Secret confessions of a TMS developer

By Michael Farrell | 16 January 2018

Software development is one of those occupations that has no ending. There is never a point in time where you can sit back, look at your work and say: “Well I’m glad that’s finished." The reason is that development never ends because the rate of change and new demands are accelerating.

It is fascinating to observe the changes in technology since 1985, the year that Salmon Treasurer was born. In those days the three main influences on the development of a TMS were relatively straightforward compared to today. These were:

a) Technology

b) Third party software

c) Clients’ requirements and financial instruments

Let’s have a brief look at those.

Technology

PCs were new then and were considered by IBM to be toys. At the top end of the range, they had 10 megabytes of RAM and were made to resemble the green screen terminals of mainframes and minis. Software applications were virtually non-existent, LOTUS 123 was state of the art and colour monitors were a costly luxury. Database technology revolved around Dbase.

Third party software

Technology offered by third parties was market information from the likes of Reuters and Bloomberg. Not much else for the Treasurer to have to deal with.

Client requirements and financial instruments

Treasury Management wasn’t a dedicated function within businesses. Financial instruments were reasonably simple and confined to FX, Debt, Trade Finance while functionality revolved around Cash.

But oh how the technology world and treasury management has changed.

Microsoft and Apple emerged as the dominant forces in the technology market. Between them, they introduced or adopted the DOS operating system, and from that Windows and its successive versions. They brought us SQL, multiple development toolkits Visual C, Visual Studio, GUI interfaces, point and click technology, remote access, mobile phone, tablet and a whole raft of other technologies. We now have SaaS, PaaS and IaaS where applications, networks and environments are in the cloud. Outsourcing of technology has taken over from inhouse development and the word that sums all that up is: Integration.

Third party software is now unrecognisable from that time. We now have:

a) Electronic Banking Systems

b) Trading platforms

c) Payments’ systems

d) Bureau services

e) Market Data on a grand scale

f) Confirmation Matching Systems

g) Risk systems

h) Regulatory repositories such as EMIR and Dodd Frank

i) Etc.

Salmon Treasurer clients now have a myriad of instruments that they can trade in a variety of markets including Foreign Exchange, Money Markets, Debt, Derivatives, Trade Finance, Facilities, Commodities, with a variety of ways to configure and trade these instruments on a 24 / 7 basis.

Treasurers have a centralised and decentralised treasury operation spanning the globe. They want,  expect and deserve information and data at their fingertips. They want it presented in detail, in summary, in tabular formats and dashboards. They want to eliminate manual processes and have sophisticated security and controls in place. They want instant access to everything on mobile phones and tablets over Wi-Fi and internet.

The lot of a TMS developer is to meet those demands and those requirements. And we have to meet them in an environment where each of these are moving parts because of the influence of new technology, new instruments, new reporting and regulatory requirements, new risks. Treasurers need instant access to cash positions, debt portfolios, currency and counterparty exposures, forecasts and they want all that wrapped up in security and compliance structures.

Technology, third party software and customer requirements have become far more complex and challenging for the TMS developer.

A successful TMS is measured in terms of the following factors:

a) Instrument coverage

b) Range of functionality

c) Seamless integration with other systems – inbound and outbound

d) Flexible, parameter driven, visually strong reporting

e) Speed and ease of implementation

f) The quality of the database to record data and afterwards offer easy access to the data

g) Navigation and ease of use

And finally, the people you must listen to more than anybody else are the users of your system - corporate treasurers. They know best what they want and how they want it. The closer you are to them the easier it is to hear and to understand what they are saying. The old developer adage still rings true…they want a horse and the closer you are to them, the better chances you have of delivering it. The farther away from them you are, the more your horse will resemble a camel.

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