An essential component of loss-control efforts at my company, Clean-Co Systems, is a purchasing card program with effective purchase alerts reporting.
Clean-Co is a leading industrial and specialty cleaning company in Texas and Louisiana. We serve downstream companies in the energy industry, such as chemical, natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants and refineries. Using some of the country’s largest ultra-high pressure water blasting machines, we clean equipment such as heat exchangers and reactors, both onsite at customer locations and at our cleaning facility in Channelview, TX, where we’re headquartered.
We have four additional offices in the two-state area and more than 100 employees, including supervisors, salespeople and office staff, many of whom regularly make business purchases for things like travel and machine parts and repair.
Unfortunately, credit card fraud has historically been a problem for us. For instance, about five years ago some of our workers conspired with a manager at a local gas station to fraudulently charge $86,000 in fuel to one of our company cards in just one year.
External fraudsters are an ever-present threat as well. Once one took a picture of one of our cards, set up a phony account on Amazon and went online and used the stolen account information to charge nearly $12,000 worth of purchases over 18 months.
Card fraud is a major challenge, but today I’m keeping scams like these at bay with a purchasing card program from Hancock and Whitney Bank that features real-time Visa® Purchase Alerts.
I had a purchasing card program with a big national bank I used to do a lot of business with, but its alerts reporting was totally ineffective. I typically received information about card purchases days after the transactions. And when the information arrived, it lacked the detail I needed about what was purchased and who bought it, and the dollars associated with multiple transactions were all lumped into one number.
With reporting like that, I couldn’t easily determine if any fraud was occurring or identify culprits. Also, because delivery of the transaction information was delayed, it was often hard to bill daily job-related expenses to customers. They frequently wanted to know why it took us weeks to bill them for those expenses.
Not only was I frustrated by slow, inadequate reporting, but my longtime bank was only offering a miniscule $10,000 card-program credit limit. I decided to look for a better program — and a new commercial banking relationship.
Houston Whitney bankers (left to right) Kim Rorabaugh, VP, Treasury Management; Kent Omoniyi, SVP, Private Wealth Management; and Noi Bozdag, SVP, Commercial Banking, get a demonstration of a Guzzler Vacuum Truck, one of Clean-Co Systems' trucks that feature simultaneous suction and pump capability. These vehicles provided an invaluable contribution to the clean-up of downtown Houston in the aftermath of the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.
A new relationship and card program
I took out a home loan from Hancock and Whitney about 10 years ago, but did no commercial business with the bank until the past couple years. What changed was I became frustrated with my primary provider of commercial banking services — not only because of the poor reporting on its p-card product, but also due to its bankers not understanding my business and, as a result, not offering sufficient credit.
Seeking a more attentive relationship, I turned to Kent Omoniyi, my private banker at Hancock and Whitney, who brought in the bank’s Treasury expert Kim Rorabaugh and Commercial Banker Noi Bozdag. They provided commercial financing — a working capital line of credit and an equipment guidance line to help me buy hydro blasting machines, compressors, vacuum trucks and the like — and then, earlier this year, I adopted a Hancock and Whitney purchasing card program. The bank gave us a significantly higher line of credit on our card accounts than we had with our previous program, along with true real-time purchase alerts reporting. Once I signed up, we had cards in less than a week.
Now, whenever any of my supervisors, salespeople or office staff make a card purchase over a certain dollar amount, I and my office manager receive text alerts or emails with the purchase amount, merchant name and location, and the last four digits of the card used. Receiving such details immediately following every significant transaction allows us to catch fraud on the spot, as well as assign job-related expenses to customers on a timely basis.
Creating an environment of deterrence
The Hancock Whitney purchasing card program with real-time alerts is central to my loss-control program. The gas theft and Amazon shopping scams I described earlier would have been caught immediately if I had real-time alerts when they occurred. Furthermore, the card-purchase alerts complement other monitoring measures I’ve implemented, such as onsite security cameras to combat theft and GPS devices on trucks to monitor their speed and use. Together, these measures are sending a message: I’m watching. And that helps keep everyone in line.
There’s a strong connection between an effective loss-control program and profitability. Recently my accountant asked me: “Mick, how is it that you are doing 30% less business but are doubling your profits?” My answer: When you can drastically curb fraud and lost materials, the bottom line gets a lot rosier.