Bluefin Reduces Expenses Paper-Mountain

Bluefin significantly reduces spend on expenses through tighter controls. Reduces time to approve valid claims and return inaccurate claims from hours to minutes.

  • Challenge: Reduce the paper mountain and gain tighter control of expenses.
  • Solution: Expenses from Software Europe.
  • Results: Reduction in expense claim spend, greater policy support, reduction in claim processing time from hours to minutes.

Bluefin is a UK insurance broker with 1450 staff working across 61 branches in 48 locations, supporting thousands of clients with insurance that protects their assets, revenues, people and lifestyle. With a strong focus on providing local service, Bluefin operates nationally with offices from Southampton to Edinburgh and Glasgow. 

Paper-mountain

Back in 2011 the company was facing an expenses ‘paper mountain’ – at least 500 staff submitting expenses on paper, with supporting receipts, and with the company processing and reimbursing once a month. Every staff member was able and permitted to submit expense claims so at any time the workload for the admin team could increase. 

The team was responsible for manually reviewing each claim for legitimacy and to ensure they were signed off by a branch manager before manually entering each expense item into its Sage accounting system. Understandably, each claim could take up to an hour to process [longer if follow up calls and emails were needed]. Duplicate claims, and problems with accurate mileage payments were difficult to control. 

Linda Aikman, Expense Management Team, Bluefin says: “We had no formal expenses policy in place. Understandably, our process was open to human error – staff could unintentionally overstate mileage claims by rounding-up journey distances, they might pay tips on food bills above a reasonable level or possibly submit excessively high subsistence rates. With no formal policy in place, expense claims were hard to control.” 

At the end of 2011, Bluefin decided to overhaul its expenses and finance tools and procedures, implementing a new expenses system and an accompanying staff expenses policy. The team reviewed four expenses software management providers wishing to automate its expenses processes and procedures. One provider offered a purely mobile-solution, which would not work with some of Bluefin‘s less tech-savvy team members. One provider offered a mixed software and paper-based solution, which Bluefin did not feel would reduce its admin burden. 

From the two remaining providers, Software Europe’s Expenses was chosen because of its advanced reporting capability, sophisticated rules, the high value-to-cost ratio, and the support, experience and approach offered by the team. 

Leading Online Employee Expenses Solution

The deployment process for Software Europe’s cloud-based Expenses started with a face-to-face ‘kick off meeting’ in Jan 2012 during which Software Europe worked with Bluefin to identify employee data which could be entered into the system, for example employee details, addresses, line managers, etc. Once imported to the system, a second onsite configuration workshop and training session was held for Bluefin’s administrators. User acceptance testing followed with Bluefin’s project management team, where they could enter dummy expense claims to test out the system. After this, full access was rolled out to Bluefin’s employees. The entire system was live by the second week of April. 

Linda adds: “The transition was very smooth and did not impact on our operations at all.” 

Expenses is available to Bluefin’s staff via the internet, whether that be in the office, in a coffee shop, or in an airport lounge on a mobile phone, PC or tablet. Its employees do not need to purchase additional software or hardware. They just need access to a web-browser and the internet.

Making an impact

In the first few months of employment, all staff members at Bluefin require a company induction, which takes place in London. All staff travelling to London will submit a travel claim and will therefore use the Expenses system at least once. On average though Bluefin is processing around 500 claims per month.  

Expenses works hand-in-hand with a new expenses policy developed by Bluefin around the same time. The software is helping to manage expense claims in line with the new policy. 

Linda says: “Staff submit expense claims electronically, scanning receipts to support each claim. No paper is kept. A local branch manager will review claims; depending on the policy, the claim can be approved for payment instantly or flagged for review by the admin team. For example, a claim over £5000 pounds would be automatically sent by the system to COO for approval.” 

Many staff use Software Europe’s mobile application, Expenses Mobile, to submit claims. The organisation is moving to an Apple mobile environment, but the application is flexible and works with a range of devices including Apple, Blackberry and Android.  
 
From an admin perspective, Bluefin has configured the flexible Expenses system to give five named people access to the system to create intelligent expense management reports. The system includes unlimited standard report formats. Reports such as spend by department or total subsistence claims are automatic, but the software has also enabled Bluefin to create custom reports using the reports wizard, for example total mileage claims, individual journeys, spend on Christmas parties, travel booked personally versus travel booked through the company’s official supplier. The reports are created with drag and drop functionality, which are being exported to Excel for interrogation. Expenses can also let users view reports on screen or pivot chart for graphical interrogation. 

Company wide benefits

  • The software is supporting Bluefin’s expenses policy. It helps Bluefin enforce agreed expense allowances – for example approving only up to 10 per cent tips paid on lunches or flagging expenses over £100 spent on entertainment.  
  • It enables flagged expenses to be sent for review to finance, HR or line managers or even the COO
  • It enables expense claims to be reimbursed twice per month, up from once per month, direct by BACS to the employees bank account 
  • The software helps to flag repeat ‘offenders’ or staff making repeated mistakes
  • It reduces accidental duplication of expense claims by staff 
  • Bluefin is reducing money spent on mileage claims because the system can check start and finish postcodes to provide a more accurate distance calculation 
  • It is storing detailed information for auditing purposes – either internal or by HMRC.  

The software benefits employees too: “The software for submitting expenses claims is easy to use and the claims process is now so simple,” says William Gillis, Financial Risks Development Director, Bluefin. “If we’re working in the office or out with clients, we can submit the claim there and then, scanning and submitting receipts as we go. This is really helping me to keep track, submit and reclaim money owed on time.”      

Reducing costs 

Despite considerable company growth and an increase in team size, Software Europe’s Expenses is helping to reduce Bluefin’s spend on expense claims. 

Linda adds: “The time taken to approve an accurate claim has reduced from around an hour to just 5-minutes. It’s really only claims with flags that take any time, but even processing these has reduced considerably.

The software continues to be a key part of the Bluefin’s operations in 2014 and plans are in place to expand use of features such as mobile submission of claims.

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