Corporate treasurers reveal their wish list for banks
It’s so simple it almost sounds trite but knowing corporate treasurers’ demands in terms of products and solutions – as well as how these are delivered – remains the only way transaction banks can stay ahead of the game. Euromoney surveys the treasurer wish list.
|Matthias Heiden, senior vice-president and head of global treasury at SAP|
For Matthias Heiden, senior vice-president and head of global treasury at SAP, the German software company, the focus is firmly on technology. “As a treasurer, I wish banks would work more with the information at their fingertips by leveraging technology,” he says.
According to Heiden, banks need to capitalize more on the information that internet search engines do not have by leveraging technology and, where applicable, by learning from their retail offerings.
“For example, they could turn information about the development of cash balances into a push offer for an investment that matches past corporate behaviour and/or generates a new idea,” he says. “Corporates still need to pull too much.”
James Marshall, assistant treasurer of Virgin Media, says that where product offerings are concerned, the company would like to see more intuitive, less manual systems as well as solutions that banks have been talking about for a number of years, such as electronic bank account management (eBAM).
“Some banks do offer eBAM in continental Europe, but I don’t think they have yet turned their attention to the UK as a standalone market for this,” he says.
Marshall argues that the sooner eBAM is available to UK corporates, the better: it will help the company comply more easily with its audit requirements and with Sarbanes-Oxley requirements, while making the process of changing account structures and the governance around signing rules much simpler to administer.
The challenges treasurers face vary in different regions. The treasurer of a company headquartered in Asia said that one item on his wish list is the greater standardization of payment systems across companies.
“We recently overhauled our payroll systems – getting the payments into all the local clearing systems was a nightmare,” he says. “And, in some countries, it is still not possible to get a consolidated debit so the detailed salary information is visible to all the accountants. Fortunately, most European countries do not have this problem.”
The treasurer added that straight-through processing (STP) is another area in which improvements could be made, saying it should be much easier to take information from the company’s banks and to pass that information into the company’s accounting and accounts receivable systems. “Today, this process still relies on far too much manual intervention,” he says.
Indeed, Celent’s 2012 transaction banking survey found that increasing STP rates is a priority for many banks – particularly in Asia, where 60% of respondents would like to improve STP.
Eighty-nine per cent of respondents cited payments and remittances as one of the top three areas in which they would like to improve STP levels, while 78% cited cash management and liquidity management.
Banks often claim they offer solutions, rather than selling products. In reality, however, this might not be the experience of the end-customer.
The treasurer based in Asia said another item on his wish list is “more bank relationship managers who understand that they will get more business if they understand and promote the company’s business, as opposed to trying to sell what the bank has decided it needs to sell, irrespective of whether it makes sense for the customer”.
The structures in place for delivering customer service also make a big difference to the end-customer. Where customer service is concerned, Virgin’s Marshall says he has a strong preference for UK contact centres rather than ones overseas.
“We’ve seen that UK contact centres tend to have more specialist teams that don’t work with as wide a variety of clients, which makes a big difference,” he says. “It doesn’t matter where they are located in theory but, as far as customer service is concerned, having people who are more familiar with us in the contact centres is number one on my wish list.”
In recent years, banks have converged different product areas into that of transaction banking. Initially, the focus was on bringing together cash management and trade finance, but more recently banks have turned their attention to areas such as FX and securities services.
Marshall says the convergence of different banking solutions is a positive step. “For a corporate like us to be able to route all our requests through one person makes a huge difference,” he says.
Nevertheless, he adds that the convergence of solutions has not necessarily been accompanied by more integrated systems.
“Not all systems work the same way,” he says. “Banks may have differing systems for transaction banking and for deal confirmations, for example.”
He adds that where systems convergence has taken place, there is a far greater opportunity for the company to manage its systems more efficiently, particularly with tasks such as determining who has access rights.
For any business, it is essential to keep on top of what customers want, and corporate treasurers’ requirements have shifted significantly in the past five years.
As the treasurer’s role has become broader and more prominent within the organization, many treasury teams have found they have to achieve more despite having fewer staff.
As a result, getting the right tools for the job – and the highest levels of customer service – has become a more pressing priority.