How an expense management system can support staff to manage budgets

Staff spending across universities can be chaos to manage and slow to process. How can a prepaid card and expense management app streamline the way institutions manage their budgets?

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24 Oct 2022
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After the upheaval of the pandemic, universities are settling back into in-person teaching and many staff are once again attending academic conferences and overseas recruitment drives. As hybrid models of delivery emerge, many institutions are capitalising on the digital learning discoveries they made when campuses were closed.

While a blended offering brings many benefits, it can complicate budget management for university finance teams. Expense management platform Soldo surveyed 250 people in the education sector, revealing that the most common non-staffing costs for universities included travel and entertainment (41 per cent), facilities (42 per cent) and catering (32 per cent).

Just over a third of respondents used a spend management platform to monitor this spending, and around three-quarters were relying on manual processes to manage employee expenses. At a time when university budgets are squeezed, this can be problematic. Tutors end up buying one-off subscriptions or pieces of software out of their own pocket, they have to keep receipts and manually upload their spending once a month, which takes time

With departments using different systems or credit cards to manage their spend, there is little visibility of where purchases might be duplicated or spending is over budget. Across multiple departments there could be hundreds of smaller purchases made every day with no high-level oversight.

Soldo enables institutions to give staff a prepaid card that links to an expense management app. “We help them streamline manual processes and provide visibility,” explains Natasha Gabriel, regional marketing manager at Soldo. “Users have access to an app and a web console and can access funds easily in a controlled way.” Departments can set spending limits and budgets, indicate what items are within a user’s spending remit, and approve purchases within a few clicks.

Plymouth College of Art, for example, now manages about 100 prepaid cards through the Soldo system. Before this, the finance team had to deal with 70 traditional corporate credit cards, each requiring users to file expenses and be reimbursed. 

“The employee satisfaction of having the prepaid cards and the app is high because they don’t have to first pay out of their own pocket, they’re not being chased to submit expense forms and they can consolidate their expenses,” Gabriel says. “It takes less time because they don’t have to fill out forms and they’re prompted to take a photo of the receipt at time of purchase, so they’re not holding on to receipts.” Many universities find this solution useful for travel expenses, as staff amass lots of paperwork for hotel costs and entertainment that they would historically have to retain and spend time filing when they return. 

Once institutions see the benefit of using an automated expense management system in one area, they are keen to introduce it to other departments or functions, Gabriel explains. Soldo easily integrates with organisations’ accounting or enterprise resource planning systems so the data can be used for wider budget planning.

Knowing what they can and can’t spend money on is a further advantage. “People can request money and approvals can happen automatically, but limits mean you can lock down or limit certain purchases. It’s much easier for finance to control, but the user knows they cannot go outside certain policies, which avoids awkward conversations,” she concludes. 

Find out more about Soldo.

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