Turbocharging Treasury: Aspen’s Accelerated Efficiency Journey
By Eleanor Hill, Editor
Building a European treasury hub from scratch is no mean feat – especially when you are aiming to take efficiency gains to a whole new level. Here, Christian Fraisl, Head of Accounting, VAT & Treasury and Regional Compliance & Ethics Officer, Aspen Healthcare, and Bhairav Mehta, Head of Cash Management, BNP Paribas, South Africa, explain how Aspen has successfully streamlined its bank account management and sped up its payments processes. They also outline how the company is shifting towards a centralised treasury model and embracing innovative technology to reach new heights.
Despite its humble beginnings in Durban, South Africa, Aspen has grown into a global pharma giant, improving the lives of patients in more than 150 countries worldwide. Part of this success has come from the company’s decision to establish Aspen Healthcare, a Dubai-based subsidiary responsible for the commercialisation of Aspen products in the European, Middle East and North Africa (EMENA) markets.
As Fraisl explains: “From a treasury perspective, we set up a shared service centre (SSC) in Dubai to support the company’s expansion into Europe, while taking charge of the regional bank account structure and acting as a support system for payments and collections across the EMENA region.” To make the SSC as efficient as possible, Aspen immediately embarked on a journey to streamline its bank account management and improve its global payments workflows.
“We decided to consolidate down to a single banking relationship per region, through an in-depth request for proposal process,” explains Fraisl. “Having multiple banking partners was creating a number of inefficiencies, given the need to use several online banking channels and the wide range of complex file formats involved. The compliance challenges and the ongoing burden of bank account management across multiple partners were also reasons to rethink our approach.”
In Europe, however, it was not a case of consolidating bank relationships, but building them from the ground up. Fraisl continues: “We had not previously traded in Europe, so we had no bank accounts whatsoever in the region, and no established bank relationship. Although we were running the European expansion out of Dubai, we knew that more subsidiaries would open across Europe in due course. So, from the get-go, we were looking for a banking partner that would be able to provide services right across the region and match our growth ambitions.
“The relationship also needed to support our efficiency drive, by helping us improve our daily treasury processes. We therefore wanted a European banking partner who would support our goal to have a single platform providing a full overview of our cash position. We were also looking for a bank capable of assisting us as we rolled out SAP and a new FX trading tool, 360T, helping us to optimise up to 95% of our treasury transactions, improve processes, create efficiencies and operate more swiftly.”
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Although Aspen had not previously worked with BNP Paribas, since the company had neither bank relationships nor bank accounts in Europe, the bank’s reputation for excellent customer service was a significant factor in Aspen’s decision-making. “Word of mouth made it very clear that BNP Paribas would be a true partner to us, providing a highly tailored service and dedicated, experienced teams across the region to help us achieve our growth ambitions,” says Fraisl.
The bank’s footprint across Europe was another driver behind the decision to award the European mandate to BNP Paribas. As Mehta observes: “There was – and is – a perfect match between Aspen’s growth ambitions and BNP Paribas’s on-the-ground presence throughout Europe.” Fraisl goes on to explain that: “Often, local offices have different requirements, especially when it comes to payments. In Italy, for example, we require specific access to local clearing schemes – and BNP Paribas is able to provide that.”