Patty Hines

About Patty Hines

Patricia Hines, CTP, is a senior analyst with Celent’s Banking practice and is based in Charlotte, NC. Her areas of research include global transaction services and wholesale banking with a particular emphasis on treasury and cash management, corporate banking delivery channels, and trade and supply chain finance, along with commercial and small business lending.

Globalisation: External Forces Driving Corporate Growth and Expansion

Treasury management plays an important role in a corporation’s globalisation efforts especially in the areas of cash management, banking, foreign exchange risk, and investments. Treasury must address challenges with managing liquidity distributed across markets, currencies, and businesses, especially the need to keep up with regional liquidity nuances and regulatory issues.

As an outgrowth of globalisation, four key external forces impact opportunities and challenges for corporate growth and expansion: economic uncertainty, geopolitical climate, regulatory environment, and technology evolution.

Eight years on from the 2008–2009 financial crises, global economic growth remains sluggish, hovering between 3.1% and 3.4% since 2012. There are numerous examples of geopolitical events exacerbating volatility, uncertainty, and risks arising from the increasing interconnectedness of regions caused by globalization. New regulations impact treasury organizations in many ways, including in-house banking, intercompany transactions, and transfer pricing documentation.

Corporate treasury organizations continue to lean on technology to facilitate change and mitigate complexity arising from global expansion. Cloud-based treasury management systems (TMS) provide an opportunity to implement specific modules on a subscription pricing basis. Governmental agencies, banks, and fintechs are collaborating to evolve complex corporate treasury services.

As discussed in the new Celent report “Globalisation: External Forces Driving Corporate Growth and Expansion," although firms are in different stages of their globalisation journeys, they can benefit from working with their banking partners to adopt strategies and tactics that address the external factors affecting corporate growth and expansion. Universal banks understand geographic differences and nuances, and are in a unique position to advise firms seeking to expand their businesses globally. This report is the sixth in an ongoing series of reports commissioned by HSBC and written by Celent as part of the HSBC Corporate Insights program.

“Transforming the Landscape” – My learnings from SIBOS 2016

The fall conference season is a business time for us in the industry research business. I’ve finally recovered from a hectic week in Geneva, where I met with over 40 banks, technology companies, and consulting firms to discuss what’s happening in global transaction banking. This year’s Sibos theme was “Transforming the Landscape”, organized around four themes: Banking, Compliance, Culture, and Securities. A selection of Sibos session recordings is available on the Sibos website.

With my research focus of Corporate Banking, my discussions focused on three key topics.

  • SWIFT’s global payments innovation (gpi) initiative:  SWIFT announced that it had successfully completed the first phase of the gpi pilot, surprising some bankers with SWIFT’s ability to meet the first milestone so quickly. The initial objective of gpi is to improve the speed of cross-border payments (starting with same-day) and improve transparency with new end-to-end payment tracking. SWIFT staffers roamed the exhibition hall with iPads demonstrating the gpi’s new payment tracker. It remains for banks to integrate the new payment type into their corporate digital channels and to determine product pricing.​

SWIFT GPI

  • PSD2 and UK Open Banking:  Technology providers, especially those that offer core banking systems along with payments technology, are working closely with regulators and industry groups to enhance their product offerings to accommodate the third-party account information access and payment initiation provisions of PSD2, along with the UK’s Open Banking API Framework. Looking beyond mere compliance, both providers and banks are developing value-added services to capitalize on the significant disruption arising from opening traditional banking capabilities to third-parties.
  • Blockchain in Corporate Banking:  After publishing a Celent report on use cases for blockchain in corporate banking earlier this year, I was heartened to hear “real world” blockchain announcements from the big tech companies, touting their banking collaborations. Swiss bank UBS is working with IBM on a project to replicate the entire lifecycle of an international trade transaction. The FX settlement service, CLS, is building a payments netting service that will enable cash trades on IBM’s Fabric blockchain. Bank of America and Microsoft announced their intent to build and test blockchain applications for trade finance.   Although much progress is being made by blockchain consortia, banks, and technology providers, most people I talked to believe that significant adoption of blockchain for corporate banking use cases is still a few years in the future.

I’m off next week to attend the Annual Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) conference, hoping to bring back developments in the world of corporate treasury and treasury management.

Challenging the Status Quo: Fintechs and Corporate Treasury Services

The rapid rise of Fintech firms offering non-bank financial services is triggering what some consider “creative destruction” in banking. Recognising that technology is a key enabler for efficient treasury operations, an increasing number of Fintech firms are creating specialized solutions for corporate financial management.

Four key external forces are supporting the rise of non-bank financial services:  Economic influences, demographic changes, regulatory environment, and technology evolution.

Non Bank Financial Services

A confluence of economic influences has lowered the barriers to entry for Fintech startups. Most significantly, global interest and investment in Fintech firms has risen dramatically over the past five years.  However, only a small percentage of Fintech investment is targeted at serving large corporations, a sector ripe for investment and innovation.

As baby boomers retire, financial management staff is getting younger reflecting the demographic changes influencing Fintech growth. Accustomed to intuitive, easy-to-use technology tools accessible from anywhere, younger staff expect more in the way of treasury technology than Excel spreadsheets to streamline, digitise, and automate financial management functions across treasury and finance. This is especially true with respect to payments, one of the hottest areas in the Fintech space.

While the regulatory environment for traditional financial services firms continues to become more complex, Fintech firms benefit from an almost complete lack of regulation. Regulators acknowledge the need to oversee the safety and soundness of Fintech firms but also recognise that excessive regulation can stifle the development of more efficient financial services. Thus, regulatory bodies are working on frameworks to strike the appropriate balance between innovation and protection.

Fintech firms excel at leveraging the technology evolution to create a differentiated customer experience. Rather than serving the breadth of corporate customers’ treasury management needs, Fintech firms can cherry-pick narrow segments for their offerings.  Newer technologies such as web, cloud, mobile, big data, and artificial intelligence allow Fintechs to develop new value propositions at a lower cost than traditional development approaches.

As discussed in the new Celent report “Challenging the Status Quo: External Forces Supporting the Rise of Non-Bank Financial Services,” Fintechs are unbundling traditional corporate banking services, leveraging emerging technologies to offer new, innovative treasury solutions. But recognizing that universal banks have unrivaled experience meeting the complex needs of corporate customers, many Fintech firms are collaborating with banks through a number of different innovation models. This report is the fifth in an ongoing series of reports commissioned by HSBC and written by Celent as part of the HSBC Corporate Insights program.

Register now for the upcoming joint HSBC and Celent webinar on this topic featuring Nadine Lagermitte, Global Head of Financial Institutions at HSBC.

Blockchain Use Cases for Corporate Banking

Corporate banking has long been a relationship-based business, with large global banks having the distinct advantage of being able to provide clients with a comprehensive set of financial services delivered through integrated solutions. Distributed ledger technology, often referred to as blockchain, threatens to disrupt the sector with its potential to improve visibility, lessen friction, automate reconciliation, and shorten cycle times. In particular, corporate banking use cases focusing on traditional trade finance, supply chain finance, cross-border payments, and digital identify management have attracted significant attention and investment.

Traditional Trade Finance: Largely paper-based with extended cycle times, DLT could eliminate inefficiencies arising from connecting disparate stakeholders, risk of documentary fraud, limited transaction visibility, and extended reconciliation timeframes. DLT could finally provide the momentum needed to fully digitize trade documents and move toward an end-to-end digital process.

Supply Chain Finance: SCF is commonly applied to open account trade and is triggered by supply chain events. Similarly to traditional trade finance, the pain points in SCF arise from a lack of transparency across the entire supply chain, both physical and financial. DLT has the potential to be a key enabler for a transparent, global supply chain with stringent tracking of goods and documents throughout their lifecycle.

Cross Border Payments: The traditional cross-border payment process often involves a multi-hop, multi-day process with transaction fees charged at each stage. There are potentially several intermediaries involved in a cross-border payment, creating a lack of transparency, predictability and efficiency. DLT offers an opportunity to eliminate intermediaries, lowering transaction costs and improving liquidity.

Cross Border Payment Flows

KYC/Digital Identity Management: Managing and complying with Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations across disparate geographies remains a complex, inefficient process for both banks and their corporate banking customers. For corporate banking, the DLT opportunity is to centralize digital identity information in a standardized, accessible format including the ability to digitize, store and secure customer identity documentation for sharing across entities.

Both banks and Fintech firms alike are experimenting with DLT solutions for various corporate banking uses cases. In what seems like unprecedented collaboration between financial institutions and technology providers, consortias are working on accelerating the development and adoption of DLT by creating financial grade ledgers and exploring opportunities for commercial applications.

The maturity cycle for the various use cases depends on a number of factors, not the least of which are financial institution requirements for interoperability, confidentiality, a regulatory and legal framework, and optionality. We outline both capital markets and corporate banking uses in more detail in the Celent report, Beyond the Buzz: Exploring Distributed Ledger Technology Use Cases in Capital Markets and Corporate Banking. In addition to key use cases, the report discusses the key needs of financial institutions driving DLT architectural and organization choices, the current state of play, and the path forward for DLT in capital markets and corporate banking.

Against the Odds: Improving Euro Area Commercial Lending Indicators

Over the past several months the European Union has weathered a number of challenges – Brexit, political turmoil, the migrant crisis, and sluggish GDP growth among them. But surprisingly, the latest European Central Bank (ECB) data doesn’t reflect any negative shocks on credit supply and demand.

The latest Euro Area Bank Lending Survey found that competitive pressures are the main factor behind the easing of credit standards on loans to enterprises, including a narrowing of interest rate margins. At the same time, demand for loans by enterprises is increasing, driven by merger and acquisition activities, inventories and working capital, and continued low interest rates. Although demand is strengthening, alternative financing sources dampened demand for bank financing slightly.

Euro Area Bank Lending Survey

Looking at the top half of this chart, there is no question that banks ratcheted up credit standards like pricing, covenants, cash flow, and capital during Europe’s two recessionary periods. At the same time, businesses of all sizes stopped seeking credit. There is just no appetite for companies to take on additional liabilities during a period when consumers aren’t spending and the economy is shrinking.

More recently, in early 2014 both sides of the credit standards and demand equation crossed the middle point. Since then, credit standards have leveled off while credit demand from enterprises has risen slightly, especially for small-to-medium enterprises (SME).

Despite the ups and downs in credit demand and standards, loan outstandings to non-financial corporations has been surprisingly resilient, even during euro area recessionary periods.

ECB Loans to Non-Financial Corporations

The June ECB reflected slight growth over the past quarter, at the end of which the UK voted to leave the European Union. Time will tell whether Brexit and the expected negative impact to eurozone growth will dampen demand and subsequent loan growth for euro area commercial lending.

EBAday 2016: A Brave New World for Payments

EBAday 2016 LogoHosted by the European Banking Association and Finextra, EBAday attracts payments professionals from leading financial institutions and technology providers. This year’s event was held in Milan Italy with the theme, “A Brave New World for Payments.” Sessions focused on the dilemma facing the payments industry – enhancing existing payment models while preparing for alternative payments and technology.

I had the honor of moderating day two’s strategic roundtable discussing future challenges and opportunities for banks. The panelists were Paolo Cederle, CEO, UniCredit business integrated solutions; Christophe Chazot, group head of innovation, HSBC; and Damian Pettit, RBS head of payment operations.

EBAday 2016 Day Two Panel

The panelists felt that there is a disconnect between the limitations of legacy bank infrastructure and the promise of new technologies. With the majority of bank IT budgets spent on maintenance, the challenge is for banks to keep existing systems running while investing in the future. For customers, there is too much complexity, especially in cross-border payments, and customers want an easy experience at minimal cost.

Discussing Faster Payments in the UK, the panelists said the introduction eight years ago has revolutionized payments, completely changing customer behavior and paving the way for new mobile-based services such as Paym, the UK’s mobile payments service offered by seventeen banks and building societies. For countries having implemented immediate payments, real-time is the new norm and with that comes expectation and demand from customers.

With the EU PSD2 payment services provisions looming on the horizon, the discussion turned to the prospect of disintermediation of banks by third-party providers. The panelists were optimistic about the future, and feel that the regulation is helping to steer the banks toward new initiatives and innovation in services, and is a great opportunity to better service customers and push banks up the value chain.

Regarding the question of whether emerging payment models and technology represent an escalating threat, the response was that instant payments brings security challenges. But the panelists overwhelmingly agreed that convenience and speed cannot come at the cost of security–safety and security is absolutely paramount.

The discussion then moved onto the theme of disruption — are payments in a revolutionary or evolutionary phase? The panelists felt it was a bit of both. Revolutionary technologies such mobile and artificial intelligence are pushing payments along an evolutionary path. And banks have an advantage. The Fintech startups entering the market don't have the direct customer interaction and track record that banks have in safety and security. The banks are running hackathons and open to working with startups while improving legacy systems and simplifying the customer proposition.

All of the panelists’ banks are members of the R3 blockchain consortium. Blockchain is bringing a new way of working together for banks and technology providers. Each of the panelists is watching the technology closely and one area of opportunity cited was the last mile of the payments chain and in the trade finance arena.

My take-away from the roundtable was that the global payments industry is transforming. The “brave new world” is one with an imperative to be nimble, keeping your eye on all of the opportunities both for existing payment models as well as alternative technologies. Collaboration is key whether through acquisitions, consortiums, partnerships or open source projects.

Liquidity management: Staying afloat in turbulent times

Liquidity management has recently begun to assume increasing importance as four key external forces create turmoil in a historically placid section of corporate treasury. External Forces

The most significant regulation affecting liquidity management is Basel III, along with others such as money market fund reform. Taken together, they’re changing the way banks structure their balance sheets and the relationship between business customers and their banking partners.

On the economic front, businesses of all sizes continue to seek opportunities abroad. Combined with an environment of negative interest rates in several countries, this is making management of liquidity distributed across markets, currencies, and business units that much more complex and increasingly challenging.

Industry initiatives such as expanded use of ISO 20022 XML and real-time payments provide both opportunities and challenges for cash and liquidity management, and as the speed of transactions accelerates, so does the need for even more timely information.

Technology evolution has facilitated a move toward centralisation, which in turn is accelerating the adoption of more advanced cash and liquidity management capabilities to support the modern day treasury function.

With external forces causing substantive and permanent shifts in available options, corporations need to have the technology infrastructure in place to manage their liquidity and investments with tighter risk governance. As discussed in the new Celent report “Staying Afloat: External Forces Impacting Corporate Liquidity Management,” no one can predict what lies around the next bend in the river, but robust strategic preparation can equip treasurers to ride out the next stretch of liquidity management turmoil.

The UK open banking API framework – more questions than answers?

This week the Open Banking Working Group (OBWG) published its framework for the UK Open Banking Standard. The framework seeks to create:
• An open API for data that is shared, including, but not limited to, customer data, and
• An open data API for market information and relevant open data

Secure, publicly accessible Web APIs have been around for more than ten years in the financial services sector. Many popular eCommerce platforms employ APIs to increase adoption by exposing various features of the underlying platform to third-party application developers. These include PayPal, Stripe, Authorize.Net and LevelUp. Payment APIs have grown by almost 2,000% since 2009, with Financial APIs growing at more than 470% during that time.

Banks embrace APIs to modernize and streamline back-office connectivity, especially for customer-facing digital channels. However, except for a smattering of bank API hackathons featuring mock customer account data and the well-publicized external APIs made available by digital bank Fidor, banks are reluctant to publish open, external APIs for customers or third-party to access financial data. Two major government initiatives are forcing their hands.

The account access provisions of PSD2 require Euro Area banks to open access to customer information where third-parties have the explicit consent of the customer. The UK HM Treasury Open Banking initiative strives to improve competition and consumer outcomes by giving customers the ability to share their transaction data with third party providers (3PPs) using an open API standard for UK treasury.

The UK government established the Open Banking Working Group in August 2015, giving it the remit to design a detailed framework for the development of an open API standard in the UK. The detailed framework was published this week after review by the HM Treasury.

Open Banking Framework

Sifting through the 128-page report, several key issues remain to be addressed:

Governance: The report recommends the creation of an independent authority to oversee the development and deployment of the Open Banking Standard. As co-chair of the OBWG, is the Open Data Institute vying to become that independent authority? IMHO, the banking industry doesn’t need yet another standards body. Why not engage the expertise of an existing organization like the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the governance body of the popular ISO 20022 standard, to ensure an internationally agreed upon approach with the involvement of a diverse group of stakeholders?

Data Standard: The report recommends that existing standards, datasets and structures be reused where possible but also mentions further investigation as to whether the Open Banking Standard will need a separate reference data model. I hope that the OBWG examines the widespread adoption of the ISO 20022 financial industry message scheme and its contribution to standardizing and simplifying financial data exchange worldwide.

Data Protection: The report states that banking customers (individuals and businesses) need to understand their responsibility for informed customer consent and ensuring their data is protected. This is problematic in light of continued social engineering banking losses, an emerging global fraud threat. The report acknowledges that it is likely that cyber-criminals will specifically focus on the open API as a new attack vector. Consumer education needs to be the responsibility of the Open Banking ecosystem: Banks, 3PPs, government agencies, and consumer watchdog groups.

Developer Resources: The recommendation that a central developer hub be created to support developers is a seemingly practical idea. However, there are a number of leading API platform providers and no universally accepted RESTful API design methodology, which will lead to a scramble by the proponents of RAML, SWAGGER and Apiary.io to be the provider (and language) of choice for creation of common open APIs and developer sandbox.

Implementation Schedule: The report outlines a multi-year release schedule with the first release to be completed within 12 months of the report’s publication—February 2017. This seems to be very aggressive considering that detailed design specifications are not yet complete, nor has an independent authority been selected to oversee development of the standard.

Monetization: Respondents to the February 2015 Call for Consultation estimated the cost of developing an open API standard would range from “negligible to tens of millions of pounds.” At first glance the Open Banking initiative seems to provide all of the benefit to fintech firms with all of the cost shouldered by UK financial institutions. Celent anticipates acceleration of bank/fintech partnerships aimed at creating differentiated value propositions.

Interoperability: Banks and solution providers are closely watching the intersection of the UK Open Banking initiative and the account access provisions of PSD2. There is significant overlap between the two initiatives and industry participants hope that they will be joined up, but for now the HM Treasury is actively seeking to take the lead with its aggressive implementation schedule. Interoperability across geographies and sectors fosters sustained innovation and broader participation by third parties, contributing to the UK Treasury’s goal of improving competition and consumer outcomes.

The recommendations for implementing the Open Banking Standard will be carried out by the Open Banking Implementation Entity. Celent analysts are watching developments closely and assessing their impact across our coverage areas. We welcome your feedback—what are your thoughts about opening up customer banking data to third-party providers?

Corporate digital delivery channels and the customer experience

Celent feels (and others agree) that it’s important that banks deliver an omnichannel digital customer experience, but the term means different things to different people. Based on our own research, we believe that omnichannel is about delivering a customized but consistent financial institution brand experience to customers across all channels and points of interaction.

An omnichannel experience is even more critical when delivering services to corporate clients. Each client has a unique set of business and technology requirements based on their corporate treasury organizational structure, geographic footprint, and treasury technology sophistication. A consistent financial institution brand experience is important to corporate clients, but the experience needs to be tailored to each client segment’s unique needs. For the largest, most complex organizations, an even more bespoke and customized experience is critical.

With banks investing increasing amounts of capital in technology incubators and startup accelerators, the pace of innovation in digital channels continues to grow. But for corporate clients, innovation isn’t about incubators, accelerators, or hackathons. Innovation is about simplification — increasing usability, straight-through processing, and digitization. As outlined in the new Celent report, Tailoring the Customer Experience: External Forces Impacting Corporate Digital Channels, the competitive environment, regulatory climate, economic conditions, and technology impacts are shaping the evolution of corporate digital channels. But emerging technologies will have the largest impact. External Forces Corporate digital channels are just one component of a complex treasury technology landscape, but a critical one. Corporates maximizing the efficiency and transparency of digital channels today are enabling and preparing themselves for innovative technologies for the future.

Reports of small business lending’s death are greatly exaggerated

I’ve spent much of my career in and around the financial services sector focused on small business banking. In the US, small business customers get bounced around like Goldilocks—they are too small to be of interest to commercial relationship managers and too complex to be easily understood by retail branch staff.

I applaud those banks that make a concerted effort to meet the financial needs of small businesses. After all, in the United States small businesses comprise 99.7% of all firms. (According to the US Census Bureau, a small business is a firm with less than 500 employees). In general, larger small businesses are better served as they use more banking products and generate more interest income and fee revenue than smaller small businesses. The lack of “just right” solutions for many small business financial problems has been a golden opportunity for FinTech firms.

In the FinTech space, much of the focus is on consumer-oriented solutions like Mint for financial management, Venmo for P2P payments, and Prosper for social lending. But FinTech companies figured out early on that small businesses weren’t getting the attention they deserved from traditional banks. Many of the top FinTech companies—Square for card acceptance, Stripe for e-commerce, and Kabbage for business loans, have gained prominence serving primarily small businesses.

Online small business lending by direct credit providers has especially taken off. Disruptors like Kabbage, OnDeck, and Lendio were quickly followed by more traditional players like PayPal, UPS, and Staples. Morgan Stanley reports that US small business direct lending grew to around $7.5B in 2014 and projects expansion to $35B by 2020. They also maintain that most of this growth is market expansion, not cannibalization of bank volumes. This makes sense—direct lenders usually attract borrowers that can’t get bank loans and charge accordingly. For example, Kabbage averages 19% interest for short term loans and 30% annually for long term loans. According to the Federal Reserve, the average interest rate for a small business bank loan (less than $100k) in August 2015 was 3.7% and current SBA loan rates range from 3.43% to 4.25%.

And that common wisdom that US banks have pulled back from small business lending? Let’s take a look at data compiled by the FDIC starting in 2010.

Small Business C&I Loans The overall volume of small business loans increased year-over-year from 2010 to June 2015, with a CAGR of approximately 3%. The total dollar value of small business loans outstanding dipped slightly in 2011 and 2012, reflecting slightly smaller loan amounts, a result of tighter lending standards. The facts are that US small business loan volume and dollar value outstanding are at their highest levels since the FDIC began collecting this data from banks. And by the way, there are almost 2,200 fewer banks in the US today than prior to Lehman’s collapse in 2008. Banks are happy to work with credit-worthy small businesses to meet their working capital needs. And direct lenders are happy to work with everyone else—-a win-win for all.