I nodded off watching an episode of Cash in the Attic, to awake thinking about Treasury function in many global organisations. I found myself asking and trying to find solutions to these questions; how do we ensure we have enough funds to meet our obligations? Where should we invest our funds? How do we know how much to forecast as our cash positions? How do we guarantee we will always have our funds when we need them? This was a dream but these are questions Treasury functions try to answer daily.
It was a few years ago but not a dream this time, working in Treasury in an organisation with over 300 branches. We largely depended on manual processing and confirmation of treasury balances. We essentially relied on email messages to determine cash balances in our locations. When the mails are not coming forth, we resorted to phones and even fax messages (remember them!) just to get key balances across. Excel was our best friend, we relied on it to confirm, forecast, analyse and arrive at a net treasury balance which was used for liquidity management and planning. Managing liquidity was difficult but we thought otherwise. Our eyes were open but we could not see. It was not our fault, the market was stable, liquidity was good, cost of funding was low, and the regulatory regime was not too stringent. This was the era of ‘‘tranquil’’ treasury when treasury largely focussed on maintaining cash balances and liquidity. Oh how this has changed in the wake of the global financial crisis.
‘‘You can transform other areas of finance but the treasury department is out of scope’’, this was a popular phrase I have heard from many organisations during finance transformation engagements. Conventional finance change programmes leave Treasury as the poor man’s process – not sexy, un- appealing, complex, more investment and time required in specialist tools for too small a user base.
Now the trend has shifted as the effects of the global financial crisis continue to bite. Increasingly, Treasury departments now say ‘’Please come, we need help’’. The conclusion from many reviews of Treasury functions is to introduce Digital Technology to modernise treasury processes and bring greater control, accuracy and foresight to meet the growing needs of the business to productively manage debt, investment, credit, foreign exchange, interest rates and regulatory risks. The era of ‘‘digital’’ treasury has emerged, finally we can go after the cash in the attic!
It was a Sunday morning and snowing heavily. As I lay in my duvet and enjoying a good reason not to be in Church – May God forgive me. My phone rang; a concerned voice said; ‘‘I am having issues adequately planning and forecasting our cash requirements. Excel had been the primary way of presenting and collating reports on my company cash balances but as we grow more branches in and outside UK, communicating cash balances over the phones, through emails, word of mouth and presenting to stakeholders through an excel report is becoming unreliable. In the last two weeks we have had to source funds at a high interest rate as we were not able to adequately forecast our cash balances. We have problem monitoring our bank accounts as it takes 24hrs to view certain settlements in our bank accounts……… ’’. Yes, before you ask that was every single word exactly. He was going on and on but I had to interrupt to calm him down. I said, ‘’you need a Treasury Management System (TMS)’’.
A TMS is a digital solution that holds, collates and stores data of treasury balances across branch offices and the whole organisation. It helps improve cash visibility and financial risk management as well as enhancing treasury efficiency and accuracy. Some global organisations are already adopting this as it helps them to have a single view of their cash position worldwide and across their various subunits. With this, Treasurers can easily make strategic decisions on Investments, debt management and efficient allocation of their organisations’ cash position to ensure liquidity, profitability and good risk management. The TMS advantage also includes facilitating prompt cash forecasting and the ability to run on a multicurrency platform. I was not yet finished with him when I said ‘‘your problem will go from bad to worse if you do not get an e-BAM’’ (electronic Bank Account Management), this will serve as an automated bank account management system to manage accounts and it an instantaneous communication with SWIFT network and banks. An e-BAM will introduce a centralised, group-wide capability to view and control bank accounts and bank mandates. It creates efficiencies by replacing manual, paper-based account processes through automation of account management activity and streamlines communication.
He was glad and requested to know more, but I refused, telling him to think about the solutions that I have offered (I did not mention Kyriba Cloud based solution, or IT2 which serves as a enterprise cash and treasury control hub). I needed my sleep desperately and I wondered why I picked his call in the first place. As I slept, it dawned on me that the era of digital transformation is truly here within treasury departments and whilst once this was an avenue too complex with little benefit in digitising, people have realised there is plenty of cash in the attic to be obtained!!