Treasury Practice

Problem Solved: Jo Hamburger, Electrolux

Published: Sep 2012

Business travel underpins the success of any multinational company. Meetings have to be attended. Deals need to be negotiated. And new markets have to be opened. As a result, airline tickets, car rentals and hotel rooms must be provided for employees.

Jo Hamburger

Global Commodity Director Mobility and Facility

Electrolux is a global manufacturer of household and professional appliances. The company, founded in 1919, sells more than 40m products in over 150 countries annually. With 58,000 employees across the globe, Electrolux has taken active efforts to expand in growth markets. In particular it is experiencing strong growth in its Asian and Latin American regions. Electrolux had sales of SEK102 billion in 2011.


An effective charge card system that has wide coverage, control and management information capabilities is essential for business travel, according to Jo Hamburger, Global Commodity Director Mobility and Facility at Electrolux. “We always had a consistent card programme in place since the mid-1990s,” says Hamburger. “It was homogenous and worked in more than 40 countries. But after 15 years with another major card services provider, we wanted to see if there was another player on the market. We were looking for a global solution that provided more coverage and management information.”

Some multinationals might settle for a charge card system that operates in ten or 15 strategic locations. Not Electrolux however. As a global business, it needed a global solution. It was imperative that employees’ charge cards worked wherever the company operated. Electrolux’s previous card programme had some issues. There were difficulties of acceptance in Europe including central and eastern European countries; and it was troubled by banking licence problems in Italy. On one occasion Electrolux couldn’t issue new cards for a period of months, causing needless turmoil in the organisation. Hamburger was keen to solve these complications. With a new card programme, perhaps it was possible to extend the company’s horizons? Citi’s team took on the assignment in March 2011.


Implementing a global solution is a difficult task. But completing it within a tight deadline is an even tougher one. Electrolux required a solution that was flexible, agile and speedy. Citi had just a matter of months to pull off the project. “What we really needed was a consistent card programme in more than 45 countries,” says Hamburger. “I stress the word ‘consistent’. Electrolux does not prefer one country over the other; we needed global reach for our charge cards.”

Given the sheer scale of the project, there were time pressures for both Citi and Electrolux. In certain markets, Citi had to rely on Electrolux’s previous experience in order to facilitate the implementation process. But as time progressed and by working closely together, Citi and Electrolux formed a robust project plan and strategy as well as strong communication channels. Hamburger’s team of three people had daily contact with Citi throughout the implementation period. “We could call several times a day with questions, remarks and suggestions about everything,” says Hamburger. “And these were often very specific questions with regards to the solution.”

The new card programme was rolled out in all markets in October 2011. After a meeting with senior management at Citi in London, weekly update calls were set up to discuss new opportunities and tackle future challenges. “Citi offered a card programme that was more consistent in terms of coverage, effective management and control,” says Hamburger. “This allowed us to know exactly what our employees are doing and spending while travelling on business trips.” Another major benefit of Citi’s card programme was that it could be expanded to every employee at the company. The previous charge card scheme took into account individuals’ credit history. This often meant excluding employees with a bad credit record. The new card solution works under the umbrella of a business relationship between Citi and Electrolux. So the liability is now a corporate one. Electrolux guarantees the payment; not the individual. As a result, today every Electrolux employee has a charge card for business travel.

Electrolux has seen greater acceptance of its card programme – particularly in Eastern Europe and Latin America. The latter region is an important growth market for the appliance manufacturer. And banking licence issues in Italy are now a thing of the past. For a business that has operations across the world, there will always be countries that are trouble spots. And it is a process that Citi is continually improving. Since the October launch its team has introduced new management information platforms, as well as brought new countries on board the card programme. “With Citi the new solution provides wider issuing opportunities and greater coverage through acceptance, which provides greater control,” says Hamburger. “So we are able to steer the programme in a better way. And that is the main point.”

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