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Cash management: The battle to retain business

With banks in the pillory and credit still scarce, financial institutions are demanding more from their cash-management providers. Can second-tier hopefuls keep up with the pace or will global players reap the rewards? Laurence Neville reports.

FIs want intellectual capital for cash management
CLS to the fore

THE WORLD OF cash management for financial institutions (FIs) was turned upside down by the shocks of September and October 2008. The market switched from having an almost limitless risk appetite to having almost none at all, not least because FIs were more the focus of concern than corporates. Liquidity and credit became rare commodities for FIs.

For the banks that serve the FI cash management market – and the segment is dominated by global players to a much greater extent than the corporate cash management market – the impact of the financial crisis was equally dramatic. For banks at the centre of negative speculation, there were immediate consequences.

Unlike the rock-solid three-year contracts that underpin corporate cash management, the FI cash management business is non-contractual – as well as technologically sophisticated – so providers can be changed overnight using Swift. In the months after September, anecdotal accounts of banks leaving long-standing providers almost without warning became commonplace.

"When falling stock prices and lowered ratings are front-page news, some banks with limited international experience can be trigger-happy and pull their business rapidly," says Bharat Sarpeshkar, global head of bank services at Citi.

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