SPI Logistics Chose Float to Bring Their Vendor Payments Into the Digital-Age
How the leading logistics firm saves thousands per year (while tackling risk) by digitizing their vendor payments.
October 16, 2023
When James Lemon moved from Calgary to Vancouver, he took the first accounting job he could find. Fifteen years later, he remains with the same employer, Surrey B.C.’s SPI Logistics.
“Honestly, I just sort of fell into it,” he says. “Logistics is a very interesting world because it’s way behind the times, it’s just starting to catch up, technology-wise, so it creates a lot of interesting challenges; there’s always something new and interesting to learn and deal with.”
During that time Lemon gradually climbed the ranks from junior accountant to his current position as VP of finance and CFO. While he says a lot has changed since he first joined the team much of the innovation has occurred in just the last few years.
“Five years ago, most companies in the logistics space were still writing things on spreadsheets,” he says. “With COVID we saw a major shift from physical cheques to electronic payment.”
Embracing Innovation in a Traditional Industry
Prior to the pandemic Lemon says he wrote checks for “virtually everything,” from office supplies to employee expenses, and paid its network of vendors using a single corporate card, both of which posed significant challenges and liabilities.
“If for some reason my card had ever been compromised, we would have had to go to dozens of vendors trying to get our corporate card information updated before they try to run another transaction,” he said. “Our bank requires two signatures for every cheque, so especially during the pandemic when nobody was together anymore it was really difficult.”
In hindsight Lemon says there were a lot of reasons to upgrade SPI’s spend management system, but admits that one of the things that first attracted him to Float was the ability to log expenses and generate reports simply by taking a picture of the receipt.
“Before we moved to Float I hadn’t received a receipt from our VP of sales in four months, and so when I started researching and found Float and saw it gave us the ability to text images of receipts, that right there was a godsend itself,” he said.
Soon after, in November of 2022, SPI Logistics onboarded the solution, which Lemon says proved “seamless.”
“We went with the Pro version, so I had a dedicated person help me do the initial set up, and the system was super intuitive,” he said. “We had another call scheduled for a couple of days later to see if I needed any more help, but I already had it all set up and running before that call was supposed to take place.”
The Benefits Keep on Rolling
Pretty soon, however, Lemon says he began discovering extra perks that made him wish he had signed on earlier. For example, he says that each of the many cheques the company issued cost about $20 to clear, while its company cards were processing about one million dollars a year without any added benefits.
The switch has turned a two-hour monthly card expense reconciliation process into a 20-minute activity, creating time savings for the team.
“One of the other offerings we didn’t realize was going to be such a benefit was the fact that they have Canadian and U.S. dollar cards,” he says. “Now when we travel to the States rather than paying the 3% fee the bank charges on every U.S. dollar card transaction, we can now pay the actual exchange rate.”
So far this year, Lemon estimates Float has saved SPI Logistics $10,000 in U.S. dollar conversion fees alone, but the benefits don’t stop there, either. He adds that when Float launched its virtual corporate card program earlier this year it immediately proved massively beneficial.
That’s because previously non-executives of the 35-person organization had to dip into their own pockets when traveling to conferences and events. The new feature, however, allowed Lemon to generate virtual cards in minutes, set merchant and category restrictions, spending limits, and even generate one-time use cards.
“In today’s economy lots of people don’t have lots of extra money to spend a few hundred dollars on a work trip to hopefully get paid back within one to two weeks,” he says. “Now with the ability to offer virtual cards from their phones, we can issue small temporary cards to the employees who are traveling, which makes their lives easier, and makes our life easier, because I get all the receipts electronically.”
Taking The Risks Out of Vendor Payments
Furthermore, all those vendor payments that used to come from Lemon’s corporate card have been replaced with a new system that assigns each vendor their own card, meaning that if one is compromised the others won’t be affected.
“One of our executive cards did get compromised, and Float caught it right away, and disabled the card automatically, without us having to do anything,” he says. “That was hugely beneficial so that we weren’t dealing with any fraudulent transactions.”
Lemon adds that innovations like Float are part of what keeps his work feeling fresh fifteen years after taking the first job he could find.
“Being able to embrace new technology and new ideas keeps things interesting,” he says. “If you work at a company that isn’t doing that, it’s really hard to stick with something for 15 years.”
About SPI Logistics
For over 40 years, SPI has been a leading firm providing a dedicated transportation network and third-party logistics hub to shippers, receivers, and carriers. Find SPI Logistics at www.spi3pl.com.
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