Q & A: Advancing Technology

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The Nedbank Group is one of South Africa’s four major banking institutions. Its principle banking subsidiary is Nedbank Limited, which has ties to American Express Global. Nedbank operates under a federal operating model with five separate yet aligned client-facing clusters, supported and enabled by central services. As a supplier of travel-related services, Nedbank understands the needs of business travellers and offers products for this niche group. Tshipi Alexander, Head of Issuing Sales and Service: Nedbank, answers some pertinent questions for Business Traveller Africa readers.

Q: Please explain the relationship between Nedbank and American Express Card?
A: Nedbank owns the licence to distribute the American Express suite of products in South Africa.

Q: Where in Africa is there acceptance of American Express Card, and are there any major markets where there isn’t?
A: American Express has a presence in over 130 countries, and the American Express merchant network includes millions of locations around the globe and continues to grow at a substantial pace. Our network covers a broad category of merchant outlets, including hotels, restaurants and retailers. American express is accepted in many countries on the African continent, and will continue to focus on acceptance in this key growth market.

Q: What new products has Nedbank/American Express Card launched in the business travel space recently?
A: We launched BTAPowerlink in December 2012. BTAPowerlink is an automatic transaction matching tool. It matches travel data (such as air and land arrangements) to card data. This takes the administrative burden of manually matching up these details away from the travel management company and the client. The system is being implemented across the industry. We believe that mobile capabilities will start to play a bigger role in enhancing the traveller’s experience overall.

Q: What was the thinking behind the launch of BTAPowerlink, and what are its main benefits?
A: The idea behind BTAPowerlink is to move away from the historical manual process of matching invoice to transactional data to an automated process. This adds immense value to enabled TMCs in that they are able to match and batch more efficiently and do so with fewer resources. This also assists cardholders as they can view matched transactions within 24 hours of the transaction having been made on the card.

Q: What role do you believe the charge card should play in the corporate travel space?
A: Nedbank believes that all corporates, government departments, parastatals and SMMEs should have a lodge card and a Corporate Card wallet option in place as part of their corporate payment solution programme. The duty to care for travellers is important, and automatic cover along with mandated top up insurance cover ensures that coporates comply with this duty at all times. When the full card solution, complete with supporting systems, is in place, suppliers are paid timeously, there is a centralised account that assists with the visibility of the corporate travel programme and questionable transactions are identified more quickly.

Q: Are things like lounge access, travel insurance and links with loyalty programmes now a given?
A: This depends largely on the needs of the corporate. Some corporates prefer a loyalty programme versus streamlined reconciliation systems. However, most corporates are still in the space where the cost saving generated by using the technology of integrated systems far outweighs the points generated on a loyalty programme.

Q: Just how important and topical is the issue of effective reconciliation in the current charge card space?
A: Very topical. For many years this has been an issue (as well as a huge expense) for TMCs and corporates alike. Technology is swiftly changing the face of the industry and the day-to-day efficiencies of how business is done.

Q: What are currently the biggest talking points in the charge card space?
A: The communication channels with government have opened up recently and there is a far better understanding between the travel industry, financial service providers such as Nedbank/American Express and government decision makers around the benefits of using a lodge card.

Q: How does Nedbank/American Express Card plan to stay ahead of the ever-changing needs of the modern-day business traveller?
A: The rate at which technology is changing the way people travel and/or experience travel is driving the need to stay current and relevant across the industry. Nedbank/American Express is constantly adapting and pushing beyond the boundaries of how things have always been done to ensure that the modern-day business traveller and the TMC servicing that traveller are receiving cutting-edge, dynamic solutions in the card payment space.