Awards for Excellence 2017
The shortlist for the world’s best bank for transaction services was once again a three-way fight between the global heavyweights of the business: Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citi and HSBC.
But there can only be one winner and, for the second consecutive year, Naveed Sultan, global head of treasury and trade solutions at Citi, has led his international team to success.
To win, Citi presented interesting and detailed pitches across all of the regions. While each one showed an overall continuity across the whole business, the regions themselves were different in their approach and offerings for their clients. Creating such distinctive propositions for each region demonstrates the quality of the bank’s on-the-ground understanding of its clients in every one of its markets.
In eastern Europe, Citi created its Shared Service Centre Forums, where the heads of the centres can meet and discuss their experience and best practice in reducing costs, improving process harmonization and efficiencies, and increasing visibility and control.
|Naveed Sultan, Citi|
In Asia, the bank showed great progress in tech innovation. Of particular note is the CitiConnect for Blockchain connectivity bridge, which links to Nasdaq’s Linq blockchain platform for private market securities. The project has been led by the team based in Hong Kong.
Receivables and payables were the focus in Latin America, as Citi sought to simplify processes for companies operating in a region that has widely different tax rules and currencies. All receivables channels have been integrated into a single, unified, collections-reporting platform. Available to over 700 clients in the region, the platform enables them to manage collections across 67 channels and 14 countries. Virtual accounts were launched in the region last year, allowing for deposits to be reconciled, regardless of the method of payment.
Finally, globally, Citi has been putting more control into the hands of its clients. Corporates are now able to get an even greater overview of their treasury and shared service centre positions with the Citi Interactive Solutions platform. With granular analytics, it is possible to manage cash and risk exposure even more closely.
The key to all of this is the push towards the digitization of Citi’s core banking processes. It launched Smart Forms, to be used in account opening to collect information and pre-fill common repeated data fields, cutting down on manual data input.
Citi is also looking beyond its own business area to create the Tech for Integrity Challenge (T4I) – a programme to encourage tech innovators to develop solutions to promote integrity, accountability and transparency in the public sector.
Although spearheaded by Citi, T4I has received support from international governments and is fostering partnerships with industry heavyweights including Facebook, MasterCard and PwC. Citi is blazing a trail that others should follow by looking beyond its own immediate interests and recognizing where the skills and technology of the transaction services industry have wider application.
Citi may well hold on to the top spot this year, but both HSBC and BAML demonstrated real innovation and strong business development. The global banks are having to juggle priorities as they try to push down costs and create efficiencies in a business that is demanding evermore automation and digitization.
HSBC is making great progress in using digital technology to support its clients. The bank launched Virtual Assistant Live Chat, which allows customers to answer simple questions through the internet, rather than having to visit a branch or make a call. If they can’t get an answer from the virtual assistant, they can transfer to a human. The bank is also looking to help clients in the digital environments they use. Some 50,000 business banking clients in Hong Kong can now receive transaction notifications via social media platform WeChat.
The most compelling aspect of BAML’s year was how the bank has restructured its business to better support its customers. Indeed, the way in which the bank has completely overhauled how its team approaches RFPs (request for proposals) and advisory on working capital structures were factors in making it the best bank in western Europe for transaction services.
The bank launched the global client account agreement in October 2016 to simplify the process of opening accounts. Documentation has been reduced to nine pages, and can be used across multiple entities and for additional signatories on the account.