Photo of Kata Pasztor, Etihad Airways and John Murray, Citi.
Etihad Airways, wholly owned by the government of Abu Dhabi, is a Skytrax five-star certified airline with a network of over 110 passenger and cargo destinations across six continents. It is one of five key business divisions of the Etihad Aviation Group (EAG), the diversified global aviation and travel company.
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In 2015 Etihad initiated a complex treasury transformation project to support expansion and optimisation of the business. It aimed to completely redesign the company’s policies and governance around cash management, working capital, expense management, risk management and cost controls.
As part of the phased execution of the transformation, in November 2017 Etihad initiated an expense management RFP that would encompass travel and entertainment (T&E) spend, emergency response cards and petty cash requirements for Etihad stations globally.
Etihad was looking for a global commercial cards provider who could cater to Etihad’s needs in all or the majority of its locations. Citi was nominated as Etihad’s global corporate cards solution provider in over 40 countries, with the programme centrally managed out of their head office in Abu Dhabi.
Etihad successfully leveraged the mandated bank’s commercial cards proposition coupled with the existing Etihad-Citi SWIFT – based H2H platform integration and matching geographical footprint. It allowed Etihad to achieve the set business targets whilst minimising the resources required. The solution was seamlessly integrated into Etihad’s expense management system.
The programme roll-out was completed within a very short timeframe. Implementation began in March 2018 with a pilot card delivered by April 2018. In parallel, Etihad partnered with SAP Concur, upgrading the existing SAP further and implementing the expense management platform integration. It went live fully synchronised with the corporate cards implementation, providing Etihad with enhanced claims settlement and reporting capabilities.
Concur-Citi connectivity and file feed went live in November 2018, and within the same timeframe the number of issued cards were already covering the needs of Etihad stations globally.
Comprehensive and flexible reporting, including consolidated global data, streamlined transaction and accounting processes, allowed Etihad to manage programme controls and reduce the paperwork and costs related to processing T&E expenses.
Virtual card accounts give Etihad the flexibility to initiate immediate payment in an emergency situation, replacing the physical card and cash wherever possible.
Successful implementation of the T&E cards programme enabled Etihad to expand efficiency gains to various low-end supplier payments. It was decided to extend the benefits to non-strategic procurement spend, applying similar principles of controls, automation and a user-friendly interface to manage the programme, achieving additional cost savings.
A purchasing card solution was implemented in December 2018, just three weeks after the project kick-off date. Etihad’s Concur procurement module, meanwhile, is linked to Citi’s Custom Reporting System (CCRS), which allows the creation of reports providing granular information, enabling analysis of trends to benchmark performance and facilitate improved procurement deals.
Around US$2m pa will be saved through reduced manpower, thanks to automation in expense management and reconciliation, and 22,000 purchase orders will be replaced by purchasing cards.
Significant cost savings were achieved through well negotiated commercial terms made possible by the programme being implemented by a single provider through a single framework agreement encompassing corporate cards, emergency cards, virtual cards account, purchasing cards and covering Etihad’s global needs.
The commercial cards system reporting tools allow strict monitoring of spend from the users’ and Etihad’s governance perspective. Self-service tools for cardholders and Etihad Programme Administrators ensure full visibility and user flexibility while maintaining the required restrictions.
Etihad is now able to expand to new stations and other business divisions at a rapid pace because the programme is scalable and provides the same benefits across the organisation for travel expense, procurement spend and emergency response payments.