Transaction services: What treasurers want

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The new corporate gatekeepers know how important they are, and are demanding more from their banks.

Such has been global banks’ focus on transaction services, even Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley could be forgiven for making this basic of commercial banking business a core pillar of their growth strategy too.

They won’t, but for almost every other global bank transaction banking is a core business that not only offers a rich, sticky, stable and growing revenue stream, but one that can multiply across the bank if the bank gets it right.

After all, transaction banking is seen as a gateway business into FX, trade finance, bond, equity and advisory mandates. For every $1 made in transaction banking, there could be up to $5 made across the banking group.

It is for these reasons banks are focusing intensely on this business, and it is this pressure that is forcing them to gun for cash management mandates with as much vigour as they would for any investment-banking role.

But with any gateway there is a gatekeeper, and for banks the corporate treasurers of the world’s largest companies hold the keys to this and have become one of the most important corporate client contacts of all.

The treasurers not only manage the banking relationships, but as a result of their expanded more strategic role they are the key decision makers on most if not all the banking services and products any company needs.

Cash management and payments may be the nuts and bolts of what they do, but if their banks can support them well enough in doing that, that’s where deep, long-term and lucrative banking relationships are formed.

Citi, HSBC, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank might run some of the strongest transaction banking businesses globally, but every other universal bank is concentrating hard on this business too.

Treasurers will not be won over easily, though. They need strong, well-capitalized banks with robust, high-tech infrastructure, and bankers that can deliver practical, valuable advice and solutions that can not only help them protect company resources but help grow shareholder value too.

The treasurers of GE, BMW, Huawei, América Móvil and Carlsberg have said as much. They’ve also warned that credit provision remains critical and that even if a bank is their cash manager, this does not mean that other ancillary business in M&A, FX or otherwise is a shoe-in.

As the treasurer of GE & GE Capital, says: "For every bank, we know their strengths... and their weaknesses." Bankers beware.