A Visit to Selenity – Virtual Meets Reality (Part 2)

We paid a visit to the beautiful cathedral city of Lincoln recently. With its steep lanes, cobbled streets and quaint shops and tea-houses, it’s really worth a visit if you like traditional English towns soaked in history. Nestled in the maybe not-so-beautiful but very practical industrial estate just south of the city, you’ll find the actually quite impressive offices of Selenity – home of the market-leading cloud-based expenses firm (they also specialise in finance, HR and contract management). You can read about our visit to the company and its lovely people here.

We were particularly interested in the expense management software. It has seen rapid growth in development and uptake in recent years, and more and more the firm finds itself pitching to procurement departments interested in mining its data to understand what expenses can tell them about how money is being spent, by whom, when and with which vendors, to help make more informed decisions around the travel spend category.

CEO Neil Everatt explained how a lot of sales are coming through the government’s G-Cloud, increased from the ‘steady drip’ they saw a couple of years ago. And in terms of customers, they are seeing greater interest from both Finance and HR departments, as well as from procurement, all looking to invest in this technology.

As for the technology, there’s been much innovation in capability in recent months. It is one of the oldest cloud expense management systems on the market – so it’s naturally feature-rich from years of development. (Customers have the option to turn on just the features they require.) So we had a quick tour of how innovation gets its legs at Selenity before receiving a demo of the system itself.

In a nutshell: life starts with the teams of Innovators who explore and nurture new ideas. They take real experiences of expense claimants and work out how they can be improved for 21st century needs. These innovations go through Development where software experts write and test the code and basically make it work. Then of course Marketing, Sales, Professional Services and Aftersales all play their part. Despite it being a peaks-and-troughs-led market, we understand that robustness is not an issue – with 15 servers they’ve never experienced downtime. The firm keeps a regular eye on performance, logging in as dummy client to place a claim, ‘feel’ the experience, and monitor speed and agility.

The Mobile App has been receiving a lot of development time of late. It is engineered to be able to do everything on the go, using Face ID or traditional login, touch or thumb print. It gives full visibility of all claims, whether current, historical or pending, with all expense items shown: tax, hotel, entertainment etc. And it’s configurable for different company needs. Once entered, common details like HMRC or VAT claim information are remembered, so avoiding any duplication of effort.

Functionality, in its simplest form, involves taking a picture of your receipt or ticket and attaching it, all details are reconciled, linking the claim straight into the system. It has neat little features like flagging if the amount exceeds limits, or allowing justifications for expenses, like why you ate at that particular restaurant. It also takes care of any incorrectly entered details and duplication, by cross-checking and reconciling. Advanced OCR technology to support reading receipts and auto population of the expense claim is currently with their research and development team, aiming to deliver the best experience to customers and the marketplace, they told us.

There’s also an outsourced service – they take all customer receipts and validate them, taking away the headache of recovering VAT for example. “We are currently processing 1000s of receipts a week” explained Neil. “Some customers fully outsource that service to us, so they don’t even have to think about it – this is a growing trend in the hospitality industry for instance.”

And it appears to be fast too – using auto-top-ups from their own float, payments can be made next day into customer accounts, without waiting to raise an invoice.

The newest innovation, Vehicle Check, attracted our interest – it’s for Fleet services and improves the way organisations execute their “duty of care” to staff. There is no requirement to manually upload documents, and no need for administrators or managers to validate and authorise them. It comes as standard for expense customers, who can automatically retrieve and check employees’ validity of MOT and road tax, and full vehicle details can be also be retrieved, including CO2 emissions for accurate data on usage when making claims. Adding insurance or licence to the compliance check is also available. It was launched two months ago, and we believe Selenity are the market leaders on this.

Selenity was also the first to use Postcode-lookup functionality - this level of accuracy has seen firms saving up to £250k on mileage claims, Neil informs us. It also shows the journey on a map, taking into account slip roads and accuracy on roundabouts – so it’s really quite clever with its inbuilt GPS system. We witnessed a one-minute cycle time of adding the vehicle to the app and completing the expense claim, including a 10-second wait for it to become visible on the system – in all its compliance!

And a quick note on Reporting: it has over 100 standard reports in-built, but you can create your own too.  You can export this to MS Excel, CSV, or just about any other format. So if the Finance Director wants top spend by expense item, you build your report to show item level, unit price, and sort into whatever order you want. It’s also a quick way to identify the top offenders on issues like unclaimed VAT, Neil told us!

Neil is quite obviously a techie revolutionary at heart.  He’s been encouraging and  helping to drive innovation on this technology since its inception, and gets very excited about new developments and next steps. To find out more you can ask Selenity for a demo, and if you visit them, and you are very lucky, he will even give you a tour of his ‘nostalgic mobile phone collection!’ – from the first Nokia ‘brick’ and Motorola wind-up handheld (if you can call it that) through the years leading up to today …



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