Treasury Today Country Profiles in association with Citi

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Best AP Solution Highly Commended: Bristol-Myers Squibb

Photo of Steven Elms, Citi and Ross Harris, Bristol-Myers Squibb

With globally inconsistent card acceptance causing a range of process issues, this company sought a unified solution and discovered a host of new benefits.

Photo of Steven Elms, Citi and Ross Harris, Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Dr Sara Friedlander

Director, Enabling Functions, Global Procurement

New York, US

Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) is a global biopharmaceutical company whose mission is to discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients overcome serious diseases.

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The AP benefits of unifying a global card programme

The challenge

Travel and expenses (T&E) for BMS employees were provided for by a company travel card. Employees found card acceptance to be globally inconsistent, often compelling them to use their personal cards. This made expense reports difficult and time consuming. Problematic reconciling of business expenses from a personal account meant this card programme lacked adequate visibility into spend and offered insufficient controls.

From a meeting planning perspective, card acceptability also proved challenging, forcing BMS to open/maintain multiple supplier accounts and accommodate other payment methods as well as integrating with BMS’s travel and meeting logistics partners. This prompted a lengthy and error-prone manual process to identify each card charge and reconcile expenses.

Under this programme, a total of 235,500 productivity minutes were lost each year performing manual expense reporting. This amounted to 3,925 hours lost per year, with an approximate cost of US$245,313.

The solution

The procurement team made the decision to seek new card solutions that were better tailored to global travel needs, meeting planning requirements, and the high customer experience expectations of their employees. The programme they selected featured Citi’s Travel card, Purchasing card, Central Travel Account (CTA) and Virtual Card Account (VCA) for meetings solutions, all with wide global acceptance.

In countries that do not currently support VCA programmes, BMS employed Citi’s CTA solution. The combination of these innovative programmes has dramatically increased BMS’s card spend, delivering a significant financial rebate.

Best practice and innovation

The BMS procurement team collaborated with internal business partners to help pioneer VCA for multi-use, high-value card payments for meetings and events, and CTA to fill gaps in markets where VCA could not be implemented.

One unique aspect of BMS’s VCA programme is the substantial customisation that was required. Each region needed different specifications of data fields to properly track and segregate expenses.

BMS procurement worked closely with their business partners in global meetings management and congress, technology, tax and global payment units to identify how to optimally capture taxation requirements for each market.

Once the requirements were determined, Citi customised an electronic feed to reduce manual intervention and process errors. The team designed stringent reporting requirements and built a robust hierarchy that could support real-time reporting of spend for any therapeutic brand, including split brands in the UK.

In markets where VCA is not available, such as Mexico, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Hungary and the Czech Republic, BMS’s procurement team created an innovative solution that included implementing multiple CTAs. This approach was used to cover different spend categories, such as individual travel, group travel, internal meeting expenses and spend with logistic agencies by department to ease the reconciliation process.

To obtain the data required to adequately track and control spend, the team worked with card providers to expand merchant category codes to include additional data such as invoice numbers. This was especially challenging in France and Germany with more stringent data restrictions. However, BMS prevailed where others have failed in the past.

Throughout this process, BMS demonstrated innovative thinking that helped them simplify their procurement processes. They were able to effectively reduce the number of vendors, POs, invoices and payments to agencies, while improving cash flow.

Key benefits

  • Virtually eliminates need for employees to put expenses on personal cards.

  • Mitigates overspend risk through credit card limits.

  • Improves control over spend.

  • Reduction in manual reconciliation and interventions.

  • Simplifies reporting.

  • Eliminates manual data keying, eradicating process bottlenecks.

  • Reduces total programme cost.

  • Drives productivity.