Five with Fidel #3 | Matt Risley, Partner at QED Investors
Welcome to Episode 3 of Five with Fidel!
This week, we’re joined by Matt Risley, Partner at QED Investors. Prior to investing, Matt served as CFO for Klarna. Today, Klarna is one of Europe’s largest Fintech companies, serving 90 million consumers across 17 countries. Therefore, we think it’s safe to say he’s an authority on Fintech innovation, certainly within the Finance function.
As Fidel eyes opportunities to support Finance teams with their business expense management, who better to chat to than someone with first-hand experience with the challenges these teams face?
Q1 | Hi Matt, thanks for chatting to us! Now, as a former CFO of Klarna, managing expenses must be a topic you have a few opinions on. What would you say were the biggest challenges you faced?
Great question. I think ensuring policy adherence was a tough one – employees choosing the right flight classes, meal spend, phone brands, etc. could cause friction. Nobody wants to not be able to reimburse an employee over a mistake or lack of policy awareness.
Typically, T&E (Travel & Entertainment) expenses were done at the end of the month, once all credit card bills were received. That’s when you could run into problems with approval routing and time lag. I remember, as CFO, observing emails and spreadsheets being circulated as a makeshift means of capturing receipt info or to validate approvals.
It created a lack of visibility over how expenses were developing throughout the month. Finance’s work became quite “spiky” and verifying expense information in a timely manner created accuracy issues.
Q2 | In an ideal world, what would be the qualities of the perfect EM platform?
I think to encourage policy adherence, you’d want a card for T&E that could provide real time alerts on each transaction. If you could automatically prevent a transaction or alert a user to double-check when making an expense outside policy, that would be useful. Oftentimes, alerting is better than blocking a transaction. If an employee is stuck overnight due to a flight cancellation and there’s one, possibly expensive, hotel room left, they’ll still need a room!
In an ideal world, when a user buys a flight or a hotel room, they can be prompted immediately when that transaction may be non-compliant. The prompt can either request further detail, captured for later approval, or the hotel/flight reservation can be cancelled right after the fact at no cost.
Regarding time-lag, a real-time feed of card transactions, integrated into an expense management system would be great. It could be used to trigger my EM processes as transactions occur, helping avoid the problems I’ve laid out above.
There are better tools available today for expenses routing, with reasonable adoption rates, but it wasn’t always the case.
Q3 | As you’ll know, we’ve been exploring the opportunity for our APIs to be applied to expense management. What’s your initial reaction to the idea of transaction APIs like Fidel’s powering EM and who do you think would benefit from them most?
Sounds brilliant! I think Fidel’s technology definitely lends itself to an expense management solution. Accurately tracking and flagging card transactions in real-time solves a great deal of the logistical and technical issues we faced when managing expenses. As a CFO, your priorities are visibility and detailed organisation - so it’s quite a natural fit for technology like Fidel’s to apply in this area.
I think there’s a broad spectrum of businesses who could benefit from this solution. Anyone without massive finance functions or those operating with remote offices would both make good use of a centralising system like this. It allows for a more consistent service across all functions, and won’t break the bank of a company lacking a large finance budget to begin with.
Q4 | B2Bs including Brex, Expensify and TripActions have entered the corporate card issuance game with the goal of streamlining fragmented EM processes. What are your thoughts on the trend - do you think it could solve the historic issues we’ve discussed? Could they benefit from working with Fidel?
Yeah, they’re some good examples of companies improving the card-to-system integration. Simplifying that cohesion makes employees’ lives easier and the finance departments enjoy a cost-effective, clearer and simpler EM process.
I would say there are some downsides to the current offerings, though. For example, there’s lost cardholder flexibility and convenience for one – what if I like using my trusted Amex card? Going back to my ‘ideal world’, I might want to keep my Amex. I should still be able to enjoy a secure integration between my personal card and a more responsive EM system.
That’s why I’m excited about what Fidel is building for the T&E space, as it would provide exactly that – letting me choose the financial provider I want and the best rewards program for me, while having the real time feeds channeled to my EM system. I think it’s certainly got a place in my ‘ideal world,’ or office, at least!
Q5 | Speaking of the office, we’ve all been deprived of good, old office culture this year. If you were a CEO - what’s one thing you’d make compulsory in your dream office and one thing you would banish forever.
Oh absolutely, I’d make Junior mints compulsory in my dream office – they’re delicious, can’t recommend them highly enough.
On the other hand, I think I’d have to banish ‘open offices’, at least for tech companies. When you’re trying to focus and get work done, I’ve always felt like there were too many distractions – long live the humble office cubicle!
If you missed our first episode - where we sat down with Fidel’s new CRO James Allgrove - you can have a read here.
You can connect with Matt on Linkedin here if you’d like to say hi or defend edgy, open-plan offices everywhere. Make sure to look out for our next Five with Fidel episode - you can subscribe to our blog here to never miss a beat.