Skift Take

Emburse wants to become a more socially responsible company, as business travelers themselves become more aware of the wider impact of their trips.

Expense management company Emburse made not one, but two acquisitions last month.

What’s going on behind these two very different purchases? DVI is a travel data analytics firm, while Roadmap is a corporate travel platform.

You’d think this is an expense outfit marching into the travel booking space, as rival Coupa is after its $50 million acquisition of Pana. But its CEO is having none of it.

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For one, it will be watching future trends carefully. With big data firm DVI on its side, it’s well placed to see what’s the round the corner.

It sure looks like Emburse is sticking flags on some areas, namely how corporate travel priorities will shift away from cost and convenience to social concerns, like racial equality and protecting the environment.

CEO Eric Friedrichsen said that Emburse wants to help “stamp out systemic racism” and he revealed to Skift that it’s gearing up to release solutions that can help companies spend more purposefully in areas such as minority-owned and sustainable businesses, with the Roadmap and DVI acquisitions accelerating those efforts.

Those launches would follow Project Rise, Emburse’s grassroots effort to promote social and economic fairness in the Black community. “We want to help traditionally underserved communities a little bit more through our technology,” Friedrichsen said.

He wouldn’t divulge any more details at this time, but it could have a significant impact. In 2020 Embruse processed $52 billion worth of expenses, and counted 4.5 million business travellers, finance professionals and chief financial officers as users of its software.

Sustainability is another battleground.

“All these companies have their sustainability targets,” said Jeroen Van Velzen, CEO and co-founder at Roadmap. “Every company has its own way of fulfilling that target, with different ways to measure their carbon offsets. We call it ‘bring your own protocol,’ and we show them the impact of their travel.”

Morals aside, Netherlands-based Roadmap represents a foothold in Europe for Emburse. It can also cross-sell the Dutch firm’s platform to its customers. Roadmap traditionally works with large companies, including Nike, Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “We have many large enterprise organizations that Roadmap should fit into, really well,” Friedrichsen said. “Over time, we’ll look to make that offering available to companies that aren’t that large.”

Van Velzenm, however, is optimistic about the U.S. market. “The minute we see this change in the way that we work, and travel, and the way we’re going to expense, the innovation around that will probably start in the U.S,” he said. “The appetite is bigger to try out new stuff on a corporate level than in Europe.”

This goes some way to explaining its diverse range of brands, catering to different sizes of customers — some 16,000 companies in fact.

Emburse itself is a relatively new brand, created in January last year following the merger of Chrome River and Certify in March 2019. Certify subsidiaries Abacus, Captio, Nexonia and Tallie also joined in that merger, and the brands are still in place today.

With DVI and Roadmap, there are even more names. Is this confusing? Friedrichsen doesn’t think so, and said customers are already showing loyalty to Embruse.

“A lot of the new technology we’ve released, like Emburse card technology, payments, tech-assisted audit, our managed services, they’re all being developed at the Emburse platform level, which lets us innovate faster than we could before, when we were different companies,” he said.

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Tags: black lives matter, certify, chrome river, climate change, concur, corporate travel, emburse, expense management, sustainability

Photo credit: A Black Lives Matter protest in London on June 6, 2020. Embruse wants to develop solutions that help people spend more purposefully in areas such as minority-owned and sustainable businesses. James Eades / Unsplash

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