Widely regarded as one of the world’s leading opera companies, Royal Opera performances are in demand across the world. We caught up with Head of Financial Accounts Graham Watson to hear how Centtrip supported the opera’s international touring company on its recent tour of Japan.
How does Centtrip support the Royal Opera’s international touring?
Centtrip has transformed how we pay per diems – daily expense allowances – to the company when we’re on tour. You can imagine, when the whole company goes on tour, it's a massive undertaking, especially sending them halfway around the world.
Historically, our administrative director would arrive in Japan and be handed two suitcases full of cash. He'd have to look after those with the constant worry of having large amounts of cash in suitcases, because it couldn’t all be squeezed into a hotel-room safe.
We paid per diems, in cash, at the start of each week, so he would spend a lot of his time just stacking up money, batching it and then re-counting it out to each of 280 people. Then, he’d count the balance left over to make sure everything was correct.
For the Japanese tour, we decided to find a different solution and used Centtrip prepaid Mastercards for per diems.
What was your process for managing per diem payments on the Centtrip cards?
We already used Centtrip for making international payments to artists, so we have a good working relationship.
We opened a second account specifically for per diem payments. It didn’t take long to collate the data needed for the cards to be printed and within a week we had 280 cards.
Ruth Mulholland, the touring company manager, and I were administrators on the account so we could disperse the per diem payments from the account to individuals’ cards. She also had eight spare cards so that, if somebody lost a card, she could instantly lock the lost card, issue a replacement and transfer the balance to the new card within seconds. If anyone forgot their PIN, Ruth could reissue it. She had everything under control.
What benefits have you seen from using Centtrip cards instead of cash for per diems?
The biggest benefit of using Centtrip, from an accounting perspective, is transparency. We have full visibility of how everything was issued and what was left over. Everybody can see their transactions individually on the app, and Ruth had complete control over the 280 cards. It also meant that nobody was sitting on a mountain of cash.
Did the artists and other touring party members benefit, too?
Yes, the majority of people use debit and credit cards, these days. They don’t carry a lot of cash with them, so why should that change when they travel?
Using Centtrip was straightforward and it enabled people to track what they were spending, through the app.
And, when people came back, if they had any money left, it was very straightforward for them to convert it back to pounds and either use it on the card in this country, withdraw as cash or transfer it to their own bank account.
How do you plan to use Centtrip cards in the future?
Across the whole of Royal Opera House, we’re now looking for opportunities to reduce the amount of cash we use.
For example, our development and enterprise team was taking a group of patrons on a trip to Italy and needed a float in case any issues arose. Instead of issuing £4,000 in cash, we had a Centtrip card within a few days, loaded it with the value and transferred the money back to our account when the trip was over. For any purchases, the Centtrip app allowed them to take pictures of the receipts and log where they were spending.
The people who’ve had first-hand experience of working with Centtrip have all given really good feedback. The Centtrip team is responsive, knowledgeable and our people enjoy working with them.
Graham, thank you for your time.