Streamlining Payables and Earning Rewards

Case Study: How a noted architecture firm streamlined payables and earned rewards with Capital One Corporate Payment Solutions

Noted architecture firm streamlines payables and earns rewards with Capital One® Corporate Payment Solutions

From its base in Portland, Oregon, Scott | Edwards Architecture (S | E A) has designed a wide range of buildings nationwide. The firm’s ability to attract top talent and bring innovation and ingenuity to its projects has driven its rapid growth. This dramatically increased expansion meant that the company was pushing past the limits of its existing Commercial Card and payables process.


In pursuit of simplicity and rewards

S | E A needed a Commercial Card program that would be easy to use and free up time for its business administrator, Ann Trudeau, to work on more strategic tasks. The firm wanted a comprehensive solution that would provide efficiency at the time of purchase and when making invoice payments. The previous program’s bottlenecks added unwanted complexity, making reconciliation and card management more time consuming. Ann Trudeau explained, “We have straightforward needs—manage card controls for projects and maintain a basic reconciliation process that works for us. So for now we want to keep it simple, avoid rabbit holes and add features later as we grow.” The company had also experienced incidents of fraud, causing a firmwide replacement of Commercial Cards. In looking for a new program, S | E A wanted: 

  • An easy-to-use online platform with real-time card management features 
  • A simple statement reconciliation process 
  • A timely fraud alert process that offered peace of mind 
  • High vendor acceptance 
  • Rebates and rewards 

As Ann Trudeau pointed out, “The process of reissuing cards multiple times was time consuming and forced our focus away from core business functions that ensure the firm is able to run smoothly.” 

In addition, S | E A had traditionally used the cash rewards earned from making card purchases and payments to fund the company’s annual holiday party. Finding a program that would maximize return and reward employees was also a major factor in deciding on a new Commercial Card program. Sid Scott, the founding principal of the firm, stated, “One key reason we initially started using cards was to fund our holiday party. Finding a program that allows us to thank employees for their dedication is a must.”


The switch to Capital One Corporate Payment Solutions

When assessing various Commercial Card providers, Ann Trudeau looked to her personal card experience for inspiration. She was a longtime Capital One consumer card customer and found the online features intuitive and easy to use. About this time, Capital One reached out and provided an overview of the One Card solution. The simplicity and immediacy of the online card management tool was a main driver in the firm’s selection of the Capital One program.

With this switch, S | E A was able to eliminate its previous program’s complexities and obstacles while gaining all the core features it required to be effective. “Our goals were simple,” recalled Ann. “Increase overall efficiency in managing the program, improve visibility over spend activity—including potential fraud—and earn substantial rewards for paying our day-to-day business expenses by card.” Throughout the implementation, the Capital One team focused on keeping the process simple yet flexible. “This was our first professional services client in the area, and the fact that we were able to meet all their needs during the sales process speaks to the strengths and dynamic nature of our program,” stated Lalo Vallejo, S | E A’s primary sales manager at Capital One.


The One Card from Capital One

The S | E A program consists of a combination of employee cards for the firm’s partners to use when traveling and purchase cards used to pay for day-to-day business expenses, including some invoices. S | E A now uses its One Card to pay every vendor that will accept card. These vendors supply internet access, printing and shredding services, advertising, software, building permits, and utilities. The program’s success is built directly on: 

Rewards—the rewards earned from the One Card have incentivized S | E A to look for more ways to use its cards. Since the flexible rewards options include cash back through statement credits, S | E A has been able to continue funding the company holiday party. 

Acceptance—S | E A has noted many advantages with broad acceptance of the One Card, which runs on the Mastercard network. 

  • A great majority of the firm’s vendors accept the One Card. In situations where suppliers assess fees, S | E A has moved to other vendors or pushed successfully to remove the fee. Ann Trudeau noted, “Our IT department has its own card that it uses for large payments, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in software licenses every year.” 
  • The firm’s partners have never had acceptance issues wherever their business travel takes them. 
  • When obtaining local permits, S | E A can pay the final amount with card instead of a check. This saves time should the final amount owed change. 

Online card management—Capital One’s online platform has made it fast and easy for the business administrator to maintain card limits on the spot. For example, when a large software license fee is up for renewal, it takes just a few clicks to increase the card’s credit limit for the purchase and then reduce it to the original amount—all effective immediately. What’s more, the company now has a simple process for downloading and reconciling statement-based transactions to its financial system. Ann Trudeau agreed that the task has become much easier since S | E A made the switch. On training a new business manager, she noted, “The system is so intuitive and logical that there is little training required. Our new associate has easily navigated to the exact page needed without looking up how to get there, enabling a fast ramp to taking on card management and other responsibilities.”

Activity visibility—with Capital One’s online platform, S | E A now easily monitors activity with exception reporting that highlights “outlier” spending based on its customized parameters. S | E A further benefits from the proactive fraud monitoring services Capital One provides, including outreach directly to cardholders to verify any unusual charges. 

Ongoing service—from providing exemplary support throughout implementation to collaborating on issues and goals, S | E A has been quite satisfied with the smooth operation of its card program. Lalo Vallejo, the Capital One sales manager, stays close to the program and has even hosted lunch meetings at the S | E A offices to make vendor calls that continue expanding card acceptance in new areas. Sid Scott recalled, “We used to wait much longer for responses and resolutions to issues with our old program. With Capital One, Lalo swiftly connects all the dots and provides the more timely results we need to move our growing business forward. We have established a high level of trust.”


Stellar first-year results

  • Less than a year into the program, the rewards earned are exceeding those of the previous year. 
  • Average monthly spend moving to card from checks grew 74% from the first 90-day ramp-up period through the following six month period 
  • More than 170 suppliers are being paid regularly by card, with average monthly unique vendor payments 13% higher from the first 90-day ramp-up period through the following six month period.


Future plans

The partnership between Capital One and S | E A has been extremely successful to date, prompting several collaborative discussions on how to: 

  • Have S | E A itself become a card-accepting merchant 
  • Modernize the statement reconciliation process with an automated integration to the accounting system 
  • Continue expanding to new vendors to grow rewards and increase security across business payments 

On the strength of its well-received Commercial Card program, S | E A is considering adding a Virtual Card solution as well. Ann Trudeau stated, “After the positive experience with the One Card program, we are looking for more of the same in the Virtual Card, with a simple solution that would allow us to gain efficiencies and security while also increasing rewards.” As Sid Scott remarked on the program’s overall success, “Our initial interest with One Card started as a side project to fund our end-of-year employee holiday party. The partnership with Capital One has enabled us to exceed that goal, greatly improving our internal process and, at the same time, our bottom line.”


Take the next step

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