U.S. Bank launches app to take pain out of filing expenses

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U.S. Bank is launching an app Thursday called Expense Wizard that aims to make it easier to fill out expense reports and get reimbursed for business trips, especially for infrequent travelers.

“You have to find receipts, you have to remember what you were doing when, type it all the system, all of that pain,” said Bradley Matthews, who is senior vice president of U.S. Bank corporate payment systems.

Matthews’ team realized that they could alleviate the pain by gathering data at the time of transaction that could later be automatically fed into an expense reports, in this case expense reporting software from Chrome River.

Using Expense Wizard, an employee could tell their manager they’re going on a trip and receive a virtual card through the app on their mobile phone. It can have restrictions set on it — only good for a certain period of time, only for certain kinds of purchases.

Each time the employee uses their virtual card, the chatbot at the core of Expense Wizard will ask them to scan their receipt and provide a few details about the expense, such as the names of other people who were at a meal. AI in the background understands company policy and presents appropriate questions. For instance, it will challenge an employee who is attempting to exceed a dollar limit that's been set on a type of expense and ask for an explanation.

“That frees up a significant amount of what we've termed ‘mind space,’ ” Matthews said. “You don't have to remember all these details or dig out your calendar to get the details because you already captured it at the time of purchase.”

The Expense Wizard on its own picks up the date, the time and the industry the merchant is in.

“It can start to piece that together and use AI and some other rules to say, it looks like because of the time and the industry that this is a lunch,” Matthews said. “Then you can just say yes and add a small amount of information, perhaps the names of the other people who attended.”

In September, when the app goes into general release, it will have calendar and CRM integration. So if a user already noted in their calendar that they’re having dinner with client John Doe at XYZ Company to finalize a contract, the app will pull that information in and ask the user if it’s correct.

“It's completely automated for you because all of this information is out there, you shouldn't have to key it in,” Matthews said. “It’s trying to get to the point where it's eliminating keying and saying, this is everything we have, is it correct, and you're simply validating.”

In the future, the app will support location awareness, so it will be able to detect if a user has landed at an airport and offer to get a ride share to their hotel.

“You won't have to remember the address or anything else, and because the payment device is embedded within the app, it's already paid for on your behalf,” Matthews said.

The app and the virtual card can be set to activate only during and for some time after a trip and shut down the rest of the time. Frequent travelers can have the app running all the time, but turn off trackers between business trips.

Virtual cards are generally more secure than plastic cards because account numbers a tokenized and useless to hackers. Virtual cards also provide a dashboard to companies that shows who’s doing what. In this case, they are automatically tied to a specific business trip, making reconciliation of the expense report easier.

The concept for the app spent two months in the “innovator in residence” program in the innovation lab run by Dominic Venturo, the chief innovation officer.

“That helped provide the process and support to help us better refine it,” Matthews said.

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