Best Card Solution Highly Commended: Noble Storm Ltd

Published: Apr 2021

Isaac Cheung

Executive Director

Angus Kong

Executive Director

Noble Storm Limited is an e-commerce company headquartered in Hong Kong SAR. The company establishes and operates online stores, selling a variety of products via multiple e-commerce platforms around the world.

Virtual cards programme completely transforms Storm

The challenge

Given the nature of Storm’s business, it relies heavily on digital advertising on various web platforms such as Facebook, to drive traffic to its websites to generate sales. As a result, its sales team was constantly opening new accounts on these platforms to test new strategies or promote product lines. As an example, Storm might create 50 to 60 new Facebook accounts each month to maintain sales momentum. Each new account required a new credit card number, resulting in the company holding some 300 credit cards at any given time, which led to a range of inefficiencies.

To begin, issuing new cards for each account opened was a time-consuming process. For each new card application, there was a considerable amount of paperwork that had to be completed. Plus, each cardholder is only allowed to hold two cards at a time, so when an employee wanted to open a new Facebook account, for instance, Storm would have to call the card hotline to cancel the old cards.

Since the company was using physical cards, payments were only reported once they were successfully posted. This led to a lack of visibility into the overall status of transactions. If Storm wanted up-to-date balances, the company would again need to call the card hotline. All this card management required two full time staff in the finance department. Added to this, employees had to have a physical card in their possession to key in payment information, which typically had expiration dates four years out, increasing operational risk related to misuse, fraud or loss of cards. The company was looking to streamline processes.

The solution

Working with its international banking partner, HSBC, Storm implemented a virtual card programme. The Virtual Card is a tokenised card number that is linked to a physical card. Using the bank’s online card management portal, Storm can now generate a unique virtual card number in real-time. This eliminates the cumbersome paperwork associated with applying for new cards with each account opening.

Best practice and innovation

Virtual card payments are made entirely online, so employees no longer need to carry physical cards with them. Instead, vendors receive an email with the virtual card number that includes the invoice number and amount owed. The transaction then posts to the company’s real card account. This, combined with the fact that Storm can also set parameters for each virtual card number, such as transaction limits (amount or for a specific merchant category code (MCC)/merchant name), maximum number of uses or a pre-set expiration date, lowers their risk exposure.

The online card management portal also makes it easy to monitor transactions through the various stages of authorisation and processing in real-time, which helps improve overall visibility.

Key benefits

  • Since establishing their virtual card programme in 2019, Storm has processed 80,000 transactions, with 90% being spent on digital advertising. As of July 2020, their YTD advertising spend using virtual cards was HK$362m.
  • By eliminating the need for 300 individual plastic cards, Storm greatly improved the efficiency of its financial processes. The company also gained greater visibility into transactions and spend, as well as more control over cash flows and idle balances.
  • Typically, the company maintained approximately US$-4,000 cash buffer for each card. Multiplied across 300 cards – an average of US$1m in idle cash on a regular basis.

This solution has completely transformed Storm’s administrative and payments processes and enhanced visibility into advertising spend with real-time monitoring via an easy-to-use, comprehensive online card management portal.

The absence of a physical card also greatly reduces their exposure to fraud, lowering operational risk significantly.

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