AFP 2013 Conference Highlights and Review

Nov 15th, 2013 | Posted by

I attended the AFP conference in Las Vegas. Attendance seemed high while this may be partially attributable to the fact that it was held in Las Vegas. Now I wish I can tell you more about the conference, but like they say, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. All jokes aside, it was a good conference for me with very productive meetings. Most of my meetings were centered on corporate-to-bank connectivity, mobile developments (tablet), foreign exchange, payment networks, and enhancements in reporting and analytics. Although there was some sense of déjà vu, I felt the conference had several new interesting trends.

An interesting side observation: As you know, most of the attendees are corporate practitioners while my discussions are primarily with bankers and vendors with far less corporate clients. I bring this up since my findings in discussions with corporate treasurers, etc have been on quite different topics of interest. The corporate side seems very interested in the macro-economic and geo-political trends in the market including regulatory impacts. Okay, I guess everyone is interested in the regulatory environment. The combination of fiscal and deficit issues at the government combined with new regulatory standards is preventing a stable environment of lending and borrowing, let alone growth, in the market. Corporates are struggling to efficiently manage their liquidity while mitigating the risk of losses. I found there was less than usual interest on operational efficiencies and innovative solutions as seen at previous AFP conference venues. This could be attributable to the dominant economic and regulatory issues faced by corporates today, or possibly attributable to a smaller sample of discussions in comparison to bankers and vendors. In any event, I just wanted to make the point that bankers and vendors are aligned very differently in their focus area in contrast to corporate practitioners.

Aside from the above observation, I noted several interesting trends:

• Banking focus on relationships. Banks realize that their relationships with corporate clients will need to change. It’s not so much anymore about selling, or cross-selling, as many products as possible. The regulatory environment is causing corporate clients to have a much more consultative role with their banks. Banks are less concerned about product stickiness and revenue protection. The development of SAP Financial Services Network (FSN) is a good example as many global banks have promptly joined the network to best serve corporate clients. Surprisingly, this new solution does allow corporate clients to move relatively easy from bank to bank relationship. This is a concept that would have been much harder for banks to embrace only a few years ago. I think it goes to demonstrate the new bank mentality in being a partner and the race for the better bank partners will take flight in the coming years.

• Vendors entering new frontiers. It was refreshing to see some developments on the vendor side in support of banks in new areas. Vendors are embracing mobile technology with processes that are client centric to help banks in areas that they have traditionally not played in – like sales and marketing. There are many vendors that I can credit here but this is a blog and space is limited. Two vendors that come top of mind are FISERV and Wausau Financial. They, like others, have taken the tablet and developed client facing solutions to support banks cross-sell products along with streamline client on-boarding and implementation. Not all banks are equal when it comes to their mobile development stage and some have embraced the technology more than others. The reality is mobile tablets can serve as excellent tools to improve the bottom line.

• Enhancements on visibility. This is a broad category but mostly speaks to providing better analytics – forecasting cash and liquidity, optimizing returns on investment, risk management, and overall ability to meet regulatory and compliance requirements. The key players have done a good job of migrating from (I hate to use the term) big data to information that really counts. Vendors are driving innovation in analytics to facilitate simpler and faster processing of relevant data. This serves to address several business challenges through better forecasting and predictive analytics.

Any other trends worthy of noting? Your comments are welcome so please feel free to chime in.

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