bobsguide spoke to Cindy Murray, head of platform transformation, digital channels and client experience for global transaction services at Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) about how financial technology can support the consumer and the corporate world. Alongside this, the advantages and disadvantages of using spreadsheets in comparison to APIs and how all of this ties into security.
What is your role at BAML?
I am responsible for our digital channels which include our online platform or portal for our corporate and commercial clients. We are also positioning our online channel as a digital bank for our corporate clients, giving them the ability to open an account and download documents that they need when they need them. In the near future, we will be rolling out electronic signatures so clients can download the documents, electronically sign them, upload and then send them back.
Do you also work with mobile solutions?
I am also responsible for our mobile app and a host of those capabilities, as well as our data integration solutions. My team is also responsible for our treasury platform and more from a transformation standpoint, we are replacing some legacy platforms and introducing an ISO payment engine for branches outside the US.
How does tech tie into the corporate world and how have the clients reacted?
We are just about to launch our electronic documentation solution, with the pilot having started in August and I will be able to provide more details on this at Sibos. Our mobile solution is really what will be used by the decision makers of a corporation, because the actionable alerts will allow an approver to use the mobile device to make payments and review those that might potentially be fraudulent.
How would this benefit a treasurer?
The mobile solution will also have the capability of providing high level summary balance information or let users view their liquidity. It is not for someone who is going to create a payment or someone who is going to do cash reconciliation, it’s really for whoever is on the go and needs to approve and review exceptions.
Do treasurers actually use mobile solutions?
With everything you read, there hasn’t been a lot of traction in treasurers using mobile solutions. The combination of integrating with banks and having a mobile solution that can quickly provide a snapshot of the liquidity position, as well as, having the ability to approve payments, we believe this is a pretty powerful combination.
Are there some benefits of managing cash and dealing with liquidity on spreadsheets?
Absolutely. As we survey our clients and look at industry analysis, Microsoft Excel is still the de facto standard for cash positioning, even when clients have a treasury workstation. Clients still need the ability to slice and dice their data, create cash position and liquidity views, and then share those with colleagues. Recognizing that as a continued trend, we continue to invest in our cash position worksheet that allows clients to securely log in to the bank from Excel to automatically populate their cash positioning data in tables and graphical views. The benefit is that clients get the multibank data they need integrated into the tools they use at work today.
The other thing that I should mention is after talking to our advisory board, clients are really interested in this type of API strategy to access bank services. I really see APIs as the next generation of digital banks for banking, where the bank publishes APIs that clients can integrate to their own apps and devices. This means clients can do their banking without logging into the traditional portal. So, for example, clients would be able to leverage their treasury workstation to authorize a payment, access our service centre to open an account, or extract a report of signatories to comply with internal audits.
What about those who aren’t so technologically savvy?
A lot of our clients are trying to get away from electronic banking platforms and they try to build the solutions on their own, which is very difficult. This is what I am going to spend most of my time doing at Sibos; I want to explore vendor solutions and understand what their API strategies are and how we can leverage them so that corporates can integrate on a real time basis.