Pleo Hero: Robert Collings, Head of Finance & Ops at Flux
Both Flux and Pleo share a common value – to remove unnecessary friction in an increasingly digital world.
For Pleo, that’s with business spending. For Flux, it’s receipts.
They’re on a mission to liberate the world’s receipt data for customers. Why go from paying for something in a store with your phone to then holding onto a paper receipt? It just doesn’t add up.
When your company’s product makes payments effortless for consumers, you better believe your employees need (and expect) the same experience when it comes to buying things for work.
We spoke to Robert Collings, Head of Finance and Operations at Flux about how Pleo has become an integral part of the VC-backed company and has made business spending a breeze for all its employees.
What’s the journey that brought you to Flux?
I started my career as an audit trainee at an accountancy firm – it was a great experience that introduced me to the world of finance. But after 5 years and many audits under my belt, I thought what most other trainee auditors thought: “I don’t really want to be in audit anymore”.
I had to start thinking about what I actually enjoy doing and how I can weave that into my career. Watching tech companies that start from nothing and scale-up to sometimes huge, international companies was something that always interested me.
So, I started advising tech companies as an external accountant, learning as much as I possibly could before I started to wonder what it was like to actually work for a tech company. Around the same time, Flux was hiring for a Finance Lead. They’d been on my radar for a while because I thought what they were doing was pretty cool – as an accountant, digital receipts are a great technology to push forward.
Pssst. Does Robert seem familiar? He’s also featured in our Getting a grip on cashflow eBook.
Can you tell us a little bit about what Flux does?
Flux exists to liberate the world's receipt data. It’s crazy to think that we live in a time where paper receipts are still a thing - especially given the endless benefits to customers of the information stored on those receipts.
Flux connects to banks and retailers so when you pay for your purchase, an itemised digital receipt is generated and stored directly in your banking app within seconds. Containing all of the line items that you see on a paper receipt – the cost of each item, the size, the colour etc.
Once you have that information digitised in a receipt, there’s a lot you can do with it. Anything from personal finance management and nutrition tracking to automating expenses and reducing friendly fraud.
Our focus right now? Cashback offers.
Some past and current offers include money off at a range of retailers - from fast food restaurants to fashion stores – they really leverage the power of our item level data.
As an example, we can see when someone with our app has spent more than £15 with Just Eat, and we’ll send them £5 cashback.
This is quite exciting from a retailer’s point of view because it’s a solid return on investment by reaching out to old customers and bringing in new ones. But also it’s great for consumers because they get money back and discounts – all made possible because of the digital receipt network we’re building.
How did you discover Pleo?
Sam Kelley (a Customer Success Manager here at Pleo) originally reached out to me on LinkedIn and, by chance, I was working on a client using Pleo that day.
Naturally, I asked him some questions about the product, at first I think Sam was worried I was about to complain, but in actual fact I loved it!
What kind of role has Pleo played at Flux?
Pleo is an integral part of Flux and our company spending. Everyone at Flux gets a Pleo card so they know how to spend company money from day one.
You know when people say that you want to grow a brand into something that people just use? Like if you’re going to search for something, you’re going to Google it.
Without Pleo, employees wouldn't really have an easy way to spend money. They would either have to spend their own money and do the classic manual expense claim process or they’d have to keep asking to use the bank card – the kind of stuff that takes up the finance team's time.
Pleo is just so embedded in our processes that I really don't know what life would be like without it.
How does Pleo make your job as Head of Finance & Ops easier?
Obviously, the fact that Pleo gets rid of the normal expense claims process is a big benefit.
And the mobile app! When I login I can see all the transactions easily. And I can login using my fingerprint – compared to logging into our main bank account which is a real pain because you have to have the password, go through all these different security checks …
Then of course, the fact that photo receipts are attached to transactions. This is super useful when I see a transaction that seems unusual - I can just tap in and take a closer look.
What’s been the coolest use of Pleo at Flux?
Our company trip to Tuscany!
Everyone had their Pleo cards. We weren’t always all together in the same location, so if someone needed to make a purchase, it was no hassle at all. We didn’t even need to think about how we were going to spend money over there.
We also didn’t need to worry about foreign exchange rates and fees like we would with larger banks.
The instant notification someone receives on their mobile after making a purchase is great too, especially when you’re on a company trip. Most people on holiday won’t remember to keep or even get a receipt, but because Pleo prompts you to take a picture right away there’s never an issue.
What excites you about the future of work?
From an accountant’s point of view, in the last couple of years we’ve come quite far in automation – I’d say we’ve probably managed to automate about 80% of it.
What interests me is that last 20% – how can we close this gap and make our processes totally effortless all the way through? Opposed to now where certain things require us to trigger, activate and approve.
And no, I don’t think accountants will be extinct or anything like that the closer we get to 100%. The job will change and focus more on taking the data out of the systems, interpreting it and advising people.
We don’t know about you, but we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Rob and the team at Flux to see how they’ll continue closing that 20% gap – exciting stuff.
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