Creating New Value through Shared Services
by Citi Transaction Services
Leveraging shared service centres (SSCs) for centralising and optimising financial activities such as payments processing is a well-established means of enhancing efficiency, control and transparency and reducing costs. Once initial cost savings and efficiency improvements have been made, the challenge for finance and SSC managers is how to continue driving value and contributing to the operational and strategic objectives of the company. Recent surveys reveal that around one third of SSCs have consistently been able to deliver 10% year-on-year savings over an extended period, suggesting that there is a substantial number of SSCs that need to adapt and seek opportunities in order to find new ways of delivering continued value.
Centralise, standardise, automate
The mantra amongst finance managers for organisations of all sizes and business segments is to centralise, standardise and automate financial processes. While enhancing efficiency is an obvious objective, this must also be commensurate to the business requirements. For example, while a company may seek to achieve optimal levels of efficiency, the level of investment required may be disproportionate to the value that a company gains by doing so. Consequently, every company’s approach to centralisation, and the degree of standardisation and automation that they achieve, may be different. At Citi, we support over 1,000 SSCs globally, giving us a unique insight into a wide diversity of approaches to centralisation, and a depth of experience to share pragmatic ideas and best practices derived from working with many of the world’s most respected organisations.
Whatever each company’s centralisation objectives, and the path they follow to achieve them, a universal issue is that there is always more to do! The focus on ‘doing more with less’ is particularly important during the current period of ongoing economic uncertainty and changing regulation, where cost, efficiency and risk management continue to be priorities. There are a variety of ways in which SSC and finance managers are achieving this (figure 1).
Technology is playing an increasingly important role in driving additional value. For example, eBAM (electronic bank account management) automates bank account maintenance, including the exchange of messages for opening, closing or changing signatories on accounts with banking partners. XML-based ISO 20022 standards, on which SEPA payment messages are based, enable formats for payments and account information to be standardised across banks, regions and currencies. Standardisation is key to increasing automation, whether accounts payable or receivable, human resources or employee services, finance or accounting. In many cases, leading SSCs have a specific function dedicated to process optimisation to continue streamlining processes and deliver cost reductions.