A further slowing in growth
The rise of e-commerce as an enduring consumer trend is driving a new kind of payments experience within the corporate and government space.
By her own admission, community services provider Alison Clarke doesn’t “lean into finance”, but she knows the processes for approving and reconciling business expense payments can be time-consuming for all involved.
So when the opportunity came to secure “early bird” rates for an aged care conference she was attending, the Bayside City Council consultant did not expect to make the tight deadline for the payment easily.
“We wanted the early bird special because it was considerably cheaper and it was closing the next day,” Clarke says. “I thought I was going to have to pay for it myself and then get reimbursed weeks later.”
This time, instead of making a payments application on the intranet and then tracking down one of the council’s corporate cardholders, she was able to use NAB’s Virtual Card digital innovation to make the payment almost instantly while maintaining all the risk controls needed to run council business safely.
“It was great to be able to use the card straight away like that,” Clarke says. “The process was essentially instant and I was able to attach the invoice myself. It was much easier and saved so much time.”
With NAB’s Virtual Pay platform, users can lodge a request for a “virtual card”, which allows for payments online and over the phone. The approval process becomes quick and easy and includes the ability to pay ad hoc suppliers, with the information stored and tracked digitally.
For the council’s financial accountant Cameron Ross, using the Virtual Cards have made the experience more streamlined and flexible for users while solving the multiple issues that come with daily demands and limits on a fixed number of physical cards.
“People can now request the cards as and when they need them,” Ross says. “A lot of people who need to make business purchases are finding this really suitable. It’s making council more contemporary and bringing this in line with a user’s personal experience.”
Latest RBA data¹ shows the number of retail payments made using Australian-issued credit or charge cards grew 21.0 per cent in the year ended July 2022, compared with 0.4 per cent growth for the same period in 2021. The value of those payments grew 28.3 per cent compared to 3.8 per cent over the same time.
The RBA’s Payments Systems Board Annual Report for 2022² also noted the continuing shift to electronic payments for Australian consumers and businesses, with many using digital wallets to make contactless transactions. The report found online retail sales increased to as much as 15 per cent during the Covid-related lockdowns and remained just over 10 per cent for the June quarter in 2022.
Ross says using the Virtual Cards via the NAB Virtual Pay platform lets the council’s 300 or so users quickly and securely pay for purchases from a diverse range of suppliers which previously would have needed lengthy onboarding.
He says the more seamless experience saves potentially hundreds of hours each quarter while offering better visibility across the control and reporting functions.
“The biggest takeaway for users at the moment is the increased flexibility and efficiency – it just eliminates so much wasted time,” he says. “If everything lines up, users could have purchased their goods in an hour and have it delivered the same day or the next, whereas you might have been waiting two weeks or more to get the supplier onboarded previously.”
Users at the council include everyone from sustainability officers paying for one-off climate active certifications to the IT team paying international software licences. Other payments may be for a wide variety of retail supplies for different community program or conference registrations.
Casey McDonnell is NAB’s National Manager, Government Corporate Cards, and says the benefits of Virtual Cards all add up to greater compliance, control and efficiency.
“NAB Virtual Pay is enabling cards to be provisioned for a specific purpose, such as a conference, work trip, supplier invoice with the spend approved up front,” McDonnell says.
“But we aren’t stopping here. NAB is planning to enable Virtual Cards to be saved in Apple Pay or Google Pay. This will enable more types of spend, such as a work dinner, taxi home, in store purchases to also be put on virtual cards.
“Not only will this improve spend compliance through robust controls, it will also drive efficiencies by enabling more cards to be accessed by more people all within the convenience of a mobile app.
“This is a game-changer in the corporate card space and will fundamentally change how cards are used today.”
The Virtual Card and FlexiPurchase innovation is part of NAB’s market leading card program, with a range of modular and configurable solutions for customers all under the one contract.
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