Q&A with TripActions Expenses & Payments Leader Robin Gandhi
Earlier this spring, payment industry veteran Robin Gandhi joined the TripActions team as Vice President of Payments, heading up our payment and expense solution’s engineering, product, and financial operations teams. Robin came to TripActions with a strong payments background, most recently from Adyen, a payments company that helps global companies from Uber to Nike to McDonald’s accept payments in-store, online and everything in between.
We sat down with Robin and discussed what brought him here, what opportunities he sees for TripActions in the payments and expenses realm, and whether he has the travel background you’d expect from someone joining a company that began in the travel space.
TripActions: Tell a little about your background and what brought you to TripActions.
Robin Gandhi: For the last decade, I have been focused on delivering payment technologies that help merchants deliver innovative buying experiences to their customers. Most recently, I was at Adyen, which I saw grow from a $1B startup into a $34B public company over the course of 6 years. At Adyen, I ran our global issuing offering as well as our acquiring, product, data and sales channel teams. I worked with the global card brands like Visa/Mastercard, financial institutions and third-party partners (ranging from commerce platforms to point-of-sale software systems) that make omni-channel commerce possible for their merchants across the globe.
As Ariel and I started speaking about the massive opportunity in front of the TripActions travel management platform and TripActions Liquid, I realized that this was probably the most interesting payments role that I could take on, to help lead real growth and value. Sitting at the intersection of travel, expense management and payments, TripActions has created an offering that few others can.
Having helped scale Adyen at hyper-growth, it is really exciting to be a part of this team to do something similar as we think about where we will be in a few years with our product offering across travel, payments and expenses.
TA: What areas of improvement/change do you see in payments and expense management for companies?
RG: There is a lot of innovation happening in corporate card issuance today. For many years, card issuance was something that the big banks owned, and there was little innovation during that time. We are now seeing a lot of venture capital pouring into startups who can provide a better experience around the issuance of corporate cards, and that has resulted in some very high valuations and growth for those startups. At the core, these issuing startups are providing companies with better visibility into where their employees are spending money, and they have also found better mechanisms to underwrite companies to fund those corporate cards.
TA: How has the COVID-19 crisis affected companies’ needs around visibility and control of payments and expenses?
RG: The current pandemic has accelerated the need for controllers and CFOs to be hyper focused on how their organizations and employees are spending money.
For global card brands like Visa and Mastercard, it has been clear that B2B presents a $1T plus opportunity to convert non-digital forms of payment into card payments. With COVID, the digitization of money from cash and checks is even more important, as it creates a transparent and more efficient view into spend that companies need to ensure that they are being fiscally responsible.
By tying each transaction to an individual payment, companies can have granular control on where money is being spent. If your organization is making a $1M monthly payment to AT&T or Marriott, it is really easy to miss overcharges, etc. When you can view each payment tied to an employee and a supplier using innovative technologies, you can quickly flag issues without getting lost in a large single payment to that supplier.
TA: What are the biggest technological challenges for payment/expense management solutions?
RG: For the legacy providers, there is a technological challenge in that you can’t just pivot a 20-year-old corporate card solution to include both expense management and travel in a truly transformational way, and the same applies for a 20-year-old expense management solution. Typical corporate card solutions may provide some policy and budget restrictions, but they are not providing a full expense management solution for manual receipts, approvals, and the rest.
Typical expense management solutions take in transactions that are added by employees, but they have a hard time flagging transactions by policy and budget making it hard for a manager to review.
What we’re doing at TripActions is unique because we are not trying to build a better mousetrap on the corporate card side or on the expense management side of the equation. We are doing something fundamentally different. We know when an employee is traveling, we can see budgets and policies during travel and non-travel, and we can see and apply those policies when that employee uses the corporate card. This means that employees are not expensing transactions in the traditional sense, since we already have the transactions with policies applied against them. It also means that employers are not reviewing a massive list of corporate card transactions or expense reports since only the flagged transactions need to be reviewed.
TA: What do you see as the biggest barrier to change for companies looking to enhance their expense management?
RG: Just adding more bells and whistles to expense management is not the key to transforming or transcending expense management. By tying together travel (where more than 80% of corporate employee spend occurs) with a corporate card offering, companies can get to a solution that removes traditional expense management as we know it. So the biggest barrier is changing the mindset around expense management, and then finding an offering similar to TripActions that can tie travel, payments and expenses together as a single solution.
TA: What led you to join a company historically focused on travel at this challenging time for the travel industry?
RG: It’s clearly a strange time to be joining a travel company, but for me, travel has always been about finding and interacting with different cultures and seeing things from a perspective other than your own. I really got into travel as a passion after university where I had the opportunity to backpack through Europe, Africa, India and Thailand for a few months before jumping into corporate America. That experience made me realize how important interacting with others outside of your comfort zone can be in terms of shaping your ideas and view of life in general. When I did start my professional life, I had the opportunity to work in Latin America and Europe. I went to business school in France and Singapore, specifically because it mattered to me that my education was truly multicultural across a number of spectrums. As a result of those experiences, I think our mission statement of connecting in-person connections to drive ideas and businesses forward has always resonated with me well before joining the TripActions team. I’m looking forward to a bit more normalcy as we get out of the fog of COVID, so that I can get back on the plane and explore.