Why CFOs Should Foster Stronger Relationships with Banks

01-06-2021 | treasuryXL | Kyriba |

CFOs are the custodians of financial growth for enterprise business, and a key part of that role is to build and foster mutually beneficial relationships with banks and funding partners. Since banking relationships are built upon the provision of services; whether those are lines of credit, daylight overdrafts, bank account reporting, payments, foreign exchange or concentration / pooling structures, CFOs can and should maximise the value derived from partner financial institutions.

One of the first mistakes a CFO or finance professional can make is in selecting or expanding a relationship with a bank ill-equipped to handle the global nature of their business and geographic footprint.

For example, banking relationships have implications across borders as many strong financial institutions are partnered with local banks or their own local branches providing much needed local expertise. Navigating difficult tax and reporting requirements, local format and regulatory requirements or unique depository scenarios all call upon strong relationships with banks familiar with your localisation needs.

Automating your banking interactions and reporting with technology is an area of concern.

In this scenario, CFOs are not able to take advantage of the full range of banking services since lapses and gaps in technology solutions do not provide for straight-through processing of payments or the automatic posting of cash and transactional details from bank-provided daily bank statements. Banks have evolved their services to provide much more flexibility and sophistication with regards to intraday bank statements, high levels of detail within bank statements and the frequency of sharing this information up to 4 to 5 times per day. Without the right technology solution to handle cash and liquidity forecasting, CFOs are leaving value on the “proverbial table” in the form of lost opportunities to invest, grow the business, or mitigate risk. Meanwhile, the lack of finance and treasury tools and automation associated with technology solutions, keeps staff tied to daily, tactical tasks versus a focus on strategic support and projects.

How well do CFOs understand the full potential of their banking relationships?

CFOs must be involved in understanding the health of the banking relationship and managing, or at least receiving updates on banking scorecards and other metrics to ensure the bank relationship is being leveraged to its full potential. For instance, more than ever, banks often provide or are partners in enabling Supply Chain Financing or Discounting scenarios to help both sides of the financial supply chain achieve their objectives. CFOs, again, must leverage their banking relationships while coupling them to technology options such as a solution with Dynamic Discounting or Supply Chain Finance to maximise bank services.

Additionally, visibility to liquidity in near or real-time is a must-have for CFOs.

Liquidity planning is critical for CFOs in good times and in bad. Historical market drops have highlighted the importance of having real-time access to information about your total liquidity position, understanding what level of cash is flowing through all systems, and what level of liquidity can be allocated to invest in growth opportunities or simply pay employees. CFOs in many cases can partner with banks to develop a mutually beneficial relationship. At the end of the day, Treasurers provide the CFO with the assurance that assets are safeguarded and the organisation has the liquidity required to meet obligations and fund strategic decisions. This is only possible if they too have immediate visibility into their positions.

Finally, there is risk in having all of your eggs in one basket.

CFOs should have a backup plan – having your liquidity, services and debt instruments with one bank can prove to be risky. When financial crises strike from internal or external factors (like margin calls, bankruptcies, etc.), these financial risks are mitigated when the CFO has a back-stop and other banking partner options to keep the lights on and the supply chain flowing. Having major and minor banking relationships can help keep banks competitively working for you while giving your organization financial and liquidity options to keep operations moving.

Should corporate treasurers stop ignoring bitcoins and other crypto currencies?

26-5-2021 | treasuryXL | Pieter de Kiewit

This is a blog by someone who does not own bitcoins or other crypto currencies and does not intend to purchase any soon. Someone who is not a subject matter expert. Someone who told his colleagues not to consider the topic relevant for corporate treasury for a long time. Someone who thought bitcoins are only relevant for extortionists or those who speculate, gamble and hope to get rich quickly. You understand, that someone would be me.

Slowly I am getting this “One wrong-way driver? I see dozens!”-feeling. Newspapers are filling up with blockchain news. Pension funds start seeing crypto currencies as a relevant asset class. Auction houses start accepting payments (Tesla stopped again) and in countries with hyperinflation in South America, people are fleeing into cryptocurrencies, especially stable coins. After a first attempt with the Libra, Facebook is introducing a stable coin with the so-called Diem that seems to be connected to the US dollar.

My main objection always was that I did not see the underlying value. Real estate is bricks, shares are a piece of ownership, bonds should be paid back and with fiat currencies you can buy in a store. I cannot live in bitcoins and my baker does not accept them as payment. But with gold I cannot buy bread either. It has some practical use as a metal but that does not justify its current value. So why measure bitcoins in practical use and underlying value?

The core discussion is about speculation and trust. There used to be times we knew a dollar or gulden could be exchanged for gold, so we trusted our money. But the gold standard is not so standard anymore. Of course the prices of dogecoins, ethereum and bitcoins are extremely volatile but how about the rates of Argentine Pesos, Venezuelan Bolivars, Turkish Liras or pre WOII German Deutschmarks? When you cannot stand the heat, stay out of the crypto currency kitchen but I do not consider volatility a reason to disqualify the asset class.

As to myself, perhaps I just have to accept that I am a laggard or at best member of the late majority in accepting the technology/solution. As to corporate treasurers, the survey shows they have the ambition to educate themselves better on the topic. Of course to be able to answer questions from their colleagues and perhaps to initiate some form of a practical application of crypto currencies. I hope that, next to the Tesla example, in further blogs we can inform you about relevant business cases. About successful implementation but of course also about the bottlenecks like taxation and reporting. There will be enough happening for many future blogs. And I will be someone who communicates differently about crypto currencies.

PS You might enjoy the slides of a recent presentation by Tristan Verhagen, recent Register Treasurer graduate, a great introduction into Bitcoins with provoking insights. See link.

Take care, Pieter

 

 

Pieter de Kiewit

Owner at Treasurer Search

 

 

 

International Treasury Management Virtual Week | Celebrating 30 years as the world’s leading treasury event

| 19-05-2021 | Eurofinance | treasuryXL |

International Treasury Management is the annual meeting place for 1000s of the World’s most senior treasurers to learn and share experiences in valuable peer to peer discussions. With a reputation for ground-breaking sessions and world-class speakers, our 30th anniversary event will explore the boundaries of the profession, take a glimpse into the future of business, treasury and working life as well as offer the practical case studies on the treasurer’s top agenda items.

Only one treasury event can deliver the comprehensive mix of big picture global insight and granular treasury knowledge you need to make the right choices for the future.


Back to the future, again

Over the past 30 years since EuroFinance’s inaugural conference on International Cash and Treasury Management, much has changed. Treasurers have firmly become business partners, technology experts, risk managers and opportunity spotters. They often lead fundamental change within the company as markets, business models and technology shifts.

What next? This event will delve into how treasury operations can gear up for the future, having learned the lessons from the past. Where, who, what and how will the corporate be in the coming years and what is treasury’s role?

Keynote sessions will offer big-picture insight alongside themed streams including:

  • Payments revisited
  • Risks and Rewards
  • Digital strategies
  • Practical solutions to day-to-day Treasury challenges
  • The power of partnership

What makes International Treasury Management the must-attend event of the year?

  • networking on a global scale – a significant rise in attendees in 2020 boosted the value networking with banks, providers and potential clients… all in one place
  • strategic insights and best practices – get solutions to the challenges you face from treasury and economic experts during keynotes, practical case studies, fireside chats, analytical panels and more
  • future trends – delve into the latest innovations and new technology driving change in treasury, and their practical applications
  • live Q&A with world-class treasurers – enjoy borderless networking and live Q&As with high-profile speakers directly after each session
  • cost and time-efficiency – tune in form anywhere in the world, at the click of a button with no long distance travel or accommodation costs
  • continued learning – catch up on any missed sessions and re-watch your highlights, on demand for up 2 months after the event
  • unite your international teams – as a free event, it offers an opportunity for your whole treasury team to attend. Perfect for encouraging learning and development at all levels

September 27th – October 1st | Virtual

Register Now for Free!

 

 

Global Treasury Americas | Planning the post-pandemic Treasury

| 12-05-2021 | Eurofinance | treasuryXL |

The leading virtual event defining today’s corporate treasury agenda

For the past year, treasurers have sweated the core stuff: securing short-term liquidity and longer-term credit; enhancing risk monitoring and hedging processes; and dealing with the implications of remote working. But in the complex and uncertain transition to a new ‘normal’, finance functions will have to resume the search for growth. Can treasury help identify where growth is most likely to come from and which parts of the business are most threatened by digital disruption? And can they do better – can they help build the business strategies needed to prosper as we emerge into the next phase of the pandemic.

This event will explore the practical steps treasurers can take to make enterprise and treasury digitalization a reality and look at varied case studies of transformation in the treasury. The event will look in-depth at new technologies in action as well as more strategic concepts including the sustainability agenda. We look at how treasury can make a difference. Finally, we look at what it takes to transform treasury wherever you are in your journey in order to increase efficiencies, protect the business and make a difference to the bottom-line.

Global Treasury Americas: Planning the post-pandemic treasury

2 days of actionable insights, plus real world case studies tackling the key issues facing treasurers in the region. Topics include:

  • The Great Bounce-back
  • Practical steps on the path to automated Treasury
  • Why sustainability matters for Treasury
  • Name that threat: What’s next
  • Building a true cash culture
  • Payments evolution – the Treasurer’s view

What makes Global Treasury Americas your must-attend event of the year?

  • Understand the practical steps towards making enterprise and treasury digitalization a reality
  • Gain actionable solutions and best practices from varied real-world case studies
  • Network with an unrivalled audience of 800+ senior treasury professionals across the Americas
  • Benchmark your operations against the regions most forward-thinking treasury teams
  • Explore how to support business growth whilst balancing the traditional role of treasury

June 9-10 | Virtual

Register Now

 

 

Liquidity Benefits From Dynamic Discounting in Supply Chain Financing

10-05-2021 | treasuryXL | Kyriba |

It might not always be obvious where business can learn lessons from somewhere like yacht racing, particularly in more specialist fields like Supply Chain Finance and Dynamic Discounting. But there are often uncanny parallels from this sport and finance, when both seek to deploy serious sums of money and leading-edge technology to deliver the marginal gains that can mean the difference between winning and losing.

I thought this was particularly evident in the recent America’s Cup yacht racing challenges in New Zealand. Those AC75 mono-hull super yachts that raced around the bays off Auckland often travelled at a logic-defying 40-50 knots, twice as fast as the winds that powered them and seemingly in defiance of both gravity and conventional sailing speed barriers.

Liquidity Made Good

The key to having one AC75 go faster than an almost identical competitor is the ability to analyse masses of data points in real-time to make the required adjustments to sails, rudders, weights and foils in order to attack the optimum route to the finish at maximum speed. It’s a concept called Velocity Made Good, with VMG now the go-to acronym that defines winners in America’s Cup racing. Perfecting VMG was the reason the New Zealand boat successfully beat its global challengers – again.

I was particularly struck by how this VMG-led transformation of yacht racing, now cascading down from the pinnacle of the sport to the club level, is not dissimilar to how a focus on technology-led cash and liquidity management is liberating corporate balance sheets. We could even refer to it as Liquidity Made Good, where, by the way, velocity also matters.

New Level Playing Field

The deployment of more powerful technologies can improve decision-making, release resources from previously opaque silos and supply chains, and deliver new competitive advantage. Historically this was only available to those high-tech firms and financial institutions with deep pockets, just like the owners of America’s Cup yachts, because of the almost prohibitive cost of computing power, data storage and analytics.

But cloud-based software platforms, the blossoming of data analytics, ubiquitous access to near-unlimited data storage and the power of connectivity-as-a-service now ensures, like in yachting, that these benefits filter down from the elite to level the playing field.

Greater Flexibility, Visibility

In particular, the once sleepy backwaters of trade finance are now waking up to new opportunities to maximise cash resources in ways that not only strengthen supplier relationships, but also enhance Corporate Social Responsibility credentials. Early Payment Discounting has been around trade finance for many years. But persistent, ultra-low interest rates and expectations of greater flexibility now demand more creative solutions from Treasurers. Answers to which technology can now help to provide.

Within the broader field of Supply Chain Finance, firms can now use technology to transform early payment schemes into Dynamic Discounting. These can be deployed as an integral part of wider working capital management, where better visibility can optimise liquidity and improve profitability. It might seem just a simple method of paying invoices earlier, particularly for businesses with surplus cash that can benefit both parties involved. But how it is managed becomes critical to the outcome.

Win-Win Solution

For Dynamic Discounting to succeed, it needs to be sufficiently flexible (dynamic) as to how and when suppliers are paid, with payments made prior to due dates at a discount to original invoice values calculated on a sliding scale. This means that the earlier the buyer pays a supplier, the greater the discount. The discount is therefore “dynamic” in relation to the number of days until the invoice due date and avoids the previous “cliff edge” difference between simply either having a discount or not.

Most importantly, suppliers get continuously paid earlier, which improves their liquidity position and which could then allow them to pay their own suppliers earlier, invest more in their business or alternatively just do more business with the buyer.

Funding Flexibility

For a cash-rich buyer operating in a low interest environment, the benefit is obvious. Rather than leaving liquidity in a low-interest account, it can pay large invoices early to receive additional discounts and strengthen profitability. For instance, if a buyer receives a 2% discount for paying a 90-day-net invoice after 30 days, it can invest the amount for 60 days and receive a return. This is the equivalent of a just over 10% annual return on capital that would far outweigh any loss of interest.

The buyer is fully in control of how this program is run, determining how much funding capital to set aside and adjusting that capital as seasonal liquidity fluctuates. Any seasonal liquidity issues could then also be managed by pairing the dynamic discounting program with a traditional SCF program. This would also allow the flexibility for third-party funding to fill any gaps that emerged due to potential, or periodic, lower cash balances available for the original arrangement.

Besides earning a return on excess cash, Dynamic Discounting can also reduce supply chain risks (in that financially more stable suppliers mean reduced supplier risk) and then strengthen supplier relationships. Conversely, on the supplier side it improves cash flow and provides early payment options, both of which save time, puts cash into accounts sooner and increases liquidity visibility. Benefits everywhere!

CSR Benefits – Risk Free Returns

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but there are other compensating benefits to offset the initial costs of implementing a modern Dynamic Discounting plan, not least of which can be a significant increase in ROI on otherwise dormant cash without increased risk. After all, you are only effectively paying existing suppliers early, who you have to pay anyway, free of any additional counterparty risk.

And, as I mentioned earlier, today’s much more keenly scrutinised CSR credentials can also be significantly burnished by the support provided to often much-smaller suppliers down the food chain. That can then be more widely communicated directly to CSR scoring tables which, in turn, recognise responsible buyers and suppliers.

So, to get the maximum benefit of the wind in your sails and the best performance from your assets, make sure you use the right technology to strengthen decision making. After that, understanding the challenge, minimising the risks and reaping the mutual rewards of Dynamic Discounting will enable much smoother sailing and help you optimise your liquidity!

 

Bank connectivity 2.0. New solutions offer new opportunities! (Dutch Item)

05-05-2021 | treasuryXL | Enigma Consulting |

Veel organisaties hebben voor het betalingsverkeer een zogenaamde ‘Payment Hub’ geïmplementeerd voor de connectiviteit met de banken. Zo’n hub zorgt voor een veilige, automatische connectie om betaal- en incasso opdrachten naar de bank(en) te sturen en dagafschriften te ontvangen. Veel van deze hubs zijn in 2012 bij de overgang naar SEPA geïntroduceerd. Sindsdien is de technologie echter drastisch veranderd en bieden nieuwe oplossingen, via Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), rijkere functionaliteit aan tegen een veel efficiënter bedrijfsmodel. “Het wordt dus hoog tijd om uw bankconnectiviteit opnieuw onder de loep te nemen!”, aldus Roderick Kroon, partner bij Enigma Consulting.

“Het gebruik van een Corporate Payment hub voor bankconnectiviteit tussen de corporate ERP / TMS-systemen en de bankrelaties neemt in aantal toe. Trends als digitalisering, standaardisatie en de toegenomen aandacht voor fraude- en risicomanagement maken het automatiseren van de connectiviteit met banken een onderwerp op de managementagenda.”

Er zijn volgens Kroon momenteel drie interessante ontwikkelingen die resulteren in een verhoogde focus op bankconnectiviteit in de Nederlandse markt:



1. De toegenomen focus op het ‘in control’ willen zijn

“In het verleden waren Treasury en Finance vooral gefocust op de hoge waarde / laag volume Treasury betalingen en niet te veel op de commerciële betaalstromen. Uit de discussies van Enigma met veel corporate treasurers zien we een grotere focus op het ‘in control’ zijn door bijvoorbeeld handmatige activiteiten te verminderen, het aantal tokens voor elektronische banksystemen te verminderen en realtime inzicht in liquiditeit te hebben. De verbeterde proposities van TMS-systemen en netwerk partijen zoals SWIFT, leiden tot de logische stap om de bankconnectiviteit te automatiseren. Dit omvat niet alleen de automatisering van de betaalstromen, maar ook de ontvangst en distributie van bankafschriften intern.”

2. Er zijn nieuwe (payment hub) oplossingen met een revolutionair bedrijfsmodel

“Ook aan de oplossingszijde zien we interessante ontwikkelingen. Nieuwe (Fintech) leveranciers zoals Cobase, Nomentia, Kyriba of TIS nemen (multi-tenant) SaaS als uitgangspunt om de IT-footprint te verkleinen en zorgen ervoor dat klanten direct profiteren van verbeteringen die voor andere gebruikers wordt ontwikkeld. Vooral op het gebied van bankconnectiviteit zien we een verschuiving van ‘maatwerk voor de klant’ naar ‘best-practise oplossingen van de leverancier zelf’. Gebruikers profiteren direct van investeringen die reeds gemaakt zijn voor andere klanten en bankkoppelingen die al deel uitmaken van de standaardoplossing. Sommige leveranciers gaan zelfs nog verder en bieden de gehele bank onboarding aan als ‘service’.”

“Kennis van de details van betaalformaten, (bank)kanaalopties en noodzakelijk contracten is dan niet meer noodzakelijk zelf te hebben. Andere (eveneens SaaS) leveranciers zoals COUPA Treasury of Serrala richten zich op het creëren van complete ecosystemen en samenwerkingen met derde partijen om de waarde propositie en relevantie verder te versterken.”

3. Vervanging van (verouderde) Payment Hub-oplossingen

“Een derde interessante ontwikkeling is dat ‘early stage’ payment hubs aan het einde van hun economische levenscyclus zijn gekomen en aan vervanging toe zijn. Sterker nog, één grote speler (CPH van FIS) heeft haar klanten geïnformeerd einde 2021 te stoppen met het product waardoor tientallen bedrijven op zoek moeten naar een andere oplossing.”

Met de introductie van SEPA in 2012 maakte een groot aantal bedrijven de keuze om een payment hub te implementeren, vertelt Kroon. “De belangrijkste focus in die tijd was het verminderen van de complexiteit van veranderingen in het bestaande IT-landschap. In die tijd speelden Payment Hub-oplossingen vooral een rol bij:

  • Bestandsconversie of -verrijking van (in NL Clieop) formaten naar SEPA formaten
  • SEPA-machtigingsbeheer voor automatische incasso om de (te complexe) ‘FIRST versus ‘RECURRENT’ richtlijnen te volgen en het nieuw vereiste ‘machtigingskenmerk’ te administreren
  • Het bieden van een alternatief voor kanalen die banken besloten uit te faseren om hun SEPA-programma’s te vereenvoudigen (bijvoorbeeld het ING Finstream-kanaal)”

“De stand van de techniek was echter totaal anders dan tegenwoordig. API’s, SaaS of Cloud bestonden niet. De implementatie was veelal ‘on-premise’ met een aanzienlijke IT-voetafdruk en initiële CAPEX-investering. In de afgelopen maanden heeft Enigma Consulting meerdere discussies gevoerd over de noodzaak om deze ‘vroege’ payments hubs te vervangen en zijn wij betrokken bij meerdere selectie en vervangingstrajecten. De leverancierselectie projecten die we hebben gedaan ter vervanging van bestaande oplossingen hebben interessant genoeg een zeer positieve businesscase als resultaat:

  • Er zijn grote extra investeringen (soms upgrades) nodig in de legacy-oplossingen om de IT-beveiliging te verbeteren of om nieuwe bedrijfsfuncties beschikbaar te maken. Nieuwe oplossingen zullen deze kosten onmiddellijk elimineren;
  • De huidige kosten zijn in vergelijking met de kosten van nieuwe oplossingen een stuk duurder;
  • Sommige leveranciers zijn van eigenaar veranderd en de focus op payments én bankconnectiviteit is verdwenen, terwijl nieuwe oplossingen de huidige marktfactoren en ontwikkelingen in het betaaldomein zeer groep begrijpen;
  • Nieuwe SaaS / Cloud-oplossingen verkleinen de IT-footprint aanzienlijk en vereisen veel minder (vaak schaarse) capaciteit van IT voor onderhoud / upgrades;
  • De huidige payment hubs bieden een breder scala aan diensten en kunnen veel eenvoudiger (via API’s) worden geïntegreerd met andere systemen (bijv. cashmanagement, fraude, treasury, ERP, transactie monitoring);
  • Veel payment hubs bieden mu volledige ondersteuning voor ‘on-behalf’ (POBO / COBO) verwerking in combinatie met in-house bankieren en / of virtuele accountoplossingen.”

Is bankconnectiviteit een apart onderwerp?

Kroon: “Niet per se. Hoewel het onderwerp zelf perfect als individueel vraagstuk kan worden aangepakt, zien we dat onze klanten de benodigde verandering op dit domein koppelen aan een bredere discussie over hun financiële waardeketen. Vaak gaat een noodzakelijke verandering in het connectiviteitsdomein van banken hand in hand met bredere discussies over de visie ten aanzien van ‘betalen’ en het gerelateerde Target Operating Model, waarin alle marktontwikkelingen (outside in), interne ambities (inside out) en discussie over de bankrelatie (s) worden meegenomen. De selectie van de best passende leverancier voor de payment hub moet dan worden gezien in het bredere perspectief van een routekaart (roadmap) voor Payments op de middellange termijn.”

Dus wat nu te doen?

“We raden aan om de oplossing die is gekozen voor de bankconnectiviteit opnieuw te (laten) beoordelen. Indien deze nog niet geautomatiseerd is kan er een sterke businesscase zijn om dit te veranderen, de efficiëntie te verbeteren en risico’s te verminderen. Indien er al wel een oplossing is kunnen er argumenten zijn om te profiteren van vervanging door een van de nieuwe oplossingen die ‘meer bieden voor minder’.”

“Wij adviseren om verder te kijken dan alleen bankconnectiviteit en het volledige betaaldomein in beschouwing te nemen om te valideren of men voldoende voorbereid is op de toekomst, rekening houdend met alle nieuwe ontwikkelingen in het betalingsverkeer. Enigma Consulting kan de business case versterken door een efficiënt traject met behulp van de unieke ‘RFP-as-a- service’ en ‘Payments Road map’.”

Bank connectivity – why it is not a one-size-fits-all issue

04-05-2021 | Luca Crivellari | treasuryXL |

Corporate to bank communication is still a very pressing issue in cash management. There are several alternatives that allow corporates to interface and exchange data with banks, and most of the times it is complex for treasurers to identify the best choice. The consequence of not adopting the best setup might be to receive inadequate or old information, or the inability to have the right level of control over the issue of payments. The aim of the article is to assist treasurers in identifying all the relevant variables, and to take a decision that factors in all the possible impacts of each alternative.


Introduction – Why bank connectivity is still a hot topic?

In 1973, over 200 banks from 15 countries created a cooperative body with the aim of easing the communication among banks. This organization was born under the name of SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.

SWIFT enables its customers to automate and standardize the processing of financial transactions, thereby lowering costs, reducing operational risk and eliminating inefficiencies from their operations.

The rise in global trade was the main reason why financial institutions were pressed by defining a common standard for international payments and reporting, and the aim was to avoid lengthy conversions, useless charges and operational inefficiencies that might derive from the use of different standards.

Fast forward to today, SWIFT is the undisputed backbone of financial markets, with over 11,000 financial institutions and corporations in more than 200 countries, processing a record of 46,3 million messages in a single day on the FIN service. SWIFT messages are nowadays used for both bank-to-bank and corporate-to-bank communication, and the organization has developed dedicated categories for messages that are related to payments, cash management, foreign exchange, trade finance, treasury markets, and securities.

Overtime, several other organizations with a similar aim were created, at national or international level. It is worth to mention the CBI (Customer to Business Interaction, former Corporate Banking Interbancario) consortium in Italy, and the EBICS (Electronic Banking Internet Communication Standard) protocol in Germany.

We still live in a world of different standards and practices, where corporates often struggle in navigating among the different options they have when it comes to issue a payment or to receive a piece of account statement. This article is meant to be a guide for corporate treasurers on how to select the right connectivity setup, because there is no such a thing as a universal optimum, and every alternative has its own advantages and its own shortcomings.

From the experience I gathered during the last years of conversations with several corporates based throughout Europe, one of their most relevant priorities is to consolidate an accurate picture of the liquidity available in the company bank accounts, on a daily basis. Too many organizations, including some with a relevant experience in international business and with a very important turnover, are still relying on Excel files shared on a monthly basis, in order to get the information of the balance that is sitting in a certain bank. In a world where business is changing rapidly, this can be an issue.

Moreover, the ever-changing technology landscape is adding complexity to the issue. New trends as the API-based connectivity can definitely allow a more efficient exchange of information, shortening the gap to a real time treasury, while the migration from MT to MX messaging standard is going to heavily impact how payments are going to be settled in the near future.

In conclusion, bank connectivity is still a hot topic because it is yet perceived as being a complicated issue by many corporates, and there is a clear need for treasurers to figure out all the relevant variables before choosing the most valid option for their company.

The alternatives on the market

Years of innovation and progress in information technology and financial markets have developed a wide array of possible bank connectivity services. In order for a treasurer to take the most educated choice, it is essential to list and examine all the options available. The list goes from the simplest to the most complex.

  • E-banking or bank-proprietary platforms: the base scenario nowadays is for a company to exchange messages and documents over an e-banking platform. This kind of platforms are provided by most of the commercial banks, and they include a common range of functionalities such as the possibility to import payment files from the Enterprise Resource Provider, approve them and send them over to the bank for the execution of the transaction. On the informative side, banks can allow their clients to download account statement messages, and possibly to collect statements sent by other banks.

Additional features that an e-banking platform might have are, for example, the possibility to manage direct debit mandates, or to place FX dealing orders to the bank.

Most of the e-banking solution in the market are endowed with a scheduler function that allows to exchange files with external systems such as the Enterprise Resource Provider or the Treasury Management System.

Companies that are relying on an e-banking platform for bank communications should carefully examine the range of functionalities that are included in the solution, when looking for a bank to work with. Corporate e-banking platforms developed by international banks might be more adequate for companies with international business, while domestic banks might develop functionalities that are more fit to the domestic market.

Another variable to consider is the technology that runs behind the platform. Most banks are nowadays offering web-based solutions that are more flexible and easier to maintain than hosted solutions.

The main advantage of relying on e-banking connectivity is the fact that it requires virtually no effort for the channel to be available, especially if it is a web-based service.

Although it is a very practical solution, companies that have multiple banking relationship will need to activate multiple e-banking platform to issue transactions from these bank accounts. Another shortcoming is that the availability and the security of each e-banking platform relies on the systems of the bank who is providing the service, and this can be a potential risk if the financial institution is not disciplined enough to run a highly secure infrastructure.

  • Multibank platforms: one of the most annoying disadvantages of leveraging on e-banking connectivity is to maintain the access to multiple platforms, and to constantly need to switch from one to the other during the day. This shortfall can be bypassed by the adoption of a multibank platform. These solutions work just like an e-banking platform, but they give the possibility to manage bank accounts belonging to more banks via a single solution.

This possibility is often developed by multinational banking groups, that might allow to reach bank accounts within the same banking group via a single e-banking solution.

Alternatively, some banking communities have developed country-wide standards that allow the possibility to manage all the bank accounts that a company has in the country with a single e-banking channel. This is the case of Italy with the CBI service.

Technical advantages and disadvantages of this solution are essentially the same of the e-banking connectivity that was described in the previous point.

  • Host to host connectivity: some financial institutions allow their corporate clients to exchange files via a secured file transfer mechanism. This option is preferred when the company has a privileged relationship with a specific bank, and this is the case because the setup of a host-to-host connection can be a time consuming task both on the bank and on the corporate side.

It is important to bear in mind that a dedicated host to host connection can be a resource intensive solution to maintain, therefore it is key to agree with the partner bank who is responsible in the maintenance of the service, and which is the minimum uptime contractually agreed.

Having a host to host connection with a specific bank means that the company is clearly trusting the security protocol of the financial institution. Connections of this kind are normally secured by an encryption protocol, and this makes a host-to-host connection generally more secure than an e-banking connection.

  • SWIFT connection: most of the companies with a complex cash management infrastructure choose to connect directly to the SWIFT network.

Being part of the SWIFT network means for a company to be identified with a specific SWIFT code, the same identifier that is normally used by banks.

It also means that a company can securely exchange files with several banking partners from a single channel, and for this reason a SWIFT connection is the preferred option for companies that have implemented a central payment factory.

Two separate services are used within the SWIFT network: the FIN service is used to exchange single MT messages to banks connected to the network. This service is normally used to receive account statements such as MT940/2.

The second service used is called FileAct, and it is the service used to exchange any kind of file to banks. This service is mostly used for bulk payment files such as XML.

Joining the SWIFT network as a mean to consolidate payment operations in the company headquarter or in a shared service center can definitely bring efficiencies, but at the same time it makes sense to go through this road only if the company has the necessary resources to maintain a SWIFT connection overtime, or if it is willing to outsource the maintenance of the connection to a service bureau.

  • API-based connection: with the sharp rise of open banking in Europe, driven by the PSD2 regulation, the adoption of APIs is becoming more and more common among banks, corporates, and software vendors. An API, or Application Programming Interface, is an interface that allows a secure exchange of information among several software applications. Through an API, the company and the bank can exchange information such as payment files or account statements, without the need to setup and maintain a resource-intensive host-to-host connection.

Although it is a very interesting concept, most of the players in the financial industry still have to develop an adequate IT infrastructure in order to get the benefits of this new protocol.

An important role can be played by software vendors that are offering Enterprise Resource Providers or Treasury Management Systems, since they have a strong incentive to differentiate their offer by develop APIs that would connect their solution to the largest possible number of banks.

Who should manage your SWIFT connection, and why should it be FIS?

Every company that wishes to connect to the SWIFT network should ask itself which configuration is the best for them. The main question to consider for a company is if it has the adequate resources to manage and run a SWIFT connection, or if they want to leverage on a service bureau.

Companies that wish to setup and maintain their SWIFT connection should plan the IT resources required to host the SWIFT software, and the personnel that will be dedicated to fulfill all the functional and technical duties required by SWIFT or by the banks.

Because of the effort that is required to setup and maintain a SWIFT connection, a company might decide to outsource those tasks. A SWIFT service bureau can help companies to establish and ensure the availability of the SWIFT network overtime.

Via the Managed Bank Connectivity service, FIS offers its capabilities as one of the largest SWIFT service bureaus in the world, being a key partner for more than 350 groups of banks and corporates, spread in over 35 countries. As part of the Service Level Agreement that FIS has with its clients, service availability is set for a minimum of 99,5%, although the average uptime for 2020 was 99,99%.

Companies that choose to leverage on a service bureau are either those with a very limited staff within the treasury department, or those that have a very complex cash management infrastructure.

The cost of connecting to the SWIFT network via a service bureau can be quite relevant, therefore companies that are evaluating this kind of solution should create a comprehensive and accurate business case that includes both direct and indirect expenses for both alternatives.

Which variables should be considered?

A company should consider several variables when evaluating which is the most adequate connectivity setup.

  • The size of the business: it might sound overkill for a small corporate to adopt a SWIFT connection, in fact most of the small business normally rely on e-banking portals. More complicated connectivity choices are normally more expensive, and it might not be sustainable for a modest company to adopt more complex solutions
  • The number of markets the company is operating: multinational companies normally need several banks in order to do business internationally, therefore a company that is active in several countries might want to adopt a SWIFT connection in order to collect the daily account statements and to orchestrate their payment flows.
  • The number of banking relationships: a company that is operating with several banks might find difficult to maintain access to several e-banking portals. In this case, a company of this kind might want to evaluate a SWIFT connection, unless a country wide multibank standard is available.
  • The company treasury policies: there are several reasons for a company to centralize their payments at headquarter level, or to keep them at country or at division level. The choice of connectivity should reflect the processes in place within a company: in corporate groups where every country is responsible to issue their own transactions, and banking relationships are limited in number, e-banking platforms can work just fine, while on the other hand an international payment factory will most probably require access to the SWIFT network.

Whatever process should the company have in place, it should anyway explore a way to consolidate the account statements of all the subsidiary at headquarter level, in order for the holding company to have complete information on the liquidity situation at group level, and to make sure that liquidity is used in the best possible way.

How to choose the best connectivity solution?

If there is one thing that I have learned by talking to corporate treasurers overtime, it is that no treasury is alike, and every treasury has its own peculiarities.

Given the vast array of bank connectivity options, I will define a few examples of treasury infrastructure, and I will pair them to my recommended choice of connectivity.


Case

 

 

Recommended solution

 

 

Company Alfa

 

Alfa is a company based in the UK, producing semi-finished goods for the food industry. The production is completely sold to English companies, and all its suppliers are based in the UK.

Alfa has two bank accounts, with two English cooperative banks.

Through the e-banking portal of the two banking partner, Alfa will be able to perform all the necessary operations for its daily business.

 

Company Beta

 

Beta is the headquarter company of a large conglomerate of ventures, operating in several industries. Since the subsidiaries operate in very different markets, the group policy is for every subsidiary to manage their treasury separately, and to orchestrate their payments independently.

The group has relationships with around 30 banks, counting more than 600 bank accounts.

Every subsidiary of the Beta group will choose its most efficient setup, but the holding company will need to setup a channel to collect efficiently the account statement of all the 600 bank accounts of the group. This will allow Beta group to closely monitor the transactions and to efficiently use its liquidity.

Given the large number of bank relationship, my advice would be to setup a SWIFT connection.

 

Company Gamma

 

Gamma is a group of companies providing consulting services. The group has grown dramatically in the last years, acquiring smaller ventures around the world, and the CFO just hired a group treasurer that has the task to rationalize the banking relationships, and to setup the most efficient treasury infrastructure.

Payments are quite limited in number.

It would make sense for Gamma to look for a global bank with which to open bank accounts around the world.

By having one main bank, Gamma will easily orchestrate a cash pooling from its headquarter, and it will be easy for the group treasurer to control the payments that are performed by the local staff.

The most efficient connectivity scenario is a host-to-host connection (or a connection via API if available), with the main banking partner, while payments from minor bank accounts will be done via the e-banking.

 

Company Delta

 

Delta is a telecommunication company operating at global level. Due to the nature of its business, the company sends and collects a vast amount of payments of any size from retail and business customers located in several countries.

The company needs to offer the widest range of payment options, therefore it needs to have relevant banking relationships in many countries.

The best way to orchestrate payments and collections on such a complex company is to setup a connection to the SWIFT network.

Given the very complex cash management setup and the large number of banks involved, it will be essential to have the infrastructure served by a service bureau.

 

Company Epsilon

 

Epsilon is a company operating in the mining and trading industry, headquartered in Spain but with operations in other five countries.

The company needs to maintain a wide range of banking relationship due to the complex financing plans in place.

The treasury department employs a single person, and there is no plan for the company to hire more treasury staff.

Due to the complex landscape of banking relationships, and the need for the company to control the incoming and outgoing information flows to the banks, my advice would be to implement a SWIFT connection.

As highlighted in the box, it would be extremely hard for a single person to handle the requirements coming from SWIFT and the banks, therefore my suggestion is to adopt a Service Bureau

 

Conclusion – a complex matter requires a complex answer

As I do with most of the complex questions I receive, when asked which is the ideal connectivity setup for my company, my natural answer is: “it depends”.

The aim of this article was to communicate how sophisticated it can be to identify the best possible way to connect a corporate to a bank, or to several banks. My wish is for every treasurer out there to carefully balance all the options, and to include all the relevant items into a specific business case, in order to have a functioning and sustainable infrastructure.

More about the author, who is Luca Crivellari?

Luca is based in Italy and he is a Sales Executive at FIS, specialized in Corporate Liquidity solutions. He has a solid experience in cash management and treasury, having matured experiences in banking and fintech.

Thank you for reading!

 

Treasury: the sad story about the ones that do not get it

28-04-2021 | treasuryXL | Pieter de Kiewit

The great Dutch philosopher Johan Cruijff said: “Je gaat het pas zien als je het door hebt”, roughly translated “you only see if you get it”. I recently thought about this when visiting and working with a mid-sized local company. Their treasury team was much bigger than the teams of companies in the same industry two or three times their revenue size. In this team, for example, they had two employees full-time entering manual payments. Data and instructions are gathered from a multitude of systems and typed into banking software. Time is lost, mistakes are made, staff demotivated and money lost. They refused to hire a qualified candidate who could help because his expected base salary was a few thousands of euros too high…..

Recently the Dutch regulatory body for financial markets, AFM, published this research that shows that companies would benefit from a more mature market in alternative funding. One of their observations is that new solutions, for instance in working capital, are accepted even though the rates that have to be paid are preposterous. They see the market grow, not enough focus on credit rating and doubt if the market will stabilize in a professional manner. A stronger regulatory framework is suggested. I am in doubt, who will do the audit?

Those who are in need for strong treasury seem to ignore the available expertise. Distrust? Lack of time? Afraid of treasury lingo?


Personally I hope that entrepreneurs and CFOs will train their critical thinking and only use what they understand. Cost that are hidden in the total price of their treasury solutions are regretfully accepted easier than a separate price for the right solution and one for the advice. That is regrettable because one of the effects is that companies get perhaps the cheapest but the wrong solutions.

We have a simple suggestion: digest what you know about treasury and ask the most obvious question you can think of. Ask the expert panel and pass our suggestion forward to anyone you might think have a proper question. It is a matter of time until we get it all. I am sure.

Take care, Pieter

 

 

Pieter de Kiewit

Owner at Treasurer Search

 

 

 

How to Prepare for a New Era of Real-time Banking and Payment Services

20-04-2021 | treasuryXL | Kyriba |

An active liquidity network allows companies to avoid multiple costs and delays by globally managing liquidity across their subsidiaries. With 500 banks involved and over 40,000 payment formats to use, this is already a reality for over 2,000 Kyriba clients.

I am often asked, what is an “Active Liquidity Network”? Actually it’s the very foundation of the Kyriba platform, but let me use a simple example to illustrate what it is and the difference it makes.

Technology is providing us with so many great options for everyday life activities. Take the humble takeaway. Not so long ago you’d call up, your order would be placed in a manual ordering system, food would be prepared and then it would be delivered. Today the takeaway experience can be very different. You will order on a mobile device or with a delivery service or by voice or Messenger. The delivery service tells the kitchen what food to prepare, conducts all the billing and organises the food to be couriered to you. While the cooking of the food is still manual, everything else is managed by cloud-based technologies, and you have lots of options, each with their own take on how to make your takeaway experience better, faster, cheaper.

The same thing is happening within businesses. SaaS technology enables your corporate teams to work more autonomously with a resource-planning package that is more bespoke to their task. The original ERP is being unbundled and focused on aggregating accounting entries from various other systems. These bring great benefits to your company’s ability to compete in the marketplace, making you better, faster and cheaper. But given that many of these tools are able to instruct or make payments, this introduces a hazardous landscape for currently accepted liquidity management and control practices.

The problem is further exaggerated by the global expansion that has taken place in the last 20 – 30 years. Technology isn’t just providing more options for how a corporate plans its resources. It’s also providing better, cheaper, faster options for how payments are made and received. Each approach has its own pros and cons. The upshot is that there are many more providers today conducting more payments in more innovative ways, but this innovation, while opening up new choices, also makes the payments landscape more complex.

All this hasn’t stopped an explosion in electronic payment volumes. This is an unstoppable trend that demands a more robust way of controlling and managing payments in and out of business of any size, just as a restaurant receiving 1,000 takeaway orders a night will need to move away from servicing orders on pen and paper. The risks, the costs, and the lack of speed and optimisation are all too great.

The challenge you face

Now, let’s look at a corporate example to illustrate the challenge. Let’s assume a multinational group has a subsidiary in Birmingham, in the UK, which needs to make payments for goods and services to suppliers in Romania and Turkey. The subsidiary has its operating bank account with TSB and is using the bank’s SMB portal to manage cash and make payments. Its ERP system is connected with the bank’s portal for automatic payment file upload. At the same time, the company has subsidiaries in Romania and Turkey that also have a similar setup with their local banks. It all looks good and well-automated everywhere.

But to actually make a payment to a Turkish or Romanian supplier, the Birmingham-based subsidiary’s treasurer has to go through the following steps: approve a foreign currency payment; agree to the exchange rate offered by the bank, which is given without reference to a spread of interbank rates; wait for one or two days for the other FX rate to settle; wait one or two days more for the payment to be cleared by TSB via Swift and the corresponding bank network; wait some more until the supplier confirms they have received the funds and made a shipment; and finally reconcile it all manually with the ERP system.

As a result, the subsidiary incurs the FX spread, swap rates on every payment up to 100 basis points, and interbank transfer fees for every payment of £20. There are also three further delays before the funds reach the beneficiary accounts and manual reconciliation of the ERP. And that happens with every payment for every subsidiary every day!

It’s a pity that the Birmingham-based company doesn’t know that group company subsidiaries in Romania and Turkey have plenty of lei and lire in their local bank accounts. Or that they are connected to their domestic clearing systems providing same day or in real-time clearing and automating confirmation, or no fee at all. Or that there was a better, faster, cheaper payment option the corporate could easily connect to.

How an Active Liquidity Network works?

Let’s look at a different way of doing this. Imagine that the group chooses Kyriba and gets on board the Kyriba global SaaS platform. All of its subsidiaries – including those in the UK, Romania and Turkey as well as headquarters – and all of those subsidiaries’ ERP systems – are then connected to Kyriba for payment, invoicing, and cash flow upload as well as for GL entry reconciliation. Over 2,000 customers and 65,000 legal entities are live today. Kyriba offers automated bank connectivity via secure SFTP and now bank API with more than 500 banks worldwide and growing. And our bank format libraries have more than 40,000 formats and variances supporting payment originations from more than 100 countries in payment delivery to more than 130 countries. Using Kyriba, the payments submitted by the UK subsidiary will be automatically converted to the relevant domestic clearing formats and submitted to those banks the same day.

What difference does that make? With the Kyriba platform the group can internalise and optimise its payment flows. It can see cash balances and cash forecasts across all currencies and bank accounts in real time. A treasury team using Kyriba Cash Forecasting and Kyriba In-house Banking Module can net the outflows by currency and use the market to square off or net the currency positions. As soon as the payments are acknowledged by the banks in real-time or (worst case) next morning, the confirmations and automated dual entries can be imported into the UK subsidiary’s ERP for automated reconciliation.

Better still, the company can use offers like Kyriba Pay, powered by partners like NatWest, that offer competitive and transparent FX spreads with no hidden fees attached. They can choose to use the liquidity they have in lei, lire or other currencies to make the payments without FX conversions at all. That means no interbank fees, globally optimising the effects of exposures and costs, and making same-day payments to 130 countries with automatic dual reconciliation.

That’s what we mean by an Active Liquidity Network. Ours is already the largest in the world, and growing by about 30% annually. It is the foundation of the Kyriba platform that enables our Treasury payment factory risk management and supply chain finance applications, as well as many other value-added services. We are already processing 17 million transactions on behalf of our customers on an average day. We will continue to innovate our existing propositions.

The world’s connectivity is moving to open API. We are pursuing that in three ways.

First, Bank API Connectivity: we have completed pilots with two global banks already, and will be delivering many more in 2021. Secondly, ERP API Connectivity, leading to ERP connect on marketplace, and thirdly Kyriba Open API, to turn the Kyriba active liquidity network into an open API platform for customers, partners and fintechs. This is what we call the Kyriba Active Liquidity Network.

It is here right now and you have a choice to make. Deal on your own with the growing size and complexity of managing liquidity at global scale on time, with speed, accuracy and efficiency . . . or join the 2,000 corporations who are doing it by leveraging the Kyriba platform, and really drive the value of your business.

 

8 questions for Treasury Expert Philip who won the award for 2020 Best Fintech Solution

19-04-2021 | Philip Costa Hibberd | treasuryXL

With over 12 years of experience in the financial industry with the last four years in treasury consulting, Philip has recently launched his own consulting activity, Automation Boutique, specialized in (robotic) process automation for Treasury, Risk and Finance.

“I have been coding for fun since I was a kid. This skill has been very useful throughout my career but has become my trademark in Treasury.”

He recently developed the tool that was awarded the “2020 Best Fintech Solution – Adam Smith award” by Treasury Today magazine. He now tries to focus on what he has always enjoyed the most during his career: solving problems at the intersection between ‘numbers’, ‘people’ and ‘technology’.

We are delighted to share the interview with Philip. Let’s dive into his treasury journey where he answers 8 questions…

1. How did your treasury journey start?

As for many of us, it started somewhat by accident. After working in other areas of finance for many years, a few ethical questions started nagging me. Add a sabbatical, some romance, and a few lucky phone calls and I found myself joining the great corporate treasury team at Zanders (a consultancy firm specialized in Treasury, Risk and Finance).

2. What do you like the most about working in Treasury?

I love the diversity of challenges. You are dealing with the financial heart of the company and need to make sure that the right amount of blood reaches every cell. This necessarily means dealing with different kinds of issues, topics and people. This keeps Treasury fun and in constant evolution!

3. What is your Treasury Expertise?

I have been working as a consultant on very different Treasury projects, from interim roles to system implementations. I guess I am what you would call a generalist, but with a knack for using technology and social skills to solve problems. I have been coding for fun since I was a kid. This skill has been very useful throughout my career but has become my trademark in Treasury.

4. What has been your best experience in your treasury career until today?

Going back to the cardiovascular metaphor for Treasury, the best experience was probably when I was called by a client to solve an urgent clot which was at risk of causing severe damage. An apparently simple data migration exercise turned out to be much more complex than anticipated and was at risk of causing severe delays to a multimillion project. The solution involved a robot, a laptop being flown up and down Europe, a wedding and unreliable hotel wi-fi. Surprisingly, instead of being the ingredients for a bad joke, this led to a happy client and to an award-winning solution.

5. What has been your biggest challenge in treasury?

My biggest challenge in Treasury was witnessing the clash of American, Dutch, Indian, Japanese and many more cultures during a global SAP implementation (going live during a pandemic). Holding three nationalities and being exposed to different cultures from an early age didn’t help me as much as I would have hoped. I would encourage anyone working with different cultures to read Erin Meyer’s book “The Culture Map”. It will be helpful.

6. What’s the most important lesson that you’ve learned as a treasurer?

No one is rational and analytical all the time, not even experienced treasury professionals. Good communication is more important than perfect data and models, especially during a crisis. Without it you will lead or be led by emotion and will certainly miss the best course of action. When fear creeps in your own monkey mind, don’t be afraid to have a good conversation with it. Assess how big the actual threat is compared to the shadow being cast by your amygdala.

7. How have you seen the role of Corporate Treasury evolve over the years?

Corporate Treasury has come a long way from its more transactional origins and – as expected – is taking more of an advisory and strategic role within organizations. The boundaries with other specialized professions have faded (risk management and FP&A just to name a few) and I think that this is a good thing. Skilled professionals should be employed to solve interesting problems and come up with great ideas. The best problems and ideas are usually found at the intersection between disciplines and it’s only natural that we tend to all meet there more and more often.

8. What developments do you expect in corporate treasury in the near and further future?

For the near future I expect the focus on the hot topics of the moment to continue: cash visibility, cash flow forecasting, operational efficiency etc.

For the further future, I won’t adventure on guessing exactly what hot topics the next crisis will bring. I will instead share my best guess on the evolution on the corporate treasurer as a person.

My guess is that she or he will be less of a specialist and more of a generalist. The ideal corporate treasurer will be ‘renaissance polymath’ if you will. Our rapidly changing environment makes it more difficult to remain a (useful) specialist for long. Technology also tends to favour the generalist by democratizing specialist’s skills. There will certainly always be room for very specialized knowledge, but the risk of learning too much about too little in a dynamic environment, is that after a while you risk knowing everything about nothing.

 

Philip Costa Hibberd

 

 

 




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