool is really intuitive and informative,” and Concur Business Intelligence provides business decision-makers the data they need.

With the growth that we have experienced in just two years, our cost centre owners are constantly reviewing their actuals versus budgets. Concur is very intuitive and provides the data they need almost instantaneously.

What are some key benefits you’ve found by using Concur and American Express combined?

Study Group has expanded its corporate card program, issuing American Express travel and expense cards for over 200 of the company’s staff in Australia. An American Express procurement card was implemented for larger corporate expenses, such as insurance, and an American Express Business Travel Account (BTA) established as a centralised account to charge costs for individual staff members without a corporate card.

The widescale use of American Express for travel and expenses has given us far greater control and visibility of spending, making life easier for individual users.

Greater reporting capability has also translated into greater compliance with GST and FBT requirements, and more granular cross-charging between cost centres. This provides the business with a more accurate reflection of financial performance by individual business units, departments and projects.

The rollout of Concur expense management and reporting tools coupled with an expansion of our American Express corporate card program has resulted in a greater degree of control and insight into spend management.

Our users really like Concur’s mobile app, it’s much easier and saves them so much time.” 

Rita Shelton
Head of Finance Shared Services
Study Group

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Study Group on course for continued growth with expense automation and insight


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