Q&A: David Voss, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

We caught up with David Voss, head of Commercial Cards for GTS EMEA at Bank of America Merrill Lynch at this week’s Business Travel Show to find out which trends he thinks we’ll see this year

What are you most looking forward to at this week’s Business Travel Show?
The Business Travel show provides a great opportunity to learn from and engage with leading players in the travel industry. In particular, it provides a medium to discuss and share thoughts on hot topics such as how technology and data are transforming travel management, and how geopolitics will affect business travel.

What are the biggest trends you see that will impact the business travel industry this year?
We cannot ignore emerging digital technology. There is a higher demand for instantaneous self-service, therefore mobile solutions have come of age, and the dawn of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) is upon us. It is an exciting time for the business travel industry – participants now have more opportunity than ever to innovate and differentiate.

The era of Big Data is here – how do you see the future of data in this industry and how are you capitalising on the opportunities?
A whole data ecosystem is expected to evolve around Open Banking. It may allow more players to participate in the travel industry and foster innovation in payments and cards.

Data provides the potential for endless growth; for example, 18 months ago, the use of contactless payments was less widespread whereas today they account for one-third of all card transactions in the UK. To capitalise on this opportunity, BofAML continues to drive innovation in our card solutions by leveraging data integration, such as through our virtual travel card solution with API connection, and our lodge card offering that uses enhanced data.

How will PSD2 affect payments?
Payment providers, such as banks, are already familiar with operating under the strictest data security guidelines and regulation is helping to ensure this approach is consistent across the wider industry. For example, Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) is required to enhance security when making a payment or accessing accounts. By authenticating the business traveller using multiple elements, e.g. knowledge, possession and inherence, there is a greater certainty that the traveller is the legitimate user and not a fraudster; hence protecting all parties involved.

There are opportunities that arise from secure open standards of communication. Payment providers are required to provide account information to Third Party Providers (TPPs) through API connection based on client’s consent. This encourages new technologies such as mobile solutions and sophisticated fraud prevention tools that can benefit business travel.

There is a lot of focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG). How does it play a role in the business travel industry?
With the ever-increasing focus on our ESG impact in the business travel industry, it is essential for all industry participants to do their part in reducing our carbon footprint in any way possible. BofAML places a strong emphasis on this area and this year BofAML is making headway with migrating cardholders away from paper statements and instead towards electronic statements. By eliminating paper statements and continuing to invest in our digital channels, we can both contribute to reducing paper and waste, as well as create convenient ways for our clients to access the data they need. We are also enhancing our platforms to allow travellers to manage their card account on their phone which will not only eliminate any paper process, it will also enhance user experience.

What are some best practices for using corporate card?
Despite growing adoption trend, between 40 per cent and 80per cent of employees in some European markets occasionally still use a personal card for T&E expenses. The first solution would be to mandate corporate card usage across the company – programme administrators can reduce employee resistance by enlisting help from the C-suite and drafting an effective communication plan.

Additionally, companies could also consider contactless cards which are designed to improve cardholder experience for small-value purchases. For travellers who lack access to a corporate card, a centralised virtual card has become best practice because it offers greater control, visibility and security. It’s also ideal for bigger ticket items such as booking airlines and hotels, which also happen to be the strongest opportunities to negotiate discounts.

Personally, what is your number one tip for business travel?
This may sound obvious but my best tip is always to plan effectively before your trip. Map out your route and check the dates and times of your journey – it’s important to be prepared and on time when rushing to meetings or conferences, especially when time is tight. Acting on the theory that “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong” will make sure your trip runs as smoothly as possible.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch will be on stand B3302 throughout the Business Travel Show at London’s Olympia.

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