Challenges Facing Organizations in the Current Risk Environment

Challenges Facing Organizations in the Current Risk Environment

The Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) recently published its 2017 AFP Risk Survey Report of Survey Results. The survey, supported by Marsh & McLennan Companies (Celent’s parent company), provides a snapshot of the challenges organizations face in the current risk environment. Responses from 480 senior-level corporate practitioners (primarily based in the US) formed the basis of the survey.

Corporate practitioners rank the highest risk factor impacting organization earnings in the next three years as tougher competition (40%), followed by customer satisfaction (33%), and U.S. political and regulatory uncertainty (32%.) While the three top-ranked factors are similar to those in the 2016 AFP Risk Survey, the order differs.

The survey authors made an intriguing observation on the ranking of risk factors: “It is interesting that in an election year (during which this survey was conducted), finance professionals believed competition would have a greater impact on their organizations’ earnings than would any uncertainty surrounding the U.S. political and regulatory environment.”

The report of survey results goes on to discuss risk mitigation actions in direct response to various types of risk. For example, in response to geopolitical risks, 60% of respondents are most focused on maintaining adequate liquidity, with a greater share of larger companies than smaller companies paying attention to maintaining liquidity (65% to 57%).

If you are a corporate banker or treasury management professional, I highly recommend a reading of the 2017 AFP Risk Survey results. The survey data provides valuable insights into the current and emerging threats facing US corporations of all sizes.

Challenging the Status Quo: Fintechs and Corporate Treasury Services

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.

External Forces Affecting Global Transaction Flows: Is the Payments World Becoming Flatter?

External Forces Affecting Global Transaction Flows: Is the Payments World Becoming Flatter?

In his 2005 book titled The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, New York Times reporter and author Thomas Friedman famously wrote about the impact of technology on globalization, the result of which is a truly global economy with unprecedented flows of investments, goods, and ideas. This trend has continued, despite the global recession that followed a few years after his book was published. 

In contrast, corporate treasurers have seen little “flattening” of cross-border payment processing since SWIFT was introduced in the 1970s, with the exception of intra-EC euro-denominated payments. The reality is that even in 2016, most cross-border payments have several critical elements of uncertainty about them. And it's not just about moving the money more efficiently:  increasingly the focus is on how to improve the transparency and speed of payment information.

But it is important to recognize that the global banking system (including SWIFT) is not the only influence on cross-border payments. As corporate treasury organizations make tactical and strategic decisions about how to effectively make and receive payments across borders, they must take into consideration a wide range of external forces.

External Forces

Economic instability and geo-political conditions are categories of external forces that corporate treasurers need to take into account when moving funds across borders, not only in the immediate term but when considering the longer term strategic impact on instability on trading corridors and growth markets. Yesterday's historic "Brexit" vote by the citizens of the United Kingdom to exit the European Union is the perfect example of how geo-political instability has both an immediate impact on cross border payments in terms of the impact on FX rates but also on the longer term prospects for trade, foreign investment and the movement of people across borders. It will be many months, perhaps years, before the impact is fully understood.

Industry initiatives leveraging technology advances to improve cross border payment processing are playing a larger role than ever before as global adoption of SEPA elements becomes a reality, new regional payment networks and real time cross border payment solutions are being developed and alternative payment providers are offering solutions to some of the longest standing corporate complaints about traditional cross border payment processing.

Finally, demographic trends such as uneven population growth, migration and the rise of the digital natives will all have long term implications for how corporate treasury moves money and information across borders.

Celent's recently published report on this topic Following the Money: External Forces Affecting Global Transaction Flows includes some of the key data trends related to these external forces that are critical for corporate treasurers to understand and to continue to evaluate as they develop a plan for future proofing their payment environments. The report also includes recommendations for how treasury organizations should collaborate with their transaction banking partners to ensure that cross border payment processing and the delivery of payment information is optimized as the global payments landscape changes.  This report and the webinar on the same topic was produced as part of a series sponsored by HSBC on topics relevant to corporate treasury.

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Corporate digital delivery channels and the customer experience

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.

Treasury, Payables, and Receivables: The alignment of the planets

Treasury, Payables, and Receivables: The alignment of the planets

Liquidity and cash management are the paradigms to measure current enterprise performance. Corporations strive for a holistic approach from their strategic banking partners made of “end-to-end” solutions and services that cross the traditional silos. Financial forecasting and planning are absolute prerequisites for a corporate treasurer. Under the current conditions of inadequate liquidity, invoice discounting is becoming a best practice: vendors offer discounts on the invoice’s face value if they receive immediate payment.

From an income statement perspective, this brings value to the buyer because it reduces the cost of goods sold (COGS).

But the treasurer must question whether it does the same for the balance sheet. Can the buyer’s company increase its debit level to benefit from the discounted invoices? What was to be paid after 60 days must be paid now, if the discount is to be taken. The first action would then be to ask for an increase in the credit line. The financial institution would immediately ask for a projection of future flows, and therefore for a better forecast. A reliable and timely forecast of cash flows before embarking on any initiative is mandatory for corporate treasurers. The sources of the financial flows are, principally, payables and receivables. Their dynamics, managed within the corporate ERP, must be constantly reflected in the treasury management system (TMS). This is, usually, a separate add-on suite of applications. Especially today, under credit restrictions and Basel II directives, banks are cleaning up their portfolios. A corporation that scores poorly on the financial institution’s credit scoring would suffer from an immediate write-off. The treasurer must be able to anticipate the financial consequences of operative decisions and duly report them to the banking counterpart. Therefore, the integration between operational and treasury management systems must be properly secured. Technology can now play a significant role in making the concept of financial collaboration a reality by correlating the functions of treasury, payments, and receivables.