The events of 2020 have caused many people to reassess how they manage their businesses. Treasurers were forced into an unprecedented situation where they had to manage cash and international payments from suppliers and customers at a time of significant uncertainty and instability – all while working remotely. This was new territory for them, and it quickly became clear that many treasury systems were not built to cater to this type of work.
But the reality is that working from home is here to stay. Earlier this month, the Bank of England’s Alex Brazier discussed the economic impact of Coronavirus, and warned the UK’s Treasury Select Committee of MPs that “with COVID-safe guidelines, it’s not possible to use office space… with the intensity we used to use it” and that “it’s actually not possible to bring lots of people back very suddenly.”
Preparing for a new digital age
Treasury professionals worldwide will need to take stock of this. Global businesses have entered a new digital age and treasurers need to review their processes and working practices and accelerate the pace at which they adopt digital treasury management systems.
Up until this point, take-up of digital solutions by treasury professionals has been limited. In 2019, the Citi Treasury Diagnostics (CTD) survey reported that only 54% of treasury professionals reported using application programming interfaces (APIs) to assist with their treasury functions.
The same report also revealed that 63% claimed their Treasury Management System (TMS) operations are either completely unconnected or only somewhat connected to their enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools. With this lack of integration, treasurers are hindered significantly and reliant on multiple disparate systems to manage their payments, transactions, and currency risk management – something that lacks practicality when operating remotely.
This is a turning point – a crossroads if you will. With the majority of finance teams around the world moving to remote working, and with social distancing expected to continue in some form throughout the year and likely into next year, now is a sensible time to look at alternatives.
Ensuring you have the right tools for the job
Of course, any modern alternative must be fit for purpose, be easy to access and use, deliver a diverse range of functionality and ultimately ensure corporate treasurers can do their jobs as normal with no disruption.
The levels of security are also a key consideration. Many incumbent systems were built to be accessed primarily on-site, so their security systems are geared accordingly. But those working remotely from an individual or company-issued electronic device have different challenges to consider. The risks from hacking, malware and fraud are exacerbated. With multiple points of entry, as opposed to one, any weakness can be a gateway for unauthorised access to a company’s entire network.
One way to combat these issues is to look at systems that cater to all your needs in one place. Not only does this reduce duplication and the number of systems and accounts being accessed at any time, but it means you have access to the full suite of payments, cash flow, FX hedging and risk tools in one place – all from the comfort of your home.
Having the ability to work from one system, one account and monitor your operations from one screen greatly improves security and interoperability while standardising your treasury operations.
This is especially important when making payments in multiple different currencies. Very few treasury teams are limited to one currency in their day-to-day operations. As a result, they require multiple accounts to manage their international payment needs. Centralising these accounts can greatly improve both security and efficiency.
It’s a cliché that is often overused, but 2020 looks set to be a gamechanger in terms of shifting attitudes to work. Treasury teams can no longer be reliant on the systems they have been using, as they simply are not suited to cope with the new working environment.
Treasury operations are part of the backbone of a business and ensuring that they don’t suffer while working remotely is essential. Digital, automated and real-time treasury management systems are no longer a ‘nice to have’; rather, they are essential to business success in today’s world.
Laurent Descout is the CEO and Co-Founder of Neo. Laurent is a serial Fintech entrepreneur and investor and has been a financial advisor in asset finance for more than 10 years. He holds a master’s degree in Banking, Finance and Insurance from Paris Dauphine and the Investment Advice Diploma in Derivatives from the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment.