Redefining travel for the modern company
6 min read
6 min read
Redefining travel for the modern company
Vineet Taneja is the Vice President and GM of travel at Brex. Prior to joining Brex, he built Microsoft Teams mobile into a successful business collaboration product with over 100 million users. As a 15-year leader across enterprises and startups, he has spearheaded initiatives in developed and emerging markets to create compelling consumer experiences worldwide.
Managing T&E spend in one place.
When we launched the Empower platform a year ago, we shook up an industry that hadn’t seen real change in over two decades. Empower made filing expense reports frictionless for employees and gave CFOs visibility into spend as it happens rather than days or weeks later. Most importantly, it let businesses manage every aspect of their spend in one place, globally.
Well, almost every aspect.
For the past year, our customers have clamored for one additional capability: business travel. Travel and Entertainment (T&E) spend makes up 10–15% of annual budgets, and is the second largest controllable expense for most companies. Yet managing T&E spend with one card, one app, and one integrated platform has been out of reach for many companies.
Disrupting business travel.
We disrupted the spend management category by bringing cards and spend management together. Now, we’re taking it one step further by adding travel to the Empower software stack.
Why? Because business travel is broken for both employees and finance leaders.
- It’s too complex, requiring everyone to manage it through multiple tools and applications to get the job done.
- It puts companies that rely on business travel software at the mercy of global distribution systems (GDSs), the networks connecting hotels and airlines around the world. Commissions offered by GDSs heavily influence the travel business. As a result, the inventory employees see is based on what travel management companies are incentivized to show you rather than what’s broadly available. This impacts the discoverability of airlines, including local and low-cost airlines, as well as seat options, lodging, and car rental.
- It turns travel expenditures into the Wild West at startups, where employee travel is often booked through consumer apps or directly with their preferred airline and hotel. This makes it difficult to track spend and enforce business policies.
Empower redefines business travel by seamlessly integrating bookings, corporate cards, and expense services. This is key for modern companies with distributed teams and spend occurring in different parts of the world. We’ve accomplished this by partnering with Spotnana and building Brex travel from the ground up on Spotnana’s modern Travel-as-a-Service platform. Like Brex, Spotnana thinks about the employee experience first—they take no incentives from GDSs to influence inventory, deeply understand the travel domain, and have a cloud-based global platform that allows self-service for employees so they can change their itineraries on the go. It also enables direct integrations with airlines to source inventory and offer bundles that are not possible with legacy technology.
Brex travel: An end-to-end travel experience.
Our goal for Brex travel is to deliver a seamless managed travel experience that is easy to use for employees and powerful for finance teams — from booking to approved expenses. Managed travel helps companies stay on budget and manage all their travel on one platform. Employees can book the travel they need from a comprehensive inventory in one app, without the guesswork of corporate travel policies since those are built in and always enforced. Finance teams can access real-time travel and spend data for better reporting. And companies keep travel spend in one place, so they can negotiate savings and make smarter travel decisions.
Take a look:
A traveler requests a new budget for their trip or selects an existing one to book flights, hotels, and car rentals anywhere in the world. They can do this with a broad range of choices from unbiased inventory — without influence from GDSs. Brex travel is integrated directly with major airlines. So in addition to more inventory, companies get access to preferred rates and a more personalized shopping experience for employees, including loyalty benefits.
A company's travel policies are built into the budget and are automatically enforced as employees make their reservation for flights, hotels, and other travel. Employee travel preferences and loyalty information is honored at the time of booking — so a traveler with status on their preferred airline can get benefits like premium seats for free.
We keep things simple by making trip information readily accessible to employees in the Brex app. No more rummaging through emails to find that e-ticket or hotel confirmation number. And when changes are needed — to cancel a trip, add loyalty programs or Known Traveler Numbers, or swap seats, dates or locations — employees can make them in the app too, saving valuable time. If travelers need assistance, they can easily contact experienced travel agents, at no cost. We also make it easy for employees to keep all spend related to the business trip mapped to the same budget.
As the trip begins, notifications keep the traveler updated about any changes. When they land at their destination, the app suggests booking an Uber or Lyft to their hotel if they don’t already have transportation planned. And Brex’s powerful receipt automation capabilities ensure most receipts for the trip’s expenditure are auto-attached with memos so that employees don’t have to worry about expenses. In fact, by the time the trip ends and employees get back home, most expenses will be auto-approved. Brex even takes care of sourcing receipts for post-paid hotels.
This is all possible because of the tight integration between cards, travel, and spend management in Empower.
With legacy solutions, managing any budget felt like “out of sight, out of mind.” That’s because it’s hard to manage a budget if you can’t monitor it in real time. That changes with Empower as the platform lets managers and employees see a budget live, making it easy for them to stay within it and control overall T&E cost for their company. Empower enables finance teams to provision pre-approved travel budgets for frequent travelers or group budgets for things like events or offsites, where many employees require travel and accommodations. Infrequent travelers can request a budget for business trips as well, and the app will help employees estimate the amount to request based on where and when they are traveling, and for how long. This ensures business travel is always within policy and budget for companies, and reduces overhead on finance teams.
Creating customer value through innovation and partnerships.
Brex is a tech-first company with a track record of bringing innovative products to market that disrupt old ways of doing things. We look at a problem and ask: is there a different or better way to solve it? That’s in our DNA.
It’s no wonder then that we’ve partnered with a company that brings a similar philosophy to the business travel industry.
Spotnana has built a cloud-based travel platform designed from the ground up for the business traveler. It’s modern in a way that most business travel software is not and exactly what we would have chosen to build ourselves.
That's why we’re so excited to partner with Spotnana to build Brex travel. We love the fact that Spotnana’s cloud-based platform is very easy to deploy and comes with its own travel management service, so travelers have someone to contact when they need assistance.
I am incredibly excited to make Brex travel and the new Empower available to all our customers today. We’ve onboarded hundreds of thousands of employees globally for spend management since launching Empower, and I can’t wait to see how the addition of travel transforms the spend value chain of their businesses.