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Manual Expense and Business Travel Processes Could be Costing Hong Kong US$342 million of GDP Per Year

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Manual Expense and Business Travel Processes Could be Costing Hong Kong US$342 million of GDP Per Year

By: SAP Concur Hong Kong

Date: 5th Aug 2020


A new SAP® Concur® commissioned study revealed that the despite widespread digital transformation in Hong Kong, many firms still run manual finance and administrative processes – resulting inefficiencies may be costing productivity losses.The study, entitled “Finance in the New World of Work” aims to inform business, finance and HR decision makers of the economic cost of poor finance and administrative processes and systems in the region. It also identifies the gaps in organisations’ expense management, business travel and remote work processes.

As many as 45 percent of respondents submit expenses manually by filling out a form and enclosing physical receipts. Such a manual process is tedious, error prone, and incongruous with the digital lifestyles employees are leading today.

“Culture and employees are our competitive advantage. We’re really encouraging diverse thought and perspectives throughout the innovation and delivery of our products.” Alexandra Lopez, Chief Procurement Officer at Cisco Systems

Employees spent an average of 2.6 hours per month filing expense claims – about half a typical workday. Managers had it worse – they spent 5.5 hours reviewing and approving expense claims, in addition to the 2.6 hours they spent submitting their own claims. That added up to an astonishing 8.1 hours a month.

Finance Transformation is Lagging

Asia Insight, which conducted the survey, used International Labour Organization (ILO) statistics on output per worker and the number of information workers, and the study’s results, to calculate and derive that saving just 10 percent of the time spent on filing and approving claims would translate to US$342 million of potential GDP revenue gain for Hong Kong each year, assuming all the lost hours are diverted to productive work. Mid to large-sized organisations could save tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars2 over the same period.

Beyond the tedium 56 percent of respondents say they are less than satisfied with their organisation’s expense claims process) and inefficiency costs, the study also found that current expense management systems’ support for modern payment methods is inadequate. Close to a third (18%) of respondents said they want their expense management software to integrate with external apps to enable added functionality like reimbursement of payments made through super apps (umbrella apps containing other apps).

Room for Improvement in Business Travel 

The preference for all things mobile and digital includes business travel too. Corporate travel systems that enable staff to book flights and accommodations digitally and via mobile, perhaps even on their usual personal travel booking platforms and apps, to help keep them happy.

Travellers also want mobile-based features like real time alerts of danger spots and the ability to make itinerary changes on-the-fly via mobile, as well as seamless travel management with a high degree of personalisation. However for many organisations, business travel management is piecemeal and disjointed, leaving 45 percent of employees less than satisfied with the time and effort incurred.

Gearing Up the Workforce for Remote Work

Remote work will be the default mode of work for many organisations in the foreseeable future.

While 59 percent of the respondents said they feel more productive working from home, 45 percent of employees cited the loss of productivity during official work hours due to distractions as their top challenge. So companies are now at a point where they can adapt their operations to make remote work a boon to them, or do nothing and let it become a hindrance.

Survey respondents want their employers to enable easy remote claims and travel management, improve collaboration, and provide better IT equipment and services.

Opportunity for Organisations to Embrace Remote Work for Better Business Outcomes

45 percent of employees strongly link their overall finance and administrative experience and their overall satisfaction of working for their organisations. This suggests that if businesses want to retain their talent, they need to improve their finance and administrative processes.

Here are three recommendations for businesses:

1. Automate Expense and Business Travel Management

Automation takes repetitive, manual aspects out of routine finance and administrative tasks, saving employees time so they can focus on meaningful work. It also saves time for the finance team by eliminating paperwork and detecting erroneous or fraudulent claims. Just as importantly, automated solutions provide visibility and control, and facilitate compliance.

2. Make Business Travel More Streamlined and Personalised

Travel managers should revamp their travel management systems by:

  • Enhancing controls: Reviewing their travel policy to better control costs; moving to digital receipts; and aligning their expense and travel policies
  • Improving visibility: Integrating their travel and expense systems to facilitate data flow; considering app-based bookings that still stay within corporate policy; and improving budget and spend reporting
  • Bolstering duty of care readiness: Ensuring they know travellers’ locations at all times and be in a position to render assistance

3. Align Systems and Tools to Optimally Support Remote Work

Organisations must make their infrastructure and processes conducive for remote work. This includes digitising paper receipts, allowing vendors to invoice organisations directly for their employees’ purchases, and deploying experience management tools for better collaboration.

Companies should also review their expense policies to ensure staff are properly reimbursed for items or services used to facilitate remote work.

Adoption of the above recommendations will lead to an efficient, agile, and innovative finance organisation, which can better support the business in delivering value to customers, helping it become more resilient for the new era.

For full recommendations and other findings, download the SAP Concur Finance in the New World of Work Study whitepaper here


The SAP Concur brand commissioned the Finance in the New World of Work Study 2020, which was conducted by Asia Insight (https://www.asiainsight.com/) in May 2020. The study was conducted across Asia Pacific with 2,012 respondents who are finance and expense users from organisations with more than 250 employees. Markets featured in the study are Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. Respondents work in the financial services & insurance, retail, manufacturing, public sector/government, healthcare, education, technology, professional services and automotive industries. About 71% of respondents have expense approval responsibilities, of which 18% are senior management, 41% are middle management, 24% are managers and 9% are officers/executives. Some 82% of respondents are business travellers, with 60% travelling for work one to five times a year. In Hong Kong, 102 respondents were included in the study.

[1] To calculate the savings to be reaped from automating manual expense claim processes, Asia Insight created an economic loss model based on macro-economic data compiled by the International Labour Organization (ILO). This model divides the GDP of each market by its total number of workers to derive the average output per worker. The model then assumes a 10 percent reduction in wasted expense submission/review/approval time, and multiplies it by the number of information workers in each market to get the economic gain per market. These market gains are then aggregated to project the overall Asia Pacific gain of US$21.5 billion.

2Similarly, gains can be projected for individual businesses. ILO statistics show that the average output of one hour of a worker’s time in Asia Pacific is US$7.70. If a business currently incurs 10,000 man-hours per month on expense claims and could save 10 percent of that time, it would have conserved 1,000 man-hours per month, translating to a benefit of US$7.70 x 1,000 or US$7,700 per month or US$92,400 per year.


This article is by SAP Concur Hong Kong. You can view the original article here.


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About SAP Concur

SAP® Concur® is the world’s leading brand for integrated travel, expense, and invoice management solutions, driven by a relentless pursuit to simplify and automate these everyday processes. The top-rated SAP Concur mobile app guides employees through every trip, charges are effortlessly populated into expense reports, and invoice approvals are automated. By integrating near real-time data and using AI to audit 100% of transactions, businesses can see exactly what they’re spending without worrying about blind spots in the budget. SAP Concur solutions eliminate yesterday’s tedious tasks, make today’s work easier, and help businesses run at their best every day. Learn more at www.concur.com.hk.