University of Exeter Increases Efficiencies with Expenses Cloud Technology

University of Exeter reduce expenses administration and simplifies the expenses claims process using Selenity’s online electronic Expenses system.

  • Challenge: Remove paper-based system and streamline the expenses process across the University.
  • Solution: Expenses from Selenity.
  • Result: Increased efficiencies and supports the delivery of the University’s transformation plans.

The University of Exeter in Exeter, Devon, and Falmouth, Cornwall offers research and study in sciences, social sciences, business, humanities and arts.

Background

The University of Exeter is a Russell Group University in the top one percent of institutions globally. In the last few years it has invested strategically to deliver more than GBP 350 million worth of new facilities across its campuses with plans for another GBP 330 million of investment between now and 2016.

The University of Exeter operates across Streatham and St Luke’s campuses in Exeter, Devon and Penryn and Truro campuses in Cornwall.

University of Exeter Expenses History

Annually, there are over 2,600 claimants across the University. Historically, each department managed its own expenses claims, predominately originating from UK and foreign travel.

The University’s staff, both academic and professional services, would claim their expenses using a paper-based process. All staff was previously required to fill in manual expenses claims forms, with accompanying receipts, and pass them onto their expenses team for approval.

Martin Henson, Finance Systems Manager for the University of Exeter explains, “The main problem with a paper based expenses system was that you never knew where a claim might be; it could be sitting on someone’s desk or in a tray waiting for them to approve it. Consequently, the approval process would take longer than was necessary. 

Any claim also required a signature from a team manager, so claims might be delayed if that person was unavailable or on leave. Members of the finance team would need to check the authorising signature on the claim adding more time to the process.”

Cloud-based Expenses System

In 2012, the University of Exeter looked for a suitable electronic expenses system and chose Selenity’s Expenses cloud service.

Expenses is administered centrally by a small team and each department deals with its own approvals of claims. On average, there are around 1,500 claims processed through the system each month.

Martin says, “We chose the Selenity Expenses system as it is straightforward to use, easy to deploy, flexible in terms of its reporting tools and it can administer purchasing cards which is very useful to our claimants.”

Reducing Paperwork

Due to confirmation of HMRC guidelines in the past year, the University no longer needs to keep original receipts for expenses claims if they’re stored correctly within an electronic system. Instead, any receipts can now be scanned and attached electronically to a claim, which dramatically reduces the amount of paperwork, associated filing and storage for expenses claims.

Martin says, “The University is striving to become more efficient and streamlined. Expenses is helping in this transformation process by simplifying a formerly complex and slow paper-based process. By reducing the paperwork, each of the departments has benefited and saved on administration time.

Expenses has definitely been beneficial in saving administration time for the finance team. Before Expenses, the finance staff would have to input paper forms together with the relevant expenses details. We are saving staff time, giving the team more time to work on other tasks and helping us to be more efficient.”

Transparency

Since the Expenses system has been adopted by the University, every department has a consistent three stage approval process that can be viewed online by the claimant. 
 
Martin explains, “The transparency of the approval process has been well received by the staff as they know specifically what is required of them in order to submit a claim and they also know exactly where their claim is in the approval process.

Expenses is currently being used by all permanent staff at the University and the finance team plans to extend the online system to other temporary staff and post-graduate students who currently still use a paper-based process in the future.”

Mobile

At present, the University is trialling Selenity’s Expenses Mobile application so that its staff can record, track, process and approve their expenses when away from their desks by using a smartphone, or other mobile device. This will avoid any issues with forgetting to include details in a claim or a misplaced receipt.

Martin says, “We are currently rolling-out the Expenses Mobile app which will speed up the claims process even more, ultimately benefitting the staff who will get paid even quicker for their expenses”.

Carbon Footprint

The reporting functionality of Expenses has enabled the finance team to produce specific reports for the University’s ‘carbon footprint’ coordinator who can use the reports to analyse the carbon usage of the University’s staff associated with travelling to various conferences, events and meetings. 

Martin says, “The reporting tools of Expenses are invaluable and can be used in various ways to support department managers and the finance team in analysing claims and spend on expenses. We are able to create our own reports which help us to increase efficiencies where ever possible.”

On-going Support

Martin concludes, “Customer support from Selenity is excellent. The team is always quick to respond to any support calls and there is also good guidance in their support site which is kept up to date with helpful information.” 

The University of Exeter is committed to continuing the roll-out of electronic receipts and the Expenses Mobile application during this year.

Summary

  • Increases efficiencies and supports the delivery of the University's transformation plans
  • Simplifies expenses claims with more transparency
  • Enables reporting on staff travel carbon footprint
  • Reduces expenses administration, enabling staff to spend more time on other, value added activities 

 

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