Mining for Data Gold: Enhancing Reconciliations at Panini
By Eleanor Hill, Editor
With the aim of being as efficient as possible in its reconciliations, Panini was looking to achieve the same level of detailed information on cross-border collections as it was able to achieve on domestic collections. To help deliver this, Fabrizio Masinelli, Group Treasurer, Panini S.p.A and President of the Italian Association of Corporate Treasurers, turned to long-term banking partner BNP Paribas for a solution – one that would require minimal disruption yet deliver maximum results.
Remember trading World Cup player cards with your friends at school? Or perhaps you were more into Disney movies and collected every single Aladdin sticker for your book? Either way, your pocket money was going to the Panini Group (Panini).
Headquartered in Modena, Italy, Panini is the world leader in the published collectable sector and one of the leading publishers of children’s magazines and books, comics, manga and graphic novels, in both Europe and Latin America. In 2017, the group’s sales exceeded €536m – across more than 120 countries, supported by 12 subsidiaries and with over 1,000 employees worldwide.
Although Panini’s treasury function is centralised, in the sense that there is central co-ordination of local treasuries across North America, South America, and Europe, the company has not always had complete, centralised, visibility over collections. As Masinelli explains: “Every treasurer knows that the success of the reconciliation process is dependent on availability of complete information and a clear description of what has been paid for. This may sound easy in theory, but it is often extremely difficult to implement in reality – especially when you are dealing with thousands and thousands of payments coming direct from consumers. And often these payments are for amounts as small as €1 or $1.”
While Panini also has B2B collections, these flows were easier to track. It was the C2B flows that were proving particularly challenging, especially in the US. “For a variety of reasons, we were receiving a low level of detail around receipts in the US. Our group has always tried to optimise the processes of banking flow management and we were acutely aware that the lack of information we had around US collections was negatively impacting our ability to produce an accurate cash flow forecast,” Masinelli explains.
Talking the talk
Panini therefore began a dialogue with its main relationship bank, BNP Paribas, to help find a solution. “Panini started collaborating with BNP Paribas many years ago, initially through Banca Nazionale del Lavoro [BNL] in Italy. This relationship deepened when Panini approached the US market. At that time, finding a supportive international banking partner was critical for us. We were looking for a bank that was part of a global group, but we also wanted a US local bank with local market knowledge and presence. Panini Group found the right mix in Bank of the West [BoTW], part of BNP Paribas Group.”
Given BNP Paribas’ focus on client service, Masinelli knew that an open conversation with the bank was the best way forward. After all, over the past five years the two organisations have collaborated on numerous cash management projects, including: setting up international cash pooling across subsidiaries located in France, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the US (with Spain and Poland to follow); e-commerce POS supply; and a live test of cross-border blockchain payments, which was extremely successful.
With this in mind, Panini wanted BNP Paribas to implement a creative solution that would enable the group to achieve the same level of detail over an incoming cross-border payment as it has over a domestic receipt. “Crucially, we were looking for a ‘light-touch’ solution that would not require significant amounts of resources from our side to implement, yet would deliver best practice,” comments Masinelli.
Numerous conversations between Panini and BNP Paribas ensued, so that the bank could better understand the challenges Panini was facing with its US collections. “One of the issues was the BAI2 format being used by BoTW – which we found had limited availability and applicability outside of the US,” says Masinelli. “We wanted a more international format that would give us greater granularity over the data, and allow us to carry out automated reconciliations.”
The team at BNP Paribas understood this request completely. As Laura Milani, Liquidity Management Marketing Director, BNP Paribas Group, comments: “Fabrizio runs an extremely enthusiastic and dynamic treasury team at Panini. Since Fabrizio is also President of the Italian Association of Corporate Treasurers, he is always keen to embrace best practice, and to share that with the rest of the profession. We knew we needed to think outside the box to deliver something that would meet all of Panini’s requirements.”
Gianfranco Marino, Global Cash Management Sales Manager, BNL, adds: “Over the years, Panini has been extremely proactive in collaborating with the bank on new products and services, such as the blockchain payment. We wanted to demonstrate that same proactivity in deploying a solution that would bridge differences in time zones, systems, and payment formats, and enable Panini to vastly improve its automated reconciliations.”
Walking the walk
It was clear to both Panini and BNP Paribas that statement enrichment was the answer. The challenge was to determine how to do this in the most efficient and effective way possible. After much discussion, BNP Paribas suggested the Data Exchange Enhanced MT940 reporting service.
As Milani explains: “BNP Paribas collects the daily file of transactions from BoTW and translates it from BAI to MT940 format. We then deliver the data to Panini – via their channel of choice. This means that wire transfers as well as ACH credit or debit transactions booked in accounts held at BoTW are channelled via SWIFT messages MT 940 to Panini’s headquarters in Italy, with the same level of information usually available at domestic level only. The enriched information includes full ordering party details and is significantly extended in comparison to the information contained in legacy MT 940 bank statement information.”
Working together on a step-by-step plan, the bank statement enrichment service was successfully deployed in early 2019. “No changes to our systems were necessary, as they were already set up to handle this information,” says Masinelli. “So, for us, it was a very hands-off implementation – but the results have been significant,” he notes.