Launched in 2016, Hmlet made waves in the real estate space with their groundbreaking approach to flexible living. Today, they have over 1,500 move-in ready rooms and properties across Singapore, Tokyo and Hong Kong. The Hmlet team is driven by their mission to go beyond the constraints of traditional living through constant innovation and community-building.
As the biggest co-living operator, Hmlet maintained a portfolio of over 1,500 properties, with plans to acquire more. As with all marketplaces, the business had both a demand and supply side. On the supply side of the business (landlords/ flat owners), payments were made on a monthly basis, taking into account whether the property was utilised during this period or not. Thousands of supply side payments made every month - and each came with a chain of paperwork, approvals process and payment configuration.
The team had to jump through multiple hoops to set up every single payment - acquiring the receipt, approvals and then eventually configuring payments on the platform. Imagine doing this for 100s of payments on a monthly basis! Phew, it surely sounds tiring. On top of that, their incumbent bank charged them a fee for FAST payments made.
Like most startups with plans to grow regionally, they had a growing headcount of over 80 employees that stretched across finance, sales, people, IT, and marketing. The company shared a single credit card for business expenses.
Expense management grew complicated as each department had to make expenses for specific purposes to keep their day-to-day operations running smoothly.
As a result, Hmlet’s finance team was tasked with controlling all SaaS subscriptions and paid ads submitted by the IT and marketing departments. Other expenses, such as office-related spends and utility bills had to be paid out of employees’ pockets. They would then have to submit a claim and wait to be reimbursed at the end of the month.
This became increasingly complicated, with employees lacking autonomy over their own team’s budgets. The credit card they relied on also did not have spend limit or merchant locks in place一leading to lack of clarity on budgets for different spend categories.
Hmlet’s pain points borne by sharing a credit card did not stop there. As they began to look towards seizing more growth opportunities within the real estate industry, they found that sharing a credit card among their departments and subsidiaries hampered their ability to glean meaningful financial insights.
How much was each department spending in real-time? Where were they over spending and where were they underspending? The way they approached expense management did not provide them with the answers they needed.
To better facilitate their high volume of payments to suppliers (apartment owners and landlords), Hmlet turned to Aspire’s BillPay, a payables management solution, to automate bulk payouts. By leveraging its automation capabilities, they could now process 50 bills in a single tap一for free and instant payment.
The time saved also freed up significant workload for the finance team, who had to wrestle with manual uploads before. They could now invest more time into more important tasks that would help Hmlet gain a stronger foothold in the region’s competitive real estate market.
With Aspire, Hmlet was able to delegate purchasing autonomy for their employees by issuing over 12 employee cards across the different departments. They could now categorize their business spends easily through specific purposes, such as SaaS subscriptions, Paid Ads, Office Expenses and more. Payments were done in a flash, without worrying about getting the necessary approvals or having to use their own personal funds.
What they found super useful was setting spend limits on each card to avoid overspending. While more employees were making payments, Hmlet’s management as well as the finance team still had full control over which merchants they could transact with as well as set adjustable team budgets at any time.
Hmlet opened three Aspire Accounts for each of their subsidiaries. This way, they achieved maximum spending visibility on each subsidiary. In addition, they could also refer to an up-to-date transactions list from Aspire should they need to double-check a specific purchase.
While they had multiple accounts, they could access everything through a single log in. Hmlet’s finances could now be found in one place. They were also able to glean useful insights from the Aspire dashboard. This is instrumental in informing the management team on how they could strategize and seize more business opportunities in Southeast Asia.
Since we opened our Aspire accounts, we have a much better and richer understanding of our spend activities by each department, particularly across our different subsidiaries. We were able to save extra man hours by reducing manual payment processes through Aspire, without compromising on controls.
- Lynn Lim, VP of Finance at Hmlet