David Thompson is an award-winning CIO/CTO and respected technology leader with a wealth of expertise driving continuous improvement, business transformation, and innovation through technological advancement and end-to-end process enablement. In an interview with CIOReview, Thompson discusses how compliance organizations have to embrace new technologies and be able to retain focus on the changes needed in their operating model, technology, and data.

In light of your experience, what are the trends and challenges you’ve witnessed happening in the Compliance space?

In most industries— and perhaps more so in business travel - striking a balance between the compliance and cost of operations, and what we need to deliver to our clients, is an ongoing challenge. American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), as the worlds leading partner for managed travel, has the added challenge of varying client requirements based on the countries where we operate.

In our industry, we see more and more consolidation, which prompts the challenges and opportunities that come with integration. These companies need to quickly build a program and technology infrastructure that’s compliant so that they can rapidly integrate. With new regulations, the bar has been raised significantly, and understanding how your data is used inside your corporation, how you can manage that data, and then meet the compliance requirements of GDPR and others regulations is a tremendous amount of work to consider as well. To accomplish that, you need good data mapping in your organization and better control over your data, which is a challenge in and of itself.

What are the trends defining the state of the Compliance landscape?

One of the technological trends I am seeing in my current role is additional sources of data compliance and solutions to help you manage compliance. There are many tools to take care of automated data mapping. Scanning your infrastructure for data assets and then providing data mapping have proven to be a great help for organizations. We also see technologies specifically geared towards compliance checks and making sure you meet requirements. Those technologies are also coming in the market with strong API technology, so that we can plug-and-play capabilities into our infrastructure at various points where we need to check a transaction or traveler or ticketing process.

Another trending area is fraud prevention. We see many new solutions to help prevent fraud in our infrastructure. These solutions provide data sets around known fraudulent individuals that are perpetrating fraud monitoring. When these products come to market, we stitch them together into a compliance solution, and we can implement a fully baked solution versus build one from scratch.

So this particular industry is growing, and the new capabilities are coming to bear. We always need to bear our scale and global footprint in mind when we consider these new capabilities. Some of the smaller tech providers that are coming to market in the business travel industry have great ambitions, but I have to look for solutions that are enterprise-class and have the potential to scale because of our robust volume – we handle millions of transactions through our systems. My technical team focuses on understanding the compliance solutions that come to market, and ensuring they can scale and can meet our needs while fitting into our overall architectural roadmap.

Could you elaborate on some interesting and impactful projects/initiatives that you’re currently overseeing?

One of our most significant investments is our digital presence with our clients. We’ve completely revamped how we interface with our clients through new products and technology enhancements that provide a best-in-class experience for our clients. They can reach us via our Amex GBT Mobile app, telephone, through Apple Business Chat, email, and more. All of those channels are now available for our clients in a state of the art digital platform. We’ve seen significant uptake by our clients and also are getting positive feedback on these new investments. Being able to deliver a seamless digital presence is significant in managed corporate travel because the nuance and complexity in the back-office of business travel is fundamentally different than leisure travel, but the traveler doesn’t need to see that. Delivering a seamless experience for the traveler, which also meets the needs of the company travel program, relies heavily on the right technology infrastructure and compliance strategy.

"As a CITO,you have to set the tone for your team that compliance is a top priority for the company"

Another interesting project that my team and I are involvedin are enhancements to Neo, our award-winning proprietary technology for online booking. Neo allows our clients to book their travel on a mobile application. With these new capabilities, our on-the-go clients can interface with us on travel changes and communicate directly with our traveler care team when they are on the road.

It’s exciting for me to start to use technology to proactively identify disruptions and then get ahead of it and interface with our clients and take care of their travelers.

When there’s a travel disruption, either because of bad weather or a flight delay, we have proactive technologies to offer assistance to travelers. Our Proactive Traveler Care™ tool is the first-to-market automated flight disruption service for corporate travel, and it uses technology to identify potential problems in a traveler’s journey proactively. If we see a disruption, say in a carrier, or because of storms, we reach out to our travelers through automation and giving them other travel options. In the past, this was done manually through the combination of multiple separate technologies. We are continually trying to get ahead using technologies that are constantly monitoring the state of travel infrastructure and regions, and interfacing with our clients electronically to give them new options if needed.

Companies of all sizes spend a lot of money on travel and meetings and events, so we also help our clients with expense management. The tools that we use in our data management platform give companies insights into their program and recommend ways to adjust their travel program to optimize their spend - so they can still meet their clients in person while being cost-effective.

Also, from a product perspective, we’ve been building service-oriented architecture, and in doing that, we can bring products online and offline for specific clients. These are explicitly configured for a client based on their needs but also by engaging third parties that may need travel capabilities or some of our components. We have an enterprise integration framework which allows us to connect to service providers, carriers, and compliance entities and that integration framework, and our service-oriented architecture has allowed us to be flexible and nimble in responding to changes in our industry.