Talking Treasury

19 March 2019

At our latest Talking Treasury event we heard how teams need to embrace technology, such as automation and cloud computing, to fulfil their evolving strategic positions.

Talking Treasury: innovation, technology and changing business needs

Around six out of seven corporate treasurers now claim to hold strategic positions within their organisations¹, and they are seeing their roles evolve and expand at a rapid pace. 

The ability to embrace technology and harness data more effectively is becoming key to managing these new challenges. It was therefore no surprise that big data, cloud computing and automation were among the main themes discussed by speakers at the recent Barclays Talking Treasury event. 

  • Familiar challenges, new solutions

    As with many other roles, treasurers have had vast amounts of digital data at their disposal for several years.

    The difference for treasury teams today is the emergence of increasingly sophisticated tools that can organise, track and create visualisations of this data. This in turn leads to better quality information, helping treasurers to analyse the data more effectively and, ultimately, more accurately. The result is stronger risk management and faster decision-making – without the need for intervention by other business functions, causing a drag on both time and resources.

    Jean-Philippe Nullans, UK Head of Treasury and Trade Finance at engineering group Thales, pointed out that five years ago, he would have been assigned an IT specialist to access the data he needed. Now, the onus has shifted directly to treasury teams themselves, as data is to be made accessible, across functions, to all authorised users and at the appropriate level within the Company. 

    “There was once a time where you’d have to ask someone to give you the information. In the age of big data, there has been a switch,” he said. “Now, we are getting the data we need ourselves. We are being curious and asking the business questions.”

  • Cloud infrastructure

    Alongside this trend, the growing amounts of corporate data available to treasurers is increasingly being held and processed in the cloud. Technology giant Cisco predicts that, by 2021, 95% of all the world’s digital data will be handled by cloud data centres, while the actual amount of global data will exceed 20 zettabytes² (the equivalent amount of information contained in enough books to fill 100 billion lorries)!

    Royston Da Costa, Assistant Group Treasurer at Ferguson, a leading distributor of plumbing and heating products, describes the cloud as a game changer when it comes to the processing – and security – of data. 

    “Before 2015, we never had a cloud based TMS. The biggest change for us was understanding that cloud capabilities were actually a lot more secure, because it’s in the cloud vendors’ best interests to keep data protected.” 

    However, Da Costa said that his team underestimated how important their IT team would be after implementing the cloud. 

    “IT plays a major part in automation, and in sanctioning new processes and functions in technologies. Now that we have IT signed up to this, they are the ones who have rolled out the apps and technology we require to make the most of it,” he said. 

    His treasury team have shifted manual processes to integrated and automated processes, as part of a wider digital strategy to leverage technology to help resolve blockages wherever possible. 

    By embracing this kind of technology, treasuries will be able to make the most of the data at their disposal, allowing them to navigate their expanding roles and responsibilities safely – and maintain good relationships with their partners. Subsequently, this is likely to drive a positive impact on the competitiveness of the business as a whole.

  • Making payments easier

    Many of the key pain points for treasurers lie in cross-border payments. These can often take days and may lack transparency, while remittance information can be altered in the payments process.

    However, new technologies and applications are helping to address these challenges.

    For example, SWIFT global payment innovation (GPI) delivers visibility of real-time transactions, providing more certainty that payments have gone through. 

    Additional information is shared if a transaction is ‘held up’, making it easier for treasuries to understand the reason this has happened. This is driven by a Unique End-to-End Tracking Reference (UETR) – a 35-figure, open-source code-generated reference, which features in the header of all compliant messages. 

    Ryan McAuliffe, Payments Innovation, Data & Analytics Specialist at SWIFT, explained that the gpi service is handling over 300 billion USD in payments each day, with 95% of transactions being applied to the beneficiary’s account within 24 hours and 40% being executed within five minutes. 

    Barclays is developing Track and Trace capability (due before year end 2019) via their iPortal online channel which will help corporate businesses see the transactions they’ve processed without having to note down the UETR.

    Meanwhile, Marc Pettican, Managing Director of Commercial Payments at Barclaycard, discussed how data is at the heart of another payment partnership – between Barclaycard and business spend management platform Coupa. 

    Virtual payment cards from Barclaycard help treasuries to manage corporate payments digitally rather than physically, making reconciliation much easier. 

    By using Coupa Pay with Barclaycard, Coupa’s customers benefit from automated payment reconciliation for one-off purchases, removing the need to reconcile payments from a monthly statement. This provides more security and control than a traditional card account issued to an employee.

Going forward

As the role of the treasurer continues to evolve alongside the digital landscape, it’s clear that the ability to adapt to rapid change and adopt new processes is becoming ever more apparent. Nevertheless, whilst these new challenges may appear daunting, the opportunities that the dynamically changing landscape presents are in abundance. 

To find out how Barclays can support your business, speak to your Relationship Director or contact us.


Next Generation Treasury

The Next generation treasury report highlights opportunities for treasurers to overcome their current challenges and take treasury to the next level.