Preparing Treasury for the Future
Key Takeaways from EuroFinance Geneva
By Eleanor Hill, Editor
No-one wants to re-live every moment of a conference (especially not the after party). So, here is TMI’s take on the top themes coming out of this year’s EuroFinance International Cash Management conference, held in Geneva from 26-28 September, without the blow-by-blow account.
Reflecting on an insightful few days in Geneva, it’s clear how much has changed in the industry; and yet how little has moved on for treasurers at a fundamental level – especially when I think back to my first EuroFinance International experience ten years ago.
Of course, the operating environment is very different from a decade ago – talk of the financial crisis has been replaced by frustrations over Brexit negotiations getting nowhere fast. Crisis-driven regulation and the push towards financial transparency has also led to a variety of challenges and opportunities for the treasury community, including the rise of one of the hot topics at this year’s conference: open banking.
Elsewhere, the technology treasurers have available to them has moved on enormously – becoming far more targeted, accessible, intelligent, and, frankly, much better suited to the job in hand. Banks too have evolved. As we will explore later in this article, they are embracing their advisory role with gusto, helping treasurers to become more strategic, and collaborating readily with fintechs, corporates, and even each other.
Despite all of this change, however, many treasurers are still grappling with very basic issues and struggling to get the fundamentals of their job done well, with limited resources. Judging from talk on the conference floor, and interest in the sessions, cash flow forecasting remains a major challenge for corporates of all sizes. Setting up a payments factory is still a pipe dream for many. Getting the right treasury structure in place is a headache. KYC is an ongoing issue. Cross-border payments remain a frustration. And the list goes on.
What was also clear at this year’s conference, which was themed around ‘preparing treasury for the future’ is that as much as corporates are interested in hearing about innovations coming down the line, they also want practical, tangible, and reliable solutions that can help them achieve efficiencies right now – today, not just tomorrow. As such, there was a great deal of debate (rightly or wrongly) around how ready treasury teams are to change, and whether they can truly afford to invest in innovation.
Ready for change?
As Enrico Camerinelli, Senior Analyst, Aite Group, told TMI: “Conversations with delegates touched upon the question whether treasury offices are truly ready to leave the comfort zone of running daily repetitive (and manual) tasks that keep people busy, and move to the open – and unexplored – ocean of innovation and continuous transformation.”
This theme was picked up in one of the busiest sessions at the conference, which saw a panel of experts discuss the new annual Economist Intelligence Unit treasury survey supported by Deutsche Bank, entitled ‘The future is now: How ready is treasury?’.
On the technology side, it appears that treasurers are slightly cautious around innovation and its broader impact. Only 55% of the 300 treasurers surveyed said that technology was disrupting the operational part of their business and therefore impacting their role.
One of the least recognised technologies by treasurers taking part in the survey was application programming interfaces (APIs). Rather than a reflection on the usefulness of API technology, however, it was evident from discussions at the conference that there is a lack of awareness around APIs and their potential benefits for treasurers, as well as the broader open banking movement that is fuelling conversation about them.
Ireti Samuel-Ogbu, EMEA Head Payments & Receivables, Treasury and Trade Solutions, Citi, took part in a panel session on this topic and noted the need for an education piece. In an exclusive interview with TMI, she said that “As banks evolve from compliance to creating commercial opportunities under open banking, it was interesting to observe how few corporates at EuroFinance were aware of the potential benefits to aggregate information from multiple banks in real time or the ability to collect from consumer bank accounts in real time.”