SoldoHelping university staff spend time on what’s important

Helping university staff spend time on what’s important

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Giving faculty better tools to manage their budgets can enable more teaching and research

Higher education is similar to many industries that face pressure to carefully allocate their spending and cut costs. However, universities face unique challenges. Their strategies are guided by their academic missions, which involves them each undertaking a unique mix of activities, from campus-based teaching and research through to entrepreneurial, charitable and social endeavours. Finding efficiencies can be difficult, but reducing the administrative burden on staff so that they can concentrate on the core components of their jobs can be a quick win.

Soldo is a spend and expense management platform that offers a prepaid credit card service that can be quickly rolled out without interfering with existing university accounting systems, and enables its users to file expenses as soon as they are made. The Soldo cards are backed by MasterCard and are complemented by an app and a cloud-based service. Once a purchase is made, the user uploads a picture of the receipt, selects a category from a drop-down menu, and files it. It’s that simple. Its platform is constantly evolving to deliver a user experience that is quick and efficient. A variety of alerts and notifications can be set up to help.

As Soldo’s enterprise account manager William de Smith explains, the system is designed to streamline the expenses process and serve as a more agile and user-friendly alternative to the corporate credit card.

“The adoption rate is high because it solves a lot of problems for end users, especially when they have a couple of hundred expense claims per month,” says de Smith. “You will have had moments where you are rummaging through a box of receipts trying to claim back various expenses…Soldo is a simplified version of that traditionally burdensome process. And for the people who have had to make expense claims while out of pocket, it is an improvement because they are not having to spend their own money.”

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Soldo’s card system can also be rolled out to help students, in particular to support foreign students in lieu of them opening bank accounts, or to facilitate expense claims on student projects. For institutions such as Plymouth College of Arts (PCA), Soldo has proved a popular system for administrative staff and faculty alike. PCA’s director of finance, Mark Taylor, has rolled out Soldo to about 100 users, each with their own prepaid budget. “We’ve had very good feedback from the users, and that’s really, really important,” he says. “In fact, it’s probably the most significant thing – because at the end of the day, if you want something to be adopted and used well, it needs to be used and trusted.”

While de Smith acknowledges that the financial challenges facing universities in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic are without precedent, he believes that those who adopt agile solutions to reduce workflow will be best positioned to prosper. Soldo might only be one small part of a university’s digital strategy, but the variable spending that it is designed to facilitate and control accounts for a considerable portion of a university’s annual budget. According to a report published in November 2019 by the British Universities Finance Directors Group, British universities typically spend twice as much on incidental teaching costs – such as staff travel, research materials and those without pre-budgeted teaching salaries – as they do on research activities. That equates to 18 per cent of an institution’s annual budget.

Universities also operate under a great degree of scrutiny, with regulators, funding bodies and students all wanting to see how their money is being spent. De Smith believes that Soldo can help make transparent what universities are spending their money on, with its enhanced reporting functionality designed to help flag issues with departmental expenditure.

“We have universities that are using it to manage petty cash, and things like that,” he says, “but Soldo has the potential to become the backbone of their spend-management strategy. It can help them get control of their spend, and also give them better visibility. Given the budget squeeze that they are going to feel now, any opportunity to save money and improve systems is a win-win.”

This is an uncertain time for universities, but campuses will reopen and staff will both return to work and be asked to make adjustments in how they do so. Perhaps now more than ever is the time to relieve faculty from unnecessary admin.

Find out more about Soldo and calculate savings for your university.

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