Changing the Expense Management Landscape


The Certify and Chrome River Technologies merger will eventually change the expense management landscape for corporate travel buyers.

The two companies will operate independently for now, with separate management teams. But the more than $1 billion merger will mean the two companies can invest more in various technology areas such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, analytics and reporting. The goal is to provide customers with more advanced travel, expense and invoice management capabilities, both companies have said.

Bob Neveu, CEO and co-founder of Certify, said the two companies will complement each other.

Certify has in recent years joined forces with various travel and expense management brands to serve its customers. They include Nexonia, Tallie, Abacus, and Spain-based Captio. But Neveu said the family of brands has not done much with large and enterprise clients and the global market. The union with Chrome will allow for that as Chrome has both those customer bases.

With the merger, the companies will have more than 11,000 customers in over 100 countries. Its software solutions will be available in more than 60 languages.

The union will allow the combined company to compete with larger ones such as SAP Concur, which serves almost 50,000 customers. Expensify, which provides expense management and receipt scanning, will also be a target, Neveu said.

“At the end of the day, Chrome River is not my competitor,” Neveu said. “They are my colleagues … My competitor is Concur and Expensify.”

The way Certify and Chrome River can set themselves apart from their competitors is that they will offer various brands and solutions under one vendor, he said.

Concur has a one-size-fits-all strategy that can serve companies whether they have 50 employees or 50,000, he said.

“We don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all strategy,” he said. “Customers have a distinct need and requirements … We are servicing the market place with a multi-brand strategy instead of saying here is one product and everyone can use it. All of the products we have today are very much configurable to a certain degree. Some are more configurable than others.”

Neveu said Certify and Chrome River are in the process of figuring out how they will work together.

“We are sharing best practices, coming together as an organization: the Certify entity with a multiple-brand strategy and Chrome River selling into large enterprise,” he said.

Abacus, for instance, helps travelers get their expenses reimbursed without generating expense reports. They can take photos of their receipts and submit them in real-time.

Alan Rich, CEO and co-founder of Chrome River said “combining our resources with those of Certify, we can continue toward our goal of delivering the most innovative and agile solutions on the market. I look forward to the combined organization continuing to earn an even greater share of a rapidly-growing industry.”

That cloud expense management software market is growing 11.4 percent each year and is expected to be a $2.7 billion industry by 2022, said Kevin Permenter, a senior research analyst at IDC, a global market intelligence firm.

The Certify and Chrome River collaboration will mean they will both be able to offer travel and expense management solutions through systems such as Oracle, NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics, JD Edwards, and QuickBooks.

For corporate travel buyers, Neveu forsees more “streamlined opportunities.” Details of those, he said, will be made public in the next few months. Areas the companies will make advances in will include invoice processing, automating accounts payable and using virtual card numbers.

“The organizational skills and capabilities in the travel and expense world will continue to grow,” he said.

K1 Investment Management will hold a majority stake in the combined organization. The company’s founders and Bain Capital Ventures, a private investment firm in Boston, will have a minority interest.

“It’s rare to have the opportunity to combine the two largest independent companies in such an attractive market,” said Hasan Askari, managing partner at K1 Investment Management. “We’ve created the leading global organization covering the full scope of integrated travel, expense, and invoice management software that is able to serve the broadest range of companies in the market.”

 

Nancy Trejos is covering industry news for GBTA. She has been a journalist for more than two decades, covering various subjects and traveling all around the world. She was a business and leisure travel writer at USA TODAY from November 2012 to January 2019, writing about destinations, business travel, hotels, airlines, rental cars, and the sharing economy. Previously, she spent 13 years at The Washington Post covering travel, personal finance, education, and the war in Iraq. She is the author of the personal finance memoir "Hot Broke Messes: How to Have your Latte and Drink it Too." She has also worked for the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press and was a contributor at Latina magazine. She graduated from Georgetown University and lives in New York City.

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