Rio Tinto, Winner, Best Card Solution

This card solution has switched 9,000 cards in over 30 countries from six providers to just one in a very short time frame. The solution addresses Rio Tinto’s own T&E needs as well as for its purchasing and B2B requirements. The company required a card which was as reliably accepted in Brazil or Iceland as it was in Australia or the US.

Photo of Ankur Gupta, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Adrianne Fung and Michael T. Molloy, Rio Tinto.

Michael T. Molloy

Category Leader – Travel & Expense (Global)

Rio Tinto is a leading global mining group that focuses on finding, mining and processing the Earth’s mineral resources. The company operates in more than 35 countries, employing 50,000 people globally.

in partnership with

From six providers to just one in record time

The challenge

Rio Tinto has large groups of people who work in remote locations and have to ‘fly in, fly out’. That results in a very high volume of card transactions – sometimes as many as 40,000 per month in Australia alone – and an annual card spend in excess of hundreds of millions per year.

Commercial cards are essential for both Rio Tinto’s travel and expense needs as well as for its purchasing and B2B requirements, but the corporation’s previous commercial card programme was complex and fragmented. Rio Tinto’s procurement team in Singapore realised that by splitting card spend across multiple suppliers they were failing to reap the benefits of a single, consolidated card programme.

Rio Tinto was missing important spend thresholds which, if passed, would have resulted in commercial benefit. Furthermore, having several major card providers (and a myriad of smaller ones) managing one category of expenses meant that if the company wanted to change anything – for example, to receive reports in a different format – it had to deal with not one but many different entities.

A final challenge was, as a global corporation, Rio Tinto needed to ensure all its travelling executives had a card which would as reliably be accepted in Brazil or Iceland as it was in Australia or the United States.

Mike Molloy, Category Leader – Travel & Expense (Global) recalls, “I began the search for a provider early in 2016 with a programme review and RFI to the relatively small number of companies who could offer a truly global card programme with widespread acceptance and centralised billing.”

The solution

Bank of America Merrill Lynch emerged as the chosen provider. Molloy and a very small team were ready to start rolling the new programme out, beginning with Singapore itself, where several hundred cards were issued in six weeks. After that the rollout gathered pace, implementing in North America with over a couple thousand cardholders and moving on to all other major markets, with 90% of the global cardholder base (including the high volume of central travel accounts in Australia) converted in a little under six months.

Best practice and innovation

This solution demonstrates best practice in streamlining a fragmented global card programme to gain the benefits of a single provider. Execution of the transition was well planned, had high-level executive sponsorship and went very smoothly, even when one of the previous card providers accelerated the schedule for servicing the Rio Tinto account.

The broader relationship ensured this programme had the attention, commitment and sponsorship of the bank’s top management. In the future, Rio Tinto aims to work collaboratively on other aspects of its payments. It has a goal to reduce invoices and cheque payments, and with an established programme and the tie-in to its expenses and payments process, it aims to enhance its use of purchasing cards and, potentially, virtual cards.

The scale of the programme, the speed and efficiency of the rollout and the measurable benefits set out below make this an excellent example of its kind.

Molloy concludes, “With such a large volume of cards in over 30 countries being switched from six providers to just one, it has been a huge achievement to manage the change so quickly and with so few problems.

People could order their card in France on Monday and by Thursday it would be in their hand and they could charge their espresso in Paris.”

Key benefits

  • Broader acceptance.

  • Greater control and visibility.

  • Reduced administrative burden.

  • Maximised rebate opportunity.

  • Better servicing and support.

  • Increased compliance.

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