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Corporate treasurers: Why cash has become the new trophy mandate

Bank CEOs barely humoured corporate treasurers in the past. The promise of big-ticket investment banking business meant the corporate C-suite was priority number one. But as those revenues slide, treasurers and the transaction banking business they control have become a top priority. A new banking battleground has been drawn.

After a good 15 minutes of evangelizing about how crucial the transaction banking business can be to a bank, one of Europe’s most senior investment bankers pauses briefly when asked how much he knew about this basic banking business three years ago. Looking out across the City of London as dusk falls on a cold winter’s day, the well-respected, debonair investment banker turns, smiles wryly, and says: "Admittedly, absolutely nothing."

For many senior investment bankers, transaction banking – everything from cash management and payments to trade finance, payment cards and securities services – was something that someone else did: a job for the little people who could not make it in the far more lucrative world of capital markets and deal-making. Many bank chief executives were guilty of ignoring its inherent value too. But there is nothing like a financial crisis and the wave of financial regulation it engenders to draw into focus those few areas of wholesale banking that remain attractively scalable, stable and highly profitable.

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