Maximize manager training.

Are key P-Card messages reaching the management personnel who oversee cardholders? How strong is your training for this important group? Managers are the first line of defense against cardholder fraud and misuse. Prior to anyone fulfilling the “manager-approver” role, training should be mandatory. Some organizations are reluctant to take this step. Others enforce it, but could benefit from doing a fresh-eyes review of what they offer. Keep reading to learn more about the role and acquire tips to help you ensure manager training is effective.

About the Role

First, do you clearly define the manager-approver role? As a best practice, this person should be at least one functional job level higher than the cardholders they oversee. In the case of executive cardholders, the board of directors or similar group should provide oversight. Read about a case of executive card fraud, which demonstrates the importance of holding executives accountable.

Overall, manager-approvers serve as a key control. Communicate that their sign off on a cardholder’s transactions represents that:

  • transactions are for legitimate business purchases
  • the cardholder complied with applicable policies and procedures
  • there is appropriate supporting documentation for each transaction
Do not leave the delivery of important messages to chance. Design manager training to fit their role and schedules.

Do not leave the delivery of important messages to chance. Design manager training to fit their role and schedules.

Training Tips

In a September 2015 blog post, I offered nine tips to help managers be a successful part of a Commercial Card program. One tip was: Specifically design training for managers; make it relevant. While they need to understand the cardholder’s role, too, they do not need to learn the same details. To expand on this tip, they do not necessarily need to know details about declined transactions, initiating a dispute, placing an order, etc. (but cardholder training, as well as the program policies and procedures manual, should cover these topics).

Examples of content relevant to managers include:

  • Why the organization has a card program and the benefits gained; this is important for obtaining their buy-in up front
  • What their role entails 
  • How to review/approve transactions 
  • What cards should be used for
  • Prohibited purchases
  • Prohibited practices (e.g., splitting transactions to circumvent single purchase limits)
  • Supporting documentation requirements
  • Red flag behaviors that could indicate cardholder fraud; learn more
  • What to do if they spot or suspect fraud/misuse

In addition, consider the format and duration. To prevent scheduling challenges associated with classroom-style training, offer an online option that managers can pursue at their convenience. Avoid making it too long. They should be able to complete it within an hour.

Even though making separate, initial P-Card training for managers is extra work (hopefully a one-time effort that only requires minimal updates on a go-forward basis), it can pay off. Envision increased manager satisfaction and improved compliance.

What can you do to improve manager training?

See what else Recharged Education offers on the topic of training.


About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With more than 15 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

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Give your managers a life preserver.

Are managers to blame for cardholders’ unethical and criminal acts, or do they get an undeserved bad rap? A new internal fraud incident involving a Commercial Card got me thinking more about a manager’s role in fraud prevention and detection. Keep reading to learn about the fraud, manager hurdles and nine tips to help managers be successful.

The Fraud

A friend told me about a sales rep his company recently fired for using a company card for personal purchases. “Jane,” a long-time trusted employee, allowed both her husband and adult daughter to use her card for personal car rentals. In addition, Jane used her card for personal food purchases that did not have any business purpose. Because of her sales position, charges for car rentals and meals were common, so they did not raise any red flags.

The company, which had a corporate liability card program, uncovered the fraud after an automated toll road charge appeared on Jane’s card. It had occurred in conjunction with the daughter’s car rental. When the company did research to determine the associated business activity, they soon realized Jane was in the office during the purported trip. Things went downhill from there.

Is the Manager at Fault?

Upon hearing about Jane, my first question was, “Why didn’t her manager catch this?” When fraud of any kind—Commercial Card, expense report or other—goes undetected, it is easy to blame the employee’s manager. However, while managers’ lack of oversight is often a factor, we should dig deeper. Do organizations set up their managers for success or failure?

The friend who told me about Jane is a manager. He admits he only does a cursory review of his employees’ expenses because he has too much on his plate. He shared, “I only have so much time every day. Administrative tasks like expense reviews are not my priority because the risk of potential expense fraud is lower than the risk to my company if I neglect my unique job duties. At the end of the day, I have to trust my employees, so I can focus elsewhere.”  

Like many organizations, his company also enforces a monthly deadline by which managers must complete the expense review process. While the intent is to hold managers accountable for their important role in fraud detection, the downside is hurried sign-offs without attention to detail. Indeed, to avoid being called out for tardiness, my friend says he meets the deadline regardless of whether he actually performs a complete review. Approaches like this can be a matter of manager survival.  

Manager Hurdles

  • The manager is on overload, juggling too many other responsibilities.
  • The manager resides in a different location than the cardholder (this was true in Jane’s case) and might be out of touch with an employee’s daily activities, unable to recognize fraudulent expenses.
  • The manager is responsible for too many employees. We can debate how many is too many, but try to determine how long it takes to review one cardholder’s monthly transactions/statement thoroughly. Multiply by a manager’s number of cardholders to get a sense of the commitment. 
  • The organization does not require any related training or provide any helpful tools.
Are organizations drowning their managers or providing the necessary support for survival and success?

Are organizations drowning their managers or providing the necessary support for survival and success?

Helping Managers Be Successful

I asked my friend what would help make the reviewer/approver role easier. Our discussion reinforced best practices, but also touched on lesser-used strategies. The tips include:

  1. Pursue senior management involvement in communicating the importance of the manager’s role, so they hear it from the top.
  2. Specifically design training for managers; make it relevant. While they need to understand the cardholder’s role, too, they do not need to learn the same details. Learn more...
  3. Require managers to sign an internal agreement like cardholders.
  4. Mandate annual training on card policies, as well as ensure managers are trained on red flag behaviors that could indicate fraud.
  5. Require cardholders to provide key information for each charge. “Car rental for business trip” is too vague. “Car rental for August 31 meeting in NY with ABC Company” is much better.
  6. Utilize electronic review tools that managers can access at any time. Yes, some organizations still have a paper-based process, which is more tedious.
  7. Send managers a weekly report of their cardholders’ charges. My friend observed that this would make him more likely to spot oddities and ease the monthly review requirement. Then he would not be overwhelmed with seeing a month’s worth of charges for the first time and trying to recall what happened weeks ago.
  8. Provide other reporting, too, such as purchasing  history for the manager’s department, which I described in a 2014 blog post on fraud, along with other tips.
  9. Offer an at-a-glance reference of what managers should look for when reviewing expenses.

I also wonder if organizations should encourage or require a recurring “meeting” on managers’ calendars to reserve time each week and/or month for expense reviews. This sends a message that the task is important. What do you think? Feel free to comment and share any additional tips. 

See also other available resources related to card program controls.


About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With more than 15 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

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