Burger joint expense fraud menu unmasked by AIby
Andrew Foster explains what a Toronto fast food company’s recent campaign can teach us about the need to re-evaluate expense policy and eliminate the possibility of fraud using artificial intelligence.
Toronto fast food company Good Fortune Burger recently renamed menu items to expense articles as a humorous ploy to disguise items for remote workers, titled “#RECEATS: Renamed menu items so you can expense them.”
Popular items on the menu were replaced with objects commonly used in the home office such as “Mini Dry Erase Whiteboard”, “Silicone Keyboard Cover” and “Non-Slip Rubber Mouse Pad”.
The amusing marketing campaign pokes fun at employees who slip out-of-policy items under the radar in the hope of getting reimbursed, whilst nodding to the expense frustrations caused by remote working during the pandemic.
Although comical, it highlights several key issues surrounding expense reimbursement and fraud which can be solved by implementing artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
The role of AI in spotting errors and fraud
Out-of-policy expenses can cause serious problems for finance teams and businesses if clear guidance and processes are not put in place. This is where AI comes in.
AI technology in expense audit can help spot inadvertent errors, duplicate payments and fraud, as well as ensuring uniform application of corporate policy and compliance with regulations. In addition to scanning each line item in an expense report, the intelligent system also takes into account factors relating to the purchasing vendor.
For example, as Good Fortune Burger is clearly not an office supply company, the AI-backed technology would understand this, and then check the internet for further information before verifying its suspicions.
Passing off office supplies as food items is a clear example of fraud that AI is able to spot and reject. Unlike manual reviewers, AI is able to audit 100% of expense claims and is much more capable of detecting errors and duplicate payments – then flagging any suspicious spend to finance teams.
It can also highlight repeat behavioural patterns, such as an employee submitting multiple suspicious expenses. AI can also speed up processes, ensuring that employees are reimbursed faster and in line with corporate policy.
Finance teams can take advantage of further, more specialised aspects of AI technology to identify irregularities submitted by employees – computer vision, natural language processing and semantic analysis are just three that are propelling the automation of expense management forward.
With computer vision, computers not only identify visual objects, but also extract any useful information and categorise what they see. And with semantic analysis, they use contextual clues and logic to more fully evaluate and understand expense claims.
The combination of these technologies allows finance systems to understand structured and unstructured data, and learn from billions of transactions, data points and user feedback. AI systems use this data not only to develop a wider understanding of the business scenario and make decisions and predictions, but also to aid their own learning and become more intelligent themselves.
In expense and invoice processing, intelligent automation can extract predictable, structured data from templated forms, read text from receipts, even if barely legible, and apply semantic understanding to invoices.
It can make independent decisions by understanding what is being bought, who is buying it and how it should be classified and accounted for. AI can process the situation using context, delivering an intelligent and informed decision.
Good expense management benefits the business and employees alike
With remote working and hybrid working looking to stay in the long run, it’s never been more crucial to have clear and updated expense policies. Research shows that work-from-home expenses increased slightly after the first lockdown, likely as a consequence of employers reacting slowly and updating their expense policies late.
It also concluded that failure to update expense policies led to employees feeling confused and dissatisfied. This highlights the need for companies to create clear expense policy processes so that reimbursement is accurate and fair.
Incorporating intelligent technologies such as AI in the finance expense management process can be a game-changer here, allowing businesses to operate with consistency, streamline processes so that finance teams can focus on high-risk items and eliminate fraud and excess spending. Adopting new technologies will be crucial for business survival in the evolving workplace.