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Procure to Pay & Account Payables automation software for MEA Businesses

NetSuite, Dynamics & ERP Integrations • Budget-Controlled Corporate Cards • Global Supplier Payments in 140+ currencies  • Procurement & Payables Automation

Pluto customers save an average of 26% per month in finance teams time.

For truck, fleet & maritime businesses

For e-commerce & retail businesses

For manufacturing businesses

For agencies & tech companies

4.8 / 5.0 star
from Finance Professionals

Accepted worldwide, without limits

Trusted by the largest MEA Finance & Procurement Teams

TVC & Music Video Production

Government Services

Aviation Company

Transportation

Travel

Largest Chemical Distributor

Real estate platform

Beauty

Transportation

TVC & Music Video Production

Government Services

Aviation Company

Transportation

Travel

Largest Chemical Distributor

Real estate platform

Beauty

Transportation

Real Estate

Mobile Car Services

Proptech company

Advertising and PR

Media

Media

Public Relations

Payments platform

Real Estate

Mobile Car Services

Proptech company

Advertising and PR

Media

Media

Public Relations

Payments platform

Whether you start with one module or adopt the whole platform, Pluto helps your business save time & money

Procure to Pay

Consolidate your finance and procurement teams with our Procure to Pay software.

Manage the entire procurement lifecycle from Purchase Requests (PR) to Purchase Orders (PO), invoices, and two or three way matching in one place.

Corporate Cards

Get smart, virtual, and physical cards for your entire team with automated budget controls, receipt policy enforcements, and compliance management.

Skip sharing OTPs or wasting money on hidden FX fees.

Petty Cash Management

Digitize and eliminate petty cash vouchers.

Manage your employee’s cash on hand & receipts directly on Pluto.

Don’t let cash leakages eat away at your bottom line.

T&E Reimbursements

Allow your employees to submit reimbursement requests with ease.

Get the right approvals in place with custom approval workflows.

Instantly reimburse employees in bulk and surpass your finance team’s KPIs.

Bill Management

Improve your vendor relationships and reduce duplicate payments by maintaining a centralized place for all your bills, approvals, and payments.

Make local or international payments via one-click wire transfer to 140+ currencies or by using Pluto corporate cards.

Real time insights

Send weekly automated financial reports to your CFO and other executives.

Ensure auditability across every module.

Get a full breakdown of reimbursements and expense transactions.

ACCOUNTING ERP INTEGRATIONS

Close Your Books 10x Faster

Integrate your ERP & accounting system with Pluto, sync all payments directly with your GL & tax codes, and close your books 10x faster.

Pluto integrates with all major ERPs including Xero, Zoho, QuickBooks, Dynamics & Netsuite.

Pluto definitely helps the business manage their operational spending in a most efficient manner and provide visibility of how the forecast would look like. Before Pluto, me as a CFO had to wait for a month end report to understand the spending and frequency of the same but now with Pluto have much better visibility on each department and their frequency of spending.

Jarna Gaglaani, CFO, UDrive

Before and After with Pluto

Before Pluto

Lack of visibility into where money is being spent. Difficulty in identifying areas where costs can be reduced. Unable to enforce control budgets. Wasted time spent on chasing employees to submit expense reports.

After Pluto

Track and control spending by collecting and analyzing data from all areas of the business. Intuitive processes that adopt spending policies & procedures, and approval workflows. Tight control over the company’s finances, allowing for growth.

Before Pluto

Manually filling purchase requisition forms. Chasing management for approvals and signatures. Matching invoices to POs. Lack of visibility on vendor contracts & negotiations.

After Pluto

Pluto's Procure to Pay module is a comprehensive solution that streamlines the procurement process and enables finance teams to have full visibility and control over PO spending. With Pluto, employees can easily submit procurement requests, while finance teams can track and manage the entire process, ensuring compliance and cost control.

Before Pluto

No clear visibility on spend. Overspending. Business expenses are missing receipts. Hours spent on reimbursement claims. Miscommunication between team members and departments. Shared OTPs.

After Pluto

Easy spend control adoption. Vendor-specific cards to avoid abuse. Reimbursement claims in 30 seconds. Assigned budgeted corporate cards for each employee. No more shared OTPs.

For Finance Teams

Before Pluto

Lack of visibility into where money is being spent. Difficulty in identifying areas where costs can be reduced. Unable to enforce control budgets. Wasted time spent on chasing employees to submit expense reports.

After Pluto

Track and control spending by collecting and analyzing data from all areas of the business. Intuitive processes that adopt spending policies & procedures, and approval workflows. Tight control over the company’s finances, allowing for growth.

For Procurement Teams

Before Pluto

Manually filling purchase requisition forms. Chasing management for approvals and signatures. Matching invoices to POs. Lack of visibility on vendor contracts & negotiations.

After Pluto

Pluto's Procure to Pay module is a comprehensive solution that streamlines the procurement process and enables finance teams to have full visibility and control over PO spending. With Pluto, employees can easily submit procurement requests, while finance teams can track and manage the entire process, ensuring compliance and cost control.

For Employees

Before Pluto

No clear visibility on spend. Overspending. Business expenses are missing receipts. Hours spent on reimbursement claims. Miscommunication between team members and departments.
Shared OTPs.

After Pluto

Easy spend control adoption. Vendor-specific cards to avoid abuse. Reimbursement claims in 30 seconds. Assigned budgeted corporate cards for each employee. No more shared OTPs.

COST & COMPLIANCE CONTROL

More Budget Controls, Less Financial Stress

Issue vendor-controlled corporate cards.

Get managers approvals for transactions & implement a customized workflow as per your company's policies.

Set daily, monthly, or yearly card budget limits to avoid being overcharged.

Get notified when duplicate receipts have been uploaded.

approval workflows

Automate Approvals, Eliminate Confusion

Embed your expense policy with our flexible policy builder into Pluto’s software to control, manage and monitor  spending and ensure compliance with your company’s policy guidelines.

How Pluto helps your team save time and money

Save money

Unlimited 2% cash back on 100+ currency card spend that beats any other corporate card or loyalty point cards in the market

10X reductions in petty cash spends

90% receipt collection success rate with automated receipt chasing

Over $50,000 worth of partner perks including discounts on UAE tax consultation services

Increased visibility over vendor contracts & negotiations to make sure you're getting the best deal and cutting costs.

Save time

10+ hours saved per month with direct accounting sync (QBO, Xero, MS, Netsuite and more)

Auto-categorization of all expenses

Automated budget & spend controls so you can be hands-off

No manual report creation, automated dashboards & insights

Automatic invoice management with OCR technology

2-3 way PO matching

See why MENA finance teams love us!

Works with your existing bank account. Accepted in 200+ countries.

Learn from MENA's top CFO's and Finance Professionals

5
November 28, 2023

Interviewed by

Leen Shami

Charting the Journey of a First-Time CFO: An Interview with Jarna Gaglaani, CFO of UDrive

What is your background, your education, and how have you reached this stage in your career? Tell us about yourself.

I come from Bangalore, India. It is  supposed to be the tech hub of the country.

Growing up, I didn't have anyone to look up to. 

As I was growing up, I realized that I needed  to do something extraordinary. I wanted to be a working woman, which is not normal in our culture and country.  I wanted  to create an impact.

While Chartered Accountancy was not exactly a childhood passion for me, it would give me a shot at achieving all this and more. I could also have gone for an MBA but for the expense. So I chose to pursue the former.  

To become a CA in India, you have to crack one of the toughest exams in the country. There's a pass percentage of around 2%. That was a huge challenge, but I love challenges. I took it up along with my graduation and became a CA by the time I was 22. 

I also  got a lucky break with Coca-Cola in Bangalore where I got to work in the regional finance office as a financial analyst.  I really started my career with understanding the numbers, right? As a financial analyst you create the numbers, try to interpret data,  and then see the impact it has on the business. And that's how I just got onto this path.

From there I moved to a tech company where I supported the team with the functional improvements and enhancements in accounting software or ERP. 

Thereafter, I moved to core FP&A.

I moved to Dubai and got into proper financial accounting, projections, budgeting and managing cash flows, typically what every finance manager does. 

I also consulted independently  for a while to support companies with implementations.

Finally, I landed at UDrive. I began my journey here as an accountant. I set  up the department like a finance manager, accounts manager, and have pretty much done that  in the last five years, where every year I did something completely different. This has helped me learn new things.

That has been my journey in a nutshell.

Can you tell us about the biggest challenge you have faced as a first-time CFO?

One thing that most of the corporate world suffers from and I guess I did too, is the lack of  a mentor, coach, guide, or someone who has done it before you. 

This has been my biggest struggle because while you can do everything that you know and you've learned, you do not get to learn new things. This means you have to experiment by yourself, make some mistakes, and use them to learn.

I’ve noticed that it’s easier to find peers who will guide you in professions and departments other than Finance. In tech, for example,   there are many people in a department and each can handhold  one other; they learn. But most companies  have just one chartered accountant. The others are mostly junior accountants. So, the companies that I worked with didn't have many people that  I could look up to.

As a first time CFO, my biggest challenge was getting my hands dirty to learn and improve  everything by myself. 

You spoke a lot about the chartered accountants' course. Can you tell us more about it and how it helped you in your current role as CFO?

CAs are certified accountants in India, similar to certified public accountants (CPAs) in the USA. The only difference in India is that  they've made the standards pretty high now.

Throughout my four years of the course, there were at least  16 different aspects of the business commercial world that I was exposed to. From commercial law and cost accounting, to management accounting,reporting, and   technology as well.

The thing about this course is that it gave me exposure to many areas. Now a few people from here may pick up auditing and they just work on the audit side of it. Few other people may just take accounting and they get into a FP&A role. 

But most of all, chartered accountants become managers by default. You learn about taxes, indirect taxes, and direct taxes. And you then specialize in whichever area you want to.

Every business has these key functions, whether you talk about people management, accounting, taxation, compliance, or costing and management accounting. And of course, large corporates may have different people doing different things, but in a startup, it's very important that you are aware of more than one role, and I think that's where it has helped me a lot because I could really understand when I see some data or I see some statistics, I can strategically make a decision based on the numbers.

As a CFO, you are expected to handle more than just finance functions and financial matters. You also need to have a good understanding of other operational areas such as HR, legal, marketing, compliance, and sales. How do you balance and navigate these different areas effectively as a CFO?

You do not learn everything overnight, right?

I started with the accounting function, but over a period of time the need arose that I had to do more of a financial analyst role or a business analyst role. So, I gradually grew into that role. And thereafter my role required legal expertise so I took that up as well. 

I may not be a lawyer, but I can read a legal document because that's what we learn in our business law, right? 

Over a period of time, I think, a couple of years back, our HR function needed someone to have a strategic mindset. So, I took up that upon myself to oversee the HR function as well. And I think over a period of time you understand what are the key levers of the business; you understand operations is a key, if you tackle that well, then everything else just falls in place. I took that responsibility to understand the challenges that operations were facing. I never really managed operations directly, but I started learning about it. Later, I even learned marketing. 

When I joined U Drive, there were hardly any senior people in the organization. In fact, almost all of the senior people just came on board  in the previous year. At the time, we had no choice but to really be everywhere. That’s why I learned marketing, I learned business development, I learned tech.

Whatever I could, and needed to, I just started picking up. And it's very important for a CFO to have a complete understanding of each function. You cannot, basically be in your silo of financial information and not know what's happening in other departments, because ultimately all of these functions put together push the company ahead.

With UDrive being a car-sharing company,  ​​how do you manage the balance between strategic thinking and the challenges of running a complex business with many logistics involved?

This is one thing I'm proud to share: we do almost around 40,000 rentals in a month. 

I would say it would be much better as we grow over 40,000 rentals in 1 month, but the truth is  we may be just sitting in the office sipping coffee. 

Just imagine any rental car company that has the physical delivery of vehicles, if they had to do 40,000 rentals a month, I think they may be just overstocked. I mean, they would have to have thousands of people doing that, right? But for us, it's all technology.  This is what data automation and all the systems that you build can help you with.

The business is complex. Why is it complex?  Because our product keeps moving all the time. It's not in one place, right? So which customers to target, where to target, we don't know, right? 

But what we do in the course of our business is start a process. We set some basic guidelines and expectations. Then, over a period of time, we assess what the key challenges are, and we develop tools and systems to handle those challenges. 

My CEO, Mr. Nick Watson, is someone who is a strong believer that you can never perfect anything. So you just start and by the time you implement, you accumulate enough learning to perfect it. 

Most of our thinking time goes into finding the right tools or right methods to handle a challenge.

UDRIVE was one of Pluto’s Earliest Customers, and we have been partners since. You made a very strong strategic decision to adopt modern finance tools. What made you do this? How can finance teams be more open to automation?

Again, it comes from the culture that we set in the company, right from day one.

When I joined the company, we didn't even have an ERP. The books of accounts were maintained  in Excel. We didn't have  automated  invoicing, nor automation for card payments.

Of course, it was just the first year of the company’s business, so there were too many things happening. Of course, one is that the volume of transactions we handle is so high that you don't have a choice but to go for automation in whatever form.

The second thing is that adopting technology has helped us focus on the right things in the business. Now, we don’t have to chase 20 people asking them to submit bills and cash transactions every time.

Pluto drastically reduced our issues overnight.  We knew that people would find it very convenient to always have  money on their cards. They could  just go spend,without requesting approvals and permissions repeatedly. Convenience makes a big difference.

Plus the future of payments is digital and paperless.  We cannot sustain if we don't go for modern solutions.

I do understand that a lot of accountants still come from that traditional thinking where they want control in their hand and they don't want to give it away . But, we have to think about the cost associated with it. Is it simply keeping three people occupied doing this tedious, repetitive, grunt work? Or is your objective actually to  accelerate your work? I think that is the reason when Pluto came in… I didn't have to even think for a second.

For us it was a no brainer. I mean, why should my accountant waste hours  just collating information and dumping that into the system when there is already a tool that can do it for you?

What are some of the key tactics you have planned to implement for cost containment in the upcoming years?

Well, we are already a very frugal company. We always operate like a bootstrapped company, although we are funded.

We believe that every penny that you put in has to have a ROI attached to it. I wouldn't call it cost containment, but cost optimization is something that we should all work on all the time. So, every single cost that we incur, we keep.

And I think, again, we take major help from  technology here. We are a tech driven company in every way.

I'll give you a simple example. 

Let's say we are spending some amount on rebalancing the vehicles, right? The vehicles are not where they should be, and we are just moving them. Over a period of time we have data collected. We review and analyze this data, then we find out what is the best way that we could build our own predictive way of ensuring that the vehicle is where the customer is.

We work on those kinds of data driven decisions which help reduce our costs. 

How critical is data analysis for decision-making processes within the organization, and what types of data do you focus on as a CFO? How do you go about identifying and prioritizing the different types of data that are relevant to the car-sharing industry?

Most of our work is all about data, and it is not limited to financial data alone. We also work with operational data and marketing data such as customer acquisition, the cost of customer acquisition, retention, churn rate etc.

We use the data for  operational decision making, devising strategies on the basis of it.

That's one of the key things that CFOs have to understand; their role is to help the business navigate using the data that they have. 

CFOs basically have that understanding of building a story out of the data, right?

So, we get the data, we learn what it means, we get the insights, and we see how it'll influence decision making.

Over the years, the role of the CFO has undergone a significant transformation, becoming increasingly strategic and less focused on traditional finance functions. Could you share some insights into how you have personally witnessed this evolution of the CFO role? How has your own approach to the CFO role changed over time to adapt to these changes?

The CFO role is always strategic in nature because one of the key things that a CFO has to ensure is to focus on how they can increase the return on shareholders’ equity. 

I would say that part of traditional finance will always remain with the CFO, but the evolving role of  a CFO is now majorly as   a finance business partner. Be the eye on the operations side and focus on how to increase the value of the business and how to ensure that you are able to evolve the business over a period of time. Whether it is about diversification, whether it is about going deeper  into operations or adding more verticals to the business. Whatever it is, I think, the CFO's role is always strategic in nature.

In our case, I was handling everything. When I became a CFO, my focus had to be much more on the business level, which is why we hired a finance manager and he takes care of the compliance, the finance, and the audit. He turns out the numbers, and then I read the numbers and see how we can help influence the decision making.

In your opinion, what are the most important skills for a CFO to possess in order to excel in a strategic role?

I think the  first and foremost skill would be to understand the key lever of the business in and out.

If a CFO doesn't understand what the key impact areas of the business are, then it's very difficult to support decision making. So, understand the business, what impacts the business, what impacts the revenue, what impacts your cost, what impacts your growth, your scale trajectory, everything.

The second one is about learning how to manage resources. Again, one of the biggest assets every company has is  human capital, right? 

It's very important for CFOs to understand how to maximize the return from this capital. Every penny that you invest in human resources should generate multiples of it for the company. That's how you drive efficiency. If the business was all about tools and systems, it would've been easier, but I think business is all about how  human capital is deployed to get the results. 

And thirdly, is to be open to new tools, technologies, new ideas, new thought processes.  If you don't learn technologies, if you are still dependent on old formats like Excel, and you are dependent on the old way of doing things, then I think you'll be wasting away your time doing the same work instead of adding value.

You have worked in several industries so far, including F&B and consulting. What role do you think subject matter expertise plays in the role of a CFO for the industry? And how have you acquired industry-specific SME knowledge quickly? 

We are not number crunchers anymore. That's how it was in the past, but today's systems can  do that for you. You don't have to crunch numbers and tally balance sheets. That's not your job anymore.

The role of a CFO today is to interpret the numbers and be able to give insights, valuable insights,  to the business. That is not possible if you are not a subject matter expert.

Of course, there are other things like compliance, where compliance requires your subject matter expertise. Not everyone can do that. 

Similarly, auditing. These are the things where you definitely need to have subject matter expertise.

But most importantly, I would say it’s about data, it’s about your numbers, what they talk about, and how you can disintegrate that number to a level where people can understand what it relates to. 

As far as your second question is concerned: If you understand from a business point of view, then the industry may keep changing, but the key levers don't change. Or even if they change, it's easy to pick them up because you know this is what impacts the business.

If it's a current rental business, then these are the key drivers of this business. If it's FMCG, then these are the key drivers of the business. So it's not difficult to understand if you understand the business well. 

The first few months in U Drive, I could understand what the key things were that we needed to play around with to ensure that our revenue per car increases. Or what the key things were that we needed to do to see that our gross margins start improving. These are the things that you begin to understand when you understand the business. 

One thing I want to circle back to is our topic about technology. With the rapid development of technologies like AI and the increasing digitization of businesses, CFOs must ensure their companies are adaptable to change. Success will be achieved by organizations that use technology effectively and promote internal alignment by breaking down silos. Have you introduced any new technologies that have helped UDrive’s finance team increase efficiency?

Automation was the first thing that I implemented. 

Of course, I do not understand coding, so I cannot do it myself, but having the right people around you who can do it for you, and you being the key driver, helps.

I started with automating  invoices and charging the cards. Data analytics is another thing. 

So, we onboarded data scientists who can really put things together in a manner that you can make decisions. 

And we already use AI for our data-driven decisions on operations.

There are several technologies, not necessarily that I have spearheaded everything, but at least I have been one of the first users of it for sure, if I'm not driving it myself. 

And you mentioned earlier that when you joined there was no ERP system.

I had to put that in place.

We could not do 40,000 rentals if we were still manually generating invoices.

You have to do it because you cannot ever let business get restricted. The growth cannot get restricted because you are not up to speed with technology. You always need to prepare well in advance.

UDrive is now live in Saudi Arabia. Congratulations! A lot of CFOs in MENA need to handle multi-jurisdiction finances. This is very different from the USA. How have your skills evolved to handle such tough challenges?

You may not be fully knowledgeable about a lot of things you doYou mess up, you make some mistakes, you learn from it, and you correct it. 

I think this is what my experience is about, even when it comes to finances for Saudi, so far we are managing most of it from the UAE.

Of course, as we grow, we will have them based in Saudi. We just concluded the first audit of Saudi, so we can say that we are good to go. The compliances are very different. And the sad part is not everything is documented easily.

One of the things that I learned from this entire exercise is that it's always good to have a consultant in that market who's a subject matter expert. 

What are some of the biggest pain points that you face today as a CFO, and how are you currently solving them? 

One of the biggest pain points is having all functions working in silos.

There is no common source of truth. 

We keep facing this challenge every now and then. It's not just us. I think every company faces this issue because most of the time, finance teams go with their thought process, their mindset, their logic, their numbers, and that's completely different from how the business works.

Aligning both of these and ensuring that they work as complements  to each other is one of the biggest challenges or hurdles to cross, and when you start working together, it all starts making sense. But I think having a single source of truth and having the compiled data was my biggest challenge.

Another challenge would be adopting the technology without having a hundred percent understanding of it. You want to do a lot of things, but  it takes a lot of time and it costs you a lot. Without understanding the benefits and how you're going to maximize your value on this, you are not able to motivate or engage resources to deliver it to you.This is where I think you suffer a lot because you don't know how to encapsulate what you want in technological language. Functionally, you know, this is what you want and you know it's going to have a lot of advantages, but you don't know how to communicate with the stakeholders for them to understand how important it is.

‍What advice would you give finance professionals in today’s modern age? 

First, I think all finance professionals have to wear the hat of a business partner. 

As I said, we are not number crunchers alone. We are not here only to just compile data and share it with people.

That's not the role of a finance person anymore. 

They have to be in a position to understand the business and see how they can correlate the numbers with business performance and influence decision-making. 

This is something that you need to do with each function head, because until they don't understand what they are doing, and how it is impacting in the p&l. 

The second thing I would say is, be ready to learn and adapt to changes.

I still see a lot of people who are comfortable with the old ways of doing things and don't want to try doing something new or different. Make an attempt, take that risk. You'll fail. That's fine. We'll make a mistake, we'll learn from it and we'll correct it.
5
April 25, 2023

Interviewed by

Leen Shami

Inside the Mind of Eon Dental’s CFO: Mastering Strategic Healthcare Finance

Tell us about yourself - your background, education, and career journey.

I majored in accounting and finance. I got into the healthcare industry very early in my career, and I was fortunate to join Hikma  Pharmaceuticals, where I worked firsthand with the CFO and the executive chairman. 

At Hikma,  I got to work on some very exciting projects at a very early stage in my career, including the rollout of the budgeting and planning functions, their IPO, and M&A projects.

After I spent about six years over there, I naturally picked up the healthcare label and stayed within that space. I ended up working at a private equity fund in Dubai that was focusing on healthcare, among other things. 

I also worked at Sandoz, which is the generic arm of Novartis. 

After that, I joined Smith and Nephew, which is one of the world's largest medical device companies. 

I had a small entrepreneurial stint, which unfortunately didn't go too well. It was a new concept that I launched right before the onset of Covid, which wasn't very helpful.

But then that's really how I found myself joining Eon. In March 2021, I came to know about a medical device company that's based out of Jordan that's searching for a CFO- - and I joined in April 2021. 

What happens in the other departments eventually finds its way into the finance function.
Can you tell us more about your entrepreneurial journey?

The entrepreneurial journey was obviously very difficult but equally exciting. I tried to introduce a new concept to the market; similar to GPOs which are group purchasing organizations, they're quite prevalent in the US in the healthcare space. But we also have some of them over here (MENA)  in public hospitals.

So with GPOs, even though hospitals may be competing on the front-end for patients and doctors, there's a lot of room to collaborate on the back-end, generally in terms of bulk buying, and particularly for commoditized products.

So I tried to set up something similar to that over here in the UAE. I got some large hospital groups signed up, which was very good. But I think the market wasn’t ready for a new business model, and when Covid came into play, the task became more difficult. 

At that point,  I decided to take a pause, especially when a more exciting opportunity came. 

Which of these moments marked a turning point in your career, and why was it so important?

I'd start off with Hikma.

One, looking back, no company gave me the same kind of experience where I was working alongside the CFO and the executive chairman.

Two, the nature of the projects themselves. When you're based out of Jordan, only a handful of companies give you that kind of exposure, especially on that scale and that kind of global remit.

With no formal handover process, the biggest challenge was taking a look under the hood to understand the company's status quo

Later on, the opportunity that I got at Smith and Nephew was also quite exciting. It was a good turning point, and it was transformational because I got immediate C-suite exposure at a FTSE 100 company, and I also got the benefit of assembling and managing large teams and projects in complex projects across multiple jurisdictions. 

My experience at Smith and Nephew was also pivotal because they gave me the opportunity to take on a senior commercial role. I was looking after the P&L for the region over here (GCC, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan) and got out of the traditional comfort zone that I had in financial and investment management - getting into the commercial part of the business by going into the field, and engaging more with the doctors, customers, regulators, and sales reps, giving me better insights into how the data and transactions that I previously used to manage actually comes into being.

 I think these two stand out most in terms of my career.

In your role as a first-time CFO, what has been the biggest challenge so far? 

With no formal handover process, the biggest challenge was taking a look under the hood to understand the company's status quo. Eon had rapidly outgrown its infrastructure - the physical infrastructure and the soft infrastructure like its processes and accounting systems.

A lot of the physical and operational matters needed to catch up with Eon's growth. The challenges that we had with that were further compounded with the onset of Covid.

It was also difficult for me to understand the status quo of the company, which was probably one of the most important things to get your head around when you first join that kind of position.

I spent a lot of time doing operational deep dives, not just within the finance function but across many other departments, because what happens in the other departments eventually finds its way into the finance function.

So these were the biggest challenges so far.

And what is your greatest accomplishment?

It's probably too early in the journey to look back and talk about the greatest accomplishment per se.

But I can definitely say we've had some very pleasant wins.

I need to enable them by ensuring they have the financial resources to do their work and to have effective controls in place to protect the company.
Your career has involved creating budgets, financial plans, mergers and acquisitions, and financial strategies for major companies across MENA. How does that experience differ from your current role?

In terms of the planning, transactional, and strategic kind of work I currently do at Eon, it's pretty much the same. The only difference is there's less red tape and more freedom to operate. 

With Smith and Nephew or Hikma or even at Sandoz, we were bigger organizations, and the process would run through different layers, whether cascading upwards or downwards.

At Eon, because we are a relatively smaller company and have smaller teams, we can definitely be a lot more agile and nimble in terms of executing that kind of work.

That's on the overlap with the kind of work that I used to do in the past.

Besides the planning/strategic and transactional work that I just described,  I also now need to manage that with a lot of the operational work that still needs to happen.

In the past, I had the luxury of just focusing on the strategic and the planning work, but now I need to oversee a lot of the operational work that happens on a day-to-day basis. I also need to oversee the production of all the data that are associated with, or that's a precursor to, all the planning and transactional work.

So, the kind of work is very similar, but how it happens is definitely a lot more complex.

A CFO today is expected to not only lead finance functions and manage the financial matters at hand but also wear many operational hats: HR, legal, marketing, compliance, and sales. How do you go about leading & navigating those different areas as a CFO?

My role is primarily to enable these functions. I need to enable them by ensuring they have the financial resources to do their work and to have effective controls in place to protect the company.

These are the two major things in terms of how I need to support these functions.

I see it more in terms of enabling these teams.

At the end of the day, I'm very lucky to be working with some of the most talented and motivated individuals in the industry.  The team really comes together like a family. Our CEO and our People and Culture team have done a very good job in not only recruiting the right kind of employees but stakeholders as well. Everyone is fully motivated, everyone takes full ownership, and everyone at the office works like friends coming together with common interests to work on a project. So I feel it's more like working with family and friends as opposed to a formal kind of office environment.

It makes such a big difference because it becomes less about following up and ensuring people are doing what they're supposed to be doing and just giving people the space to do their work.

So, getting the right people, I think, is key, and I'm very lucky to be working with that kind of setup, where my role is more as an enabler.

Wearing multiple hats as a CFO comes hand-in-hand with strategy. Since joining Eon Dental in 2021, have you introduced new strategies to help the business move forward?

We have different brainstorming sessions, different ideas, and we always come up with points where a decision needs to be made, whether it’s for operational matters or strategic matters, and they vary in terms of their importance and their scope.

Sometimes it could be giving solicited feedback about a specific issue, whether negotiating with a major supplier or a customer. Or sometimes, it can be sharing my vision or how I feel about where the business is going to be or where it needs to be in the coming few years to help maximize shareholder value.

So, it's not about introducing a specific strategy, and all of us are running towards it; it's more about thinking out loud on general or more specific issues on hand.

Expense management is a big issue, especially when you are in a high growth kind of setup, like Eon; high growth, high investment.
We've seen more CFOs taking on the CEO role or acting as interim CEOs in recent years. How closely do you work with Qais, the CEO? And how do you ensure that the CEO-CFO relationship is strong?

We definitely have a strong relationship in terms of how we operate - both formally and informally. 

We have formally scheduled executive leadership meetings; it's myself, the COO, and Qais, the CEO. We have scheduled meet-ups where we meet once a week, and we discuss operational matters, strategic matters, and general issues on hand. So we have a placeholder for that.

We also engage many times throughout the day, and the week, through phone calls, face-to-face meetings, and WhatsApp.

Again, I'll go back to the kind of relationship that we have; it's less about a formal kind of relationship and more about like-minded individuals coming together and working for a shared belief. This is how I see it. 

A big challenge facing most CFOs today is expense management. Is that an issue you’ve faced in your career? And what have you done to tackle such an issue?

More specifically, at Eon, yes, of course, it is a challenge.

Expense management is a big issue, especially when you are in a high growth kind of setup, like Eon; high growth, high investment.  How we deal with this is really just a combination of instilling a sense of ownership within the team and having a collective sense of responsibility to make sure that every dollar we spend matters, every dollar we spend counts. And then, we couple that with well-designed controls, policies, procedures, tools, and robust and proactive expense management functions.

We are big on that at Eon. We just need to ensure that we are deploying our resources in the right places at the right times.

The purpose over here is to try to streamline our workflows as much as possible.
I recently read an interview with Zendesk’s CFO, and he states that “Manual operational processes must be eliminated if you want your team to experience frictionless growth.” Have you adopted or introduced any new technologies to reduce manual work for Eon Dental’s finance team since joining?

Yes, of course.

Being a med-tech company, we have the luxury of having tech and product teams that help us automate a lot of the processes that we have. Whether it's invoicing, bookkeeping, data entry, or data management.

So yes, we are big proponents in trying to automate as much as we can, but at the same time, we also recognize that some issues we are not able to automate, and we still need to rely on manual processes.

But again, to the extent possible, we do try to automate as much as possible, whether it's relying on our in-house teams or utilizing third-party tools.

The purpose over here is to try to streamline our workflows as much as possible.

In today's rapidly evolving and unpredictable world, finance teams face the daunting task of adapting to emerging threats. The emergence of groundbreaking technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and unprecedented access to data present exciting new avenues for executing finance strategies. However, these advancements also give rise to fresh vulnerabilities, including cybersecurity threats and the potential for limited visibility into corporate data. What are your views on these developments and their impact on finance departments?

Despite the challenges that come with it, I'm a big proponent of automation, artificial intelligence, and utilizing data to the fullest extent possible. The important part is having the intent of working towards that and having the right systems and the right setups in place to protect that data so that you're able to sprint then towards the automation, the AI, and the different work streams that we're talking about.

For Eon, that challenge is compounded because not only do we have our own data that we need to protect, but we also deal with sensitive patient data. So, we need to be extra careful with our own data and patient data. 

A lot of our customers are global, so they have very high expectations in terms of how we manage data privacy. Even within the regional markets, the bar is continuously raised. Saudi and the UAE are introducing laws that are specific to data privacy, and we always need to comply with those.

Not only is it a challenge for us to protect our own data, but also to ensure that our customer's data and patient data is also adequately protected.

So definitely, it comes with its challenges, but I think, net-net, it is something that streamlines our operations. 

A CFO shouldn't be focusing on just bookkeeping, journal entry, and keeping track of data. It's looking at the data, coming up with meaningful insights, and using that to give advice, whether it's to the CEO, the COO, or the different units of the business.
We’ve seen a lot of articles coming out about how AI could be replacing certain jobs, a few of which fall into the finance function. Do you think AI could potentially replace these jobs?

I think there will always be a necessity for a human element to it, but to the extent possible, I'm all for automation. Especially when we talk about repetitive tasks that, in a sense, have less value add compared to analyzing the data. I'd much rather put the energy and resources towards analyzing and managing the data as opposed to entering the data. 

I don't see us getting to a stage where everything is completely automated. We deal with multiple parties and multiple systems, so there's always going to be a requirement for human intervention in terms of data, but I think the idea is to try to minimize that to the fullest extent possible and try to put the resources behind analyzing the data and coming out with meaningful insights on what the data is telling us to come up with proper recommendations.

This is becoming a more common theme in the last decade, so how do you see the CFO role shifting from a traditional finance function role towards more of a strategic role?

One is a precursor to the other.

I don't think you can be an effective advisor/CFO without having a proper and robust data set, whether it's from within the company or from outside the company. So the first thing is to get that part right, get it in place, and make it as efficient as possible.

But beyond that, a CFO shouldn't be focusing on just bookkeeping, journal entry, and keeping track of data. It's looking at the data, coming up with meaningful insights, and using that to give advice, whether it's to the CEO, the COO, or the different units of the business. It's trying to maximize the value of the company using the data that is generated from the traditional finance function.

If I were to give one piece of advice, it would be to embrace technology to the fullest extent possible.
Our current global economic climate is characterized by rising interest rates and inflation. Do you have any tips for framing your outlook against a backdrop of rising interest rates and inflation around the world?

I can share from the perspective of someone within a high-growth startup.

My advice would be to make every dollar that you spend count.

Funding or access to funding is becoming more scarce, and it's becoming a lot more expensive.

So just make sure that every dollar that you spend counts, plan conservatively, and try to execute aggressively. Especially in this climate where funding is becoming more difficult, try to be as conservative as possible, but obviously, you still need to execute your plans.

Having said that, for us, I think 2023 will be a little bit of a pivotal year. We have some exciting projects in our pipeline, and hopefully, they will materialize towards the end of this year. 

‍What advice would you give finance professionals in today’s modern age? 

I would say it's probably going to be a reiteration of most of the things we discussed, particularly around automation.

I think my advice to them would be to embrace it. Some people might be a little bit averse to it, but I think that people should embrace it; it adds a lot of value, it streamlines a lot of the workflows and enables those finance professionals to allocate more of their time towards more value-add kind of work streams that will definitely benefit the company.

If I were to give one piece of advice, it would be to embrace technology to the fullest extent possible.

Finance is like the central nervous system. Everything that happens within a company always comes back to the finance team; the good and the bad. Having these kinds of tools will enable the finance team to become a lot more effective in servicing the different elements of the organization or the different departments of the organization.

5
March 1, 2023

Interviewed by

Leen Shami

The Evolving Role of Finance Professionals: An Interview with Poomesh Mathew

Tell me about yourself, your career journey, and how you ended up in the UAE.

I grew up in India, across the country, since my parents had transferable jobs. Professionally I've had a career for 14 years. I started with PWC in Bangalore, moved on to EY for a brief time, and then worked for a big conglomerate called Wipro in India. I was part of the FP&A core central team there. I built something very innovative out there, and there it occurred to me that this is a larger problem to be solved.Inspired by the start-up environment brewing in India at that point, I set up my own consulting company circa about 2014. Tried my hand at teaching at a university. I did that for about the next five years to come. Continued with my consultancy for a few years before exiting the same to join a Fintech called Kabbage.

Kabbage was a big FinTech lender based out of the USA. They set up their talent center in India, and I was heading the same for the Finance function. Unfortunately, during covid, the ops in India had to be shut down, and later the company was acquired by American Express.

Continuing my journey with Fintech since 2020, I have been into the buy now pay later space.Throughout the last 3 years, I've worked with companies like ZIP and Sezzle, and that led me to my role in Tabby, which is a buy now pay later leader in the GCC region based out of Dubai.

And that's my journey so far. That's how I got to Dubai.

The nuances of getting culture are very critical to be successful in the Middle East
Can you tell us what inspired you to become a professor at Christ University in India?

Firstly there was always a passion for teaching, and secondly, the fact that I had my own setup helped me manage time better. I was involved with a lot of L&D in the organizations that I had worked for, and this just wings my passion.

What do you think are the key challenges CFOs and/or finance professionals face in the UAE?

I wouldn't say challenges; these are more avenues for learning.

I worked in the USA, India, and now the Middle East. MENA region is very peculiar, especially a place like UAE, because an average CFO here interacts with at least four kinds of different nationalities. It could be nationality; it could be a different culture.

The first hurdle that you had to obviously come across is communication. How tasks are done and understood, interactions amongst colleagues, and business is generally conducted.

The nuances of getting culture are very critical to be successful in the Middle East because it's not just folks from UAE. Ironically, in the UAE, you'll find more folks outside of UAE, right? And especially in finance, you would find your bankers from a certain nationality. Your teammates are from different nationalities. You can have language challenges. A lot of tax laws are being evolved here. So there's always this continuous challenge of understanding the culture bit, the language bit because of its impact on the legal regulation. So culture is the biggest challenge, right?
The second hurdle is linguistics. When operating in this region, Arabic is a skill set that one should have on one’s team. Right from a simple task of reading an invoice/bill to sometimes having conversations at offices, this is an angle to be factored in. Not so much in the UAE but of course, if you look at the region, it would definitely have to be factored in.
Thirdly, the pace at which business is done here is phenomenal. The MENA region is going through a change at an exceeding pace where you see a shift from traditional businesses. But you have someone who's doing things in a traditional email way and someone using tools like Slack. Now the pace at which you have to shuttle between the two is quite overwhelming, right? So if you are a finance professional or a CFO in the MENA region, you have to be prepared to deal with both worlds, a traditional, conventional kind of world, which is, rather, I would say, stable but static. On the other hand, there's also this dynamism and dynamic world, which is full of energy; things are changing at a super quick pace. Being a CFO, you have to manage both these dimensions at the same time.

Business here is conducted swiftly and extremely professionally, so you got to be on your heels to deliver what has been promised. The laws are evolving and mirroring one of the best in the world, so there is a lot of upkeeping to be done.

You touched on the subject of culture a lot, and it's interesting because, in one of my previous interviews with a CFO, that was spoken about a lot as one of the main challenges. So I'd ask you the same question I asked him: What was the biggest cultural difference when you moved from India to the UAE? 

One cultural advantage is the adherence to rules and regulations. Both in terms of the clarity of how, what, and when to be done and the companies following the same was a pleasant experience. This results in lesser litigation and ambiguity.

So, if you know what you want to do, it's a great pace; you can chalk down your points and move on.

A lot of old tradition works here because many things are understood, explained, time-tested, and proven, and it has worked well. So, the culture to introduce something new and getting its acceptance to the market, I feel, was a little challenging. But once it's accepted, it's like the duck taking to water. It's adopted very quickly. But the introduction of something new requires a little more planning.

You have to be as insightful and resourceful for the business because you're no longer viewed as part of the organization that just turns out the financial reports; you're far closer to the business. 
In UAE's financial services industry, do finance professionals face a high level of regulation? 

Well, that's quite an interesting question.

At least in my experience, I have seen far more regulatory environments where you require a lot of reporting. The UAE’s financial service environment is quite advanced, I would say, in terms of its speed of setting up something. The clarity in what has to be followed and what has to be reported is very open. I would say that things are extremely clear here. There's a very reduced need for applying judgment on items because a lot of things are extremely clear.

You can take DFSA, for example, right? Take any of their regulatory reporting requirements; it's well explained, ironing out any room for doubt; I would say, a very advanced model. It does not require too many compliances, but the compliance is pretty wholesome and clear in what must be done.

I think this is one of the friendliest regulators to be complying with in the sense that you are seeking things like clarity, when, and how. So, the rules are very well laid out.

You mentioned earlier that communication is really important for modern finance professionals. And on the subject of that, we can see that the role of the CFO has changed a lot over the past decade, and it has become more focused on strategy. So throughout your career journey, have you introduced any new strategies to any company you have worked with?

I would say things evolve, and finance in the industry is primarily a support function, right? Our objective is to ensure that the business folks get what they need when they need it.

Starting from my career back in 08, the requirement, what the business guys had back then to today, has it changed drastically? Not so much. But the form in which the information is consumed, has it changed? Yes.
Today,  life has changed in terms of how they view data and information. There has to be storytelling that is compelling and insightful. Since everyone is caught up in a million things, communicating just the information is not good enough. There has to be clarity on the why, what, and how. This strategic thinking needs to be incorporated into any communication from a CFO. 

As such, anyone who's using technology for the past one or two decades has got so used to getting insightful information, and this is expected from every function and finance is no exception to that. So versus let's say 20 years ago where you could put something in Excel or put a bar in a graph chart and say, this is what has been done. Today, people would want live data, live dashboard reporting, and insightful suggestions, saying, okay, this is wrong; what should we do?
For example, just see how things have changed how we do regular stuff, like ordering food or working out. The manner in which information is consumed has changed, and hence CFOs will need to keep up. That being said, things have to be kept simple and effective at the same time. There is no one way of doing it, but one should read the audience before doing so.

Today,  as a finance professional, it's hard for you to say, hey, I do not know how to handle big data. You have to scale up. You should know how to use Power BI and Tableau and extract data from them. The proximity with which you work with business has entirely changed. Throughout my journey, the strategy I've adopted is changing the mindset and the attitude of the finance folks saying that we are not a team that just churns out information, but we work closely with the rest of the team. You have to be as insightful and resourceful for the business because you're no longer viewed as part of the organization that just turns out the financial reports; you're far closer to the business. 

Automation and new technologies are always there to replace or accentuate grunt work.
That actually takes me to my next question, which focuses a lot on technology. One thing we can see in the finance world is there are two perspectives on emerging technologies and automation. Some would say it removes the drudge work for finance professionals and leaves them room to generate value in the company, while others may believe that it's replacing positions for finance professionals. What are your thoughts on this?

Well, in my view, technology automation has always been there. For the past decade, the pace at which you're adopting these has increased.

We always had ERPs or some bit of innovation or tech to assist. Now, forget whether it replaces someone or not, if you were to ask an accountant or someone in the finance field: what would you rather do? Would you rather do grunt work full day or would you would wanna do something exciting? Everyone almost chooses the word exciting, yet there are few of us who don't wanna go through the change. So it's just the change process. Now, you have software that, let's say, can fill up a trial balance within a second. Fair enough. But still, the insightfulness of the finance person has not gone away.

Automation and new technologies are always there to replace or accentuate grunt work. It makes life easier for the financial professional, but not so much for replacing in that sense. To be honest, if the work was so replaceable, then you shouldn't have done it in the first place. They should have had an easier thing.

The simplest example I can give is the bank and the ATM. What would you rather do? Would you rather go to the bank and tell it and then withdraw the money in cash, or would you prefer an ATM? So did ATMs make banks redundant? Did credit cards make banks redundant? No. They just found different avenues. These two help us in our work, and the finance has to cope with and match up with the pace, and if they're able to do that, then the value extraction is immense. So the trick is to know how to leverage it rather than be scared of it.

On the same topic, do you see any particular technologies transforming finance in the future or becoming valuable to finance teams?

Yeah, certainly. The talk of the town, Chat GPT. When so much autonomous intelligence is put into a software which is able to judge basic work, right?

So just imagine a scenario there, you know, you're talking to a supplier. The supplier just mails the quote, and the engine knows who to take the quote to, gets the response interactively, get back to the team, and if the budget is already fed into the engine, it knows whether to approve it, not approve it. You don't need the finance persons group always to give us his or her consent. Take the supplier, create the PO, and then do it.

So the autonomous auto chat bot, I feel, has a huge potential to transform the way we view finance today. One challenge is that a lot of us try imagining the future with the present, what we're exposed to. It need not be, right?

Back when we had the feature phone, no one really imagined how the smartphone would transform things, but once it came, now you can't imagine. The challenges we try imagining the future with the tools that we have. The tools will change. The requirements will change. Any interactive chatbot, which I feel, once it has a little more autonomous capability, would take out a lot of tasks that are time-consuming and not so much of value add today. I don't know exactly the technical specifics of what the technology is called, but intelligent bots would replace a lot of non-value add tasks that humans perform today, especially in finance.

Business folks want simple, straightforward, actionable information they can work on.
Are there any critical skills you think a modern finance professional or CFO needs to be successful?

Yeah. Certainly.

Apart from traditional, analytical, and problem-solving skills. I think learning and relearning, unlearning and relearning, is extremely important because every five years, the process or the technology completely transforms itself. You must deploy something new. Although your objectives sometimes remain the same, the way to achieve them completely changes. Democratization of success or democratization of technologies that is available to all. You have to transform these tools into your process.

I think the skill is the ability to learn, know about new technology, new tools, and how the world functions, and fuse it back into what you do. So you don't have a large team, our process will not remain constant for 2, 3, 4, 5 years, or decades like it used to be earlier. The critical skill would be learning and unlearning, unlearning old things, relearning new things, and trying to fuse them into your average day.

We see a lot of CFOs talking about the importance of communication and storytelling as you progress in your finance career. Can you talk more about that?

Numbers don't attract anyone or don't attract a lot of people. So you obviously got to make things simple for others, and that's where this ability to make a narrative and a story comes into play.

In one of my very, very early career roles, where I was building a dashboard for business folks, one of them came up and he was like, yeah, that's fine, but what do I do? I explained again the P&L, and he again asked, what do I do? And that's when it kind of dawned upon me that what he's asking is that if things are bad, what should he work on? He needs a simple message, and that's where you realize that you should be able to tell the story.

When we're children, we grow up, and we hear stories, right? And usually, the end of the story has a moral, that's your take home, and that's what you act upon. When every CFO is talking about storytelling, I think what they're referring to is this particular feature that we narrate what's happening in the business, but at the end of the day, you give the business folks what they have to act on. And that has to be powerful. The easiest example I always give is your Apple watch. If you've been sitting for two hours, your Apple watch says stand up, walk, and that's what human minds like absorbing; simple messages. That is storytelling that finance has to align with versus number differences and percentages.

Business folks want simple, straightforward, actionable information they can work on. And that is easier because not everyone would have the degree to understand a complex financial statement. It's more to do with, “hey, this is what I need to work on, this is what I need to achieve, and that's the storytelling scene.”

For our last question, do you have any advice for young finance professionals?

One, I think young professionals are way better than when we, or at least when I started, in terms of their exposure, curiosity, and knowledge. I would say a few young professionals know the breadth of things, but they aren't interested in knowing the depth of things. This is something that needs to be addressed. There has to be a fundamental understanding of how things work and how to understand something completely. One should avoid skimming through the surface-level understanding.

Resources for finance leaders

5
All
Spend Management
October 13, 2022

Leen Shami

How to Take Control of your Employee’s Fuel Reimbursements

Many companies require in-person meetings, site visits, or attending events. Whatever the business-related travel may be, fuel reimbursement comes into the picture.

What is Fuel Reimbursement?

In a nutshell, fuel reimbursement is when an employer reimburses you for the cost of fuel used for business purposes.

While other countries may consider this a travel expense or a mileage reimbursement, the UAE considers this a 'fuel reimbursement.'

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Why Did Reimbursing Travel Expenses Grow?

In a post-pandemic world, where many companies are going back to the norm of office work, it is common for travel reimbursement costs to increase.

The mileage reimbursement rate has risen with regular office hours, more in-person meetings, and less remote work. But that's not the only reason.

Due to the surge in fuel costs globally, it's no surprise that consumers are becoming more aware of their travel expenses.

The UAE alone has seen a significant spike of 74% in fuel prices and petrol prices over the last 7 months, indicating that reimbursing travel expenses grew.

Subsequently, UAE companies have seen a 38% increase in fuel reimbursements and travel reimbursement requests from their employees. Inflation alongside a post-pandemic world, fuel reimbursement expenses have become the most requested reimbursement category in the UAE.

A study by Bayzat has shown that fuel is among the most requested reimbursements category for UAE employees, with an increase of 18% in the average amount per reimbursement since January.

This indicates that companies and employees have spent more time managing and filing fuel reimbursement expenses. 

Unsurprisingly, the cost of average travel reimbursements has increased with the significant spike in fuel prices and petrol prices these past few months.

With Pluto's corporate cards, companies can wave goodbye to everyday fuel reimbursement expenses' pain points by issuing their employees fuel cards to keep track of their fuel expenses and travel reimbursement costs.

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Why Use Pluto Fuel Cards For Fuel Reimbursement?

There are many advantages to using Pluto fuel cards for business travel expenses:

Create unlimited fuel cards

Create and distribute as many virtual or physical fuel cards as needed for your employees, so you won't have to worry about travel expenses, mileage reimbursement requests, or having to reimburse employees.

Create fuel cards
Create Fuel Cards on Pluto's Platform

Set limits on fuel cards

Create fuel cards for employees with daily, weekly, or monthly spending limits to keep track of employees' fuel expenses.

Set Custom Limits on Fuel Cards

Track fuel expenses in real-time

Expense tracking in real-time
Real-time Transactional Data

It's essential to keep track of what is being spent and where. With Pluto, you can:

  • Get notified as soon as a fuel expense is made so you know who spends what, where, and when.
  • Keep track of average travel reimbursements' costs, travel expenses, and employee expenditure data to avoid going over budget on fuel expenses.

No more end-of-month expense reports on fuel!

Digitized receipt reconciliation

Whether your employees are using personal vehicles or company vehicles, they can simply make a transaction with their personal card, snap a picture of the receipt and upload it to the Pluto dashboard for fuel reimbursement.

Alternatively, UAE companies can issue their employees virtual or physical cards, and the receipt can be attached to the business expense by dragging and dropping it onto the Pluto dashboard.

No more searching through piles of paper receipts! 

Fill up your tank anywhere

Once you issue your UAE employees a virtual or physical fuel card, they can use it at any gas station in the UAE for business travel expenses.

While requested reimbursements for fuel expenses grew over five-fold over the past couple of years, there is a solution to make CFOs' and finance teams' lives easier; Pluto Card.

With Pluto, finance teams have an all-in-one integrated platform for fuel reimbursements, budget & spend control for business travel expenses, and fuel receipt reconciliation.

Fuel Reimbursement vs. Mileage Reimbursement

When looking for information about fuel reimbursement, another term that you may stumble on frequently is mileage reimbursement. While they are similar and sometimes interchangeable, they are not the same.

What is Mileage Reimbursement?

Mileage reimbursement refers to the practice of reimbursing employees for business-related travel expenses.

While it accounts for fuel, it also considers lease, vehicle depreciation, and other car-related expenses. This type of reimbursement is usually given per mile driven.

In some countries, mileage reimbursement refers to accounting rules and categories that help standardize expenses.

What is Fuel Reimbursement?

Fuel reimbursement, on the other hand, only covers the cost of fuel used for business travel. It doesn't take into consideration any other car-related expenses. This type of reimbursement is usually given based on receipts.

The difference between fuel reimbursement and mileage reimbursement is that mileage reimbursement takes into account all car-related expenses, while fuel reimbursement only covers the fuel cost.

How Does Fuel Reimbursement Work?

If you use your car for business purposes, you can be reimbursed for the fuel costs incurred. The reimbursement is usually calculated based on the number of kilometers traveled or miles driven.

However, to qualify for fuel reimbursement, you will need to keep accurate records of your travel expenses. This includes maintaining a logbook of your travels and keeping receipts for all fuel purchases.

To ensure that employees are reimbursed correctly, they need a receipt and an accurate logbook. Fuel and travel expenses can be included as costs, but you must show all travel logs if necessary.

What Counts as Business-Related Fuel Reimbursements?

Here are some examples of obvious and less obvious fuel expenses that you can get reimbursed for when you are an employee:

  • Traveling for a client meeting;
  • Driving to pick up anything on behalf of the company;
  • Driving to the airport to pick up a client or a colleague;
  • Going to another city for a business-related event;

Anything done to advance the business, big or small, is business related.

Is Commuting to Work a Business-Related Expense?

While some big corporations may reimburse you for commuting to and from work, typically, commuting is not considered a business expense.

What to Track For Fuel Reimbursement?

Keeping a gas log is one of the best ways to ensure employees are correctly reimbursed while companies have a clear overview of their travel expenses.

Last but not least, when you put fuel reimbursements into your profit and loss statement to apply them as costs (which you should), you must have a detailed log of travels - in case the tax authority wants a record.

Here is the main employee expenditure data that you should store in your fuel reimbursement logbook:

  • Date of each journey
  • Start time and end time of driving.
  • Purpose of the trip.
  • Kilometers driven.

If a company provides employees with company cars, this is all. But, if you're filing for fuel reimbursement while traveling with your personal vehicle, you will have to provide the following:

  • Brand of the car and the year it was made.
  • Average fuel consumption as per the car documentation.
  • Engine size or engine capacity.
  • Copy of car technical documentation.

Does an Employer Have to Pay For Fuel?

Most companies reimburse fuel expenses for employees who need to travel for business, but there might be some limitations. For example, a company may ask you to use its corporate Careem account for business travel.

Typically, if you incur the cost of fuel, your company will reimburse you as it is a cost tightly associated with the business.

Is Fuel Reimbursement Tax Deductible?

A massive shift for UAE companies will be the introduction of corporate taxes in 2023. With a corporate tax rate of 9%, UAE companies must keep track of all their spending. Fuel reimbursements fall under that category, as they can help reduce the amount of taxable income that a company has.

If you have a fuel reimbursement policy in place, it will help ensure that all of your employees are mindful of their spending on fuel and that they only claim back what they have spent.

Pluto allows UAE companies to issue unlimited fuel cards while centralizing the expense in one dashboard, so you can see in real-time how much is being spent and the number of tax-deductible costs your employees are making.

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Corporate Cards
October 10, 2022

Leen Shami

Corporate vs. Business Credit Card: What is the Difference?

Corporate credit card vs. a business credit card. You might have heard both terms used interchangeably, but what's the difference?

Primarily, corporate cards are issued to large businesses with many employees, while business credit cards are designed for smaller businesses. Corporate cards generally have higher spending limits and may offer more perks than business cards due to their volume.

This post will cover the main differences so you can decide which card is best for your business.

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What is a Business Credit Card?

A business credit card is a commercial payment solution for companies and businesses. Similar to a personal credit card, business credit cards are used when business-related purchases are made on credit provided by one of the credit card companies.

Banks in the UAE and MENA offer various business credit cards for small, medium, and large companies. 

Business credit cards usually offer higher credit limits than personal credit cards and may come with exclusive privileges, such as free travel insurance, concierge services, and air miles.

In the case of small businesses, a personal credit score will play an important role in credit limit approval.

What is a Corporate Credit Card?

A corporate credit card is issued to company employees to help with business expenses. The company will be liable for any debts incurred on the card.

It is important to note that corporate cards are not personal credit cards and should only be used for business purposes.

Financial institutions expect you to spend more with a corporate card than a business card, as the companies that require those cards are usually bigger. Therefore, the company must have a good credit score to qualify. This can come with various perks, such as lower interest rates, extended grace periods, and, most importantly - higher spending limits.

At the same time, there can be some drawbacks, such as:

  • Long approval periods due to the nature of the financial product.
  • Limited online features for your cards and company spend management. 

What is a Pluto Card?

Pluto Card is MENA's corporate card that helps finance teams take control of their company's expenses while saving their business time & money. While Pluto can't give you a line of credit, you will be able to instantly issue as many business and corporate cards as you need while getting a complete overview of your business's spend management on one dashboard.

Pluto Virtual & Physical Corporate Cards

Virtual credit cards

Virtual cards are corporate credit card numbers used for online business-related purchases and contactless payments.

Although there is no physical card, virtual credit cards are great as they are flexible, convenient, and controllable.

With virtual credit cards, you can:

  • Issue unlimited virtual credit cards/employee cards;
  • Create a virtual credit card within seconds;
  • Set employee spending limits to avoid going over budget;
  • Generate a one-time use purchase card that deactivates as soon as it is used;
  • Set purchases to be made with specific vendors so the card can't be used for other purchases;

Chances are that if you need a virtual credit card at your existing bank, it might take quite some time, and the reporting and limit setting options might not be very user-friendly.

While Pluto cannot provide you with credit cards, we can issue as many virtual cards as you need with just a few clicks:

Physical credit cards

Physical corporate credit cards serve the same purpose as virtual and business credit cards, making payments. Unlike virtual cards, physical corporate credit cards can be used in person to make purchases.

While both virtual and physical credit cards are comparable, the main differences are:

  • Physical corporate credit cards may take up to 3 business days to be delivered.
  • Virtual cards cannot be used physically.
  • Virtual cards are safer for the user, as they cannot be lost or stolen.

Benefits and perks

The benefits and perks differ for business and corporate credit cards and Pluto cards.

Business & corporate credit cards:

  • Receive Business reward points for purchases made that can be redeemed for future purchases.

Pluto cards:

Pluto Corporate Card Perks

Why are Business Credit Cards and Corporate Credit Cards Different?

Now you know the main difference between business and corporate cards, but let's investigate some of them in more detail.

Expense management tools

Business credit cards are frequently limited to your online banking platform. In the case of corporate credit cards, you may get something slightly better - an enterprise solution.

But from what we have seen, the speed of card issuing or limit changes is usually lacking.

Pluto doesn't give you a credit line, but here is a list of things that Pluto's expense management platform does:

  • Unlimited corporate cards (within seconds);
  • Set spending limits on corporate cards to avoid going over budget or being overcharged;
  • Issue one-time purchase cards that deactivate after being used;
  • Real-time transactional data - know what (and where) is being spent in real-time;
  • Ability to oversee company financials and receive instantaneous expense reports;
  • Automated accounting; 
  • Sync transactional data to major accounting platforms;
  • Simple and quick reimbursements;
  • Digitized receipt reconciliation;
  • Close books in hours, not days.

Corporate and business card fees

The fees that you might have to pay on corporate and business cards fall into two main categories:

Annual fees

For business and corporate credit cards, annual fees may differ depending on the bank or credit card issuer you choose to move forward with. Typically, the UAE's yearly fees range from 0-800 AED, with 'free for life' being the most popular.

If there are any fees, you can typically waive them by spending a certain amount per year.

Pluto cards do not have any annual fees and are entirely free; however, if you're a large corporation that wants unlimited users, custom ERP integrations, or a dedicated account manager, there will be a monthly subscription fee.

FX fees

Business and corporate credit cards tend to incur FX fees, making it expensive for a company owner, a small business, or a large business to do any transactions outside their domestic currency.

FX fees can be high, and credit card issuers are usually not transparent with the fees that come with them. Typically, fees come in the form of an FX spread and are hidden inside your payment, meaning you might be paying 2-6% for a transaction in a different currency.

Just imagine how much of your spending is in a different currency and take an optimistic 4% fee from that amount. Now multiply it by five years.

Pluto does not charge FX fees, making it the perfect choice for companies or businesses that frequently transact in foreign currencies.

Application & Approval Process

You must wait around two weeks for a business credit card approval. After the approval process, it may take up to 10 business days to receive your business credit card.

With a corporate credit card, the time may vary, but the chances are that you will need to wait more than 5 business days before you get approved.

From our experience, when you need an expense card - you need it on the spot!

Pluto has adopted a KYB & KYC (know your business and client) process that allows us to onboard customers in minutes. After you set up your account, you can start issuing virtual cards and continue your work without halts or limitations.

Corporate vs. Business Credit Cards Pros and Cons

While a corporate credit card and a business credit card may be comparable in some aspects, there are some differences between the two financial products.

Business credit card pros

  • Available for most businesses in their standard banking products;
  • Standard application process with low business requirements;

Business credit card cons

  • Usually limited in numbers, one card is internally shared amongst many employees. That creates bottlenecks in spending and raises various security risks;
  • Non-existent (or very limited) spend management platforms to monitor your reporting;
  • No virtual cards;
  • High FX fees;

Corporate credit card pros

  • Higher spending limits;
  • Possibility to issue several cards;
  • Safe & secure, as information is not being shared;

Corporate credit card cons

  • Longer approval process;
  • High FX fees;

While the pros and cons for both types of cards may vary, the final decision will be based on the size of your business.

Why Pick Pluto Card for Business and Corporate Users?

As mentioned, Pluto won't give you a line of credit; instead, Pluto provides you with an all-in-one expense management solution. 

Pluto's spend management platform

  • All your business expenses are at your reach on Pluto's dashboard;
  • Control over all issued cards and their limits;
  • Creation of unlimited virtual cards;
  • Real-time expense reporting;
Pluto's Dashboard

Approval workflow on Pluto

Once you have access to Pluto's expense management dashboard, you'll also be able to set up approval flows and automation.

With Pluto's approval workflow, you can:

  • Get visibility and control over your expenses;
  • Streamline how you manage your spending;
  • Automatically direct approvals to the right employees;
  • Create approval flows within departments;
Pluto Card Approval Workflow

Real-time expense reports

With Pluto cards, you'll gain real-time transactional data on company spending while being able to set strict budget limits.

This will also help you make informed decisions about allocating resources and improving your P&L.

Additionally, you can also set up notifications to be sent to your accounting or finance team whenever a transaction is made. This way, they'll always be in the loop and can take appropriate action if needed.

Which Card is Best for My Business?

The final pick of the card will depend on several factors related to your business.

Industry

The needs of companies based on their industries may differ. Consulting businesses need a flexible card solution with no FX fees, as their employees travel frequently. Digital agencies need multiple virtual cards to onboard new projects and pay for ad networks daily.

Consider the needs relevant to your industry and decide from there. While Pluto is an excellent pick for all industries (as we have a very versatile product), here are some of the use cases that illustrate the needs and how Pluto solves them:

Size

Annual revenue, the number of employees, and spending volume will also come into play when making your decision.

If it is just you or a couple of employees, you may not need many cards (or you might take advantage of Pluto's virtual cards).

On the other hand, if you have a sales team that needs to pay for lunches with prospects every second day, one card in the business owner's name will be problematic! 

Control

How much control do you need over your spending? Classic credit cards (be it business or corporate) usually have just a few features that are extensions of your online banking.

In some cases, that might be enough. If there is one card and one person using it - setting limits and monitoring the spending is not an issue.

Pluto comes into play when you have several holders and many cards, as you can set custom limits on cards. Real-time reports of spending suddenly become very important to increase and decrease limits on the go.

Pluto Corporate Card Budget Control

Key Takeaways

  • Business credit card is the best fit for small business owners; they offer a standardized solution.
  • Corporate credit cards are for bigger companies, allowing higher spending and slightly better control.
  • Pluto cards (used for all business sizes) can provide unlimited virtual cards and give you access to an all-in-one expense management platform.

FAQ

Does a corporate credit card affect my credit score?

A corporate card is a company's liability and does not affect your credit score, and you will not see them on your personal credit report. Pluto cards do not affect your credit score in any way (as they do not provide loans or credit facilities).

What is the difference between a business and a corporate credit card?

The main difference between small business credit cards is the size of the company that uses them, followed by credit limits and available control features. Pluto provides cards to corporations and businesses through the all-in-one spend management platform.

What is meant by a corporate credit card?

A corporate credit card refers to a card provided by the company to the employee for various business-related expenses.

Is a corporate card the same as a credit card?

Credit cards primarily draw from an approved loan balance, while corporate card programs are just an extension to a dedicated corporate account. But the terms are used interchangeably nowadays.

What is the difference between corporate and domestic credit cards?

A domestic card may refer to a debit card or a card issued by your local bank for your local use. Corporate cards are accepted internationally, at the ATM, or online.

Can a corporate card be used for personal use?

No. By default, corporate cards have to be used for business expenses, which are reported into accounting, but most importantly, it is the company's money on that card. The only exception will be if your company allows it.

What is the advantage of a corporate credit card?

Usually, it comes down to higher spending limiting. Compared to small business credit cards, corporate credit card debt does not usually require a personal guarantee, as the company guarantees it.

In the case of Pluto's corporate card, we can also add - unlimited virtual cards, real-time team-wide spend control, instantaneous reporting, and no FX fees!

Does a corporate credit card affect my credit score?

No. If the corporate credit card has a credit facility attached to it (it usually does), it is a company liability, not a personal liability. You are given access to a portion of their credit facility that does not fall into the personal loans group, and you do not need to provide personal guarantees.

Can my company require me to put business travel on my own credit card?

No, the company cannot force you to put business expenses on your credit card, but it is sometimes easier for everyone. So, if you agree with that, and the company agrees to reimburse you - it is not a problem. 

If you are looking for a better solution, let the Pluto team know, and we will provide you with an easy corporate card platform for your whole team.

Do corporate credit cards require a credit check?

A corporate credit card (in its classical meaning) is attached to a loan facility. To approve this loan facility, banks must do a company credit check. 

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