Tech insights: How African Alliance Automated Expense Allocation to Save Time and Costs

How African Alliance Automated Expense Allocation to Save Time and Costs

By Marcelle van Niekerk

One of the biggest challenges for African Alliance was figuring out how to effectively allocate team spending. The company has many diverse businesses and hundreds of employees working across Africa. Their software team has used programmable banking to build a system that makes managing their finances easier. We spoke to Kevin Boshoff, Software Development Manager, about how immediate expense logging and automated processing helped the company save time and costs.

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Kevin Boshoff is the Software Development Manager at African Alliance, an investment banking firm. His team has been working on streamlining how employee expenses are managed.

Because African Alliance has businesses across Africa, hundreds of employees are frequently travelling across the continent and incurring work expenses like travel, accommodation and food.

Until recently, the process for logging these expenses looked like the following:

Members of their team had to:

  • Keep physical receipts of all their expenses
  • Submit the physical receipts to the finance team in batches by the end of each month

The finance team would then:

  • Manually log and allocate the receipts
  • Follow up on any missing receipts
  • Reconcile all the expenses on their accounting system

As the company has scaled, this process has become more cumbersome and it’s become harder to accurately keep track of the finances. With the manual logging process, the finance team had to spend a lot of time following up on missing receipts which wasn’t scalable.

Using programmable banking to automate the process

After hearing about programmable banking from a friend, Kevin decided to see if it would be a useful tool to help update this process. His goal was to build a system that made expense logging easier and more convenient for the spender. This would help speed up processing time and avoid bottlenecks on the accounting side.

Following an exploration phase, Kevin’s team spent five months developing a prototype of this system.

“The documentation to help us build this was great. You could just go in and get started, it was honestly effortless - there was no massive learning curve. And everyone on our team was 100% committed to building something great,” says Kevin.

He recommends turning to the programmable banking community for support as you build your product.

“There was such a good community on the back of this. Spend time reaching out and speaking to those people,” he says. “You get a lot more visibility of what other people’s issues are on how they’re finding innovative ways to deal with it. It really helped us with rapid prototyping and speed of adoption. Many solutions have been developed by the community already, which means you don’t have to go and build from scratch.”

The process for logging expenses has now been automated as follows:

  • On the front-end, employees scan receipts the moment they accrue them by using an app.
  • These scanned receipts are then uploaded to the cloud.
  • On the back-end, the system uses a mix of AI solutions to automatically match receipts to expenses and suggest allocations before processing.
  • All of the reporting and reconciliation of expenses in the accounting system is done automatically.

Team members now spend a lot less time every day managing their expenses and entire days of work are saved every month.

Key learnings so far

While their expense allocation system is still very new and undergoing rounds of user-testing, African Alliance has already seen big savings in time and cost. Kevin also says that his team has learned a lot of valuable lessons.

For Kevin, working with programmable banking to make managing expenses more streamlined has helped his team – as well as the company – win in these ways so far:

Better user experience means more accurate results

Because the new scan functionality has made it easier for employees to log their expenses as they incur them, fewer receipts now go missing.

This results in more accurate figures and audit trails at the end of the month.

Introducing new technology helps spot areas for improvement in existing systems

Kevin’s team was excited to explore how they could use programmable banking to improve the existing product, and reduce the pressures that the old system brought for both themselves and other employees.

Introducing programmable banking into their workflow also helped his team have another look at their architecture and the structure of their systems in general. They decided to rework a lot of their services as they moved away from batch processing, and built a microservices framework around the new expense system.

They also spent some time figuring out how to streamline their subscription to Microsoft Azure’s cloud services. This will ensure that everything is functional when they scale the platform to suit their business needs.

Next steps

Because their new system has seen such great success so early on, Kevin and his team are already working on further developments. Notably, they are looking into building out a robust monitoring system to prevent fraud through personalised spend profiles and spending limits.


Find out how programmable banking can help your business win

If you’re interested in finding out more about programmable banking, feel free to contact our community team, Ben and Nick.

If you’d like to see more from other members of the programmable banking community, you can:

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