Uncertainty around Brexit, oil wars and America’s multiple trade disputes have been complicating firms’ ability to manage cash flows and prepare treasury plans, but many of these issues have been totally overshadowed by the devastating emergence of COVID-19.
Finance and treasury functions face uncertain times. JPMorgan is forecasting America’s economy to contract by 14 percent in the second quarter of 2020 alone – while Europe’s GDP could shrink by up to 22 percent before the pandemic has started to subside. Major rebounds are expected to follow at the tail end of the year as governments work closely with banks and industry to pick up the pieces.
In the meantime, businesses alone must shoulder a huge proportion of the risk mitigation and damage control that’s now required to keep their companies afloat – which is where treasury comes in. Yet to ensure businesses survive and thrive, treasurers must first obtain a dynamic set of tools capable of quickly adapting to an extraordinarily fast-changing business landscape.
According to analysts at Deloitte, treasurers attempting to insulate their organisations from COVID-19 must immediately prioritise supply chain risk management, secure financing and place renewed focus on cash management. That means stepping away from spreadsheets and looking to something that provides more flexibility in order to enhance cash capabilities in uncertain times. Fortunately, the market is starting to address demand.
Flexible solutions for troubling times
At the start of 2020, German-based payments specialist Treasury Intelligence Solutions (TIS) announced it was teaming up with Finnish cash management and treasury solutions provider Analyste to co-sell their respective best-of-breed services together as part of a unified portfolio. As a joint API-powered solution, the new collaboration will combine TIS’ range of payments services and cloud capability with Analyste’s treasury workflow modules in order to simplify the payments process for treasurers and create a proverbial one-stop shop capable of connecting with over 10,000 banks.
According to TIS founder and CEO Joerg Wiemer, that connectivity and flexibility are now more important than ever for treasurers hoping to safeguard their businesses in the age of COVID-19 and make a strategic impact at the C-level.
“On the business side there are obviously some risks ahead, but also some opportunities – and in those difficult times, both cash visibility and having a professional and standardised payments process are keys to success,” he says.
“I was in a treasurer role during the financial crisis in 2008, and my CFO showed up on an almost daily basis wanting to know ‘where is our cash?’ ‘How much exposure do we have with certain banking groups?’ You now need to be able to answer those questions if you want to shine in front of your CEO.”
Yet in addition to highlighting a critical need for treasurers being able to account for enterprise-wide cash visibility, the COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed other emerging threats to business continuity.
With a number of governments across the globe now enforcing country-wide lockdowns, many banks and corporations are being run almost 100 percent remotely – thrusting issues of IT infrastructure, security, duplications of effort and segregation of duties into the limelight. These problems will be particularly prevalent for large corporations operating across different jurisdictions without the benefit of a centralised, cloud-based system that’s being updated in real-time and provides critical audit trails.
It’s worth pointing out that all of these industrial threats transcend the serious health pandemic currently sweeping the globe. Many businesses have been struggling for quite some time trying to navigate an otherwise disjointed market in order to find and implement a centralised payments solution that offers all the functionality and flexibility treasury teams truly need to keep track of cash and create added value within their respective organisations.
“A lot of companies are under real financial stress at the moment, and the problems that our customers typically have around payment automation relates to having a fragmented landscape of payments being initiated from multiple systems with no overarching governance model in place, and then sending the payments to several banks,” says Analyste CEO Mikko Soirola.
“If you’re running a global operation, you might have 200 different banks or thousands of bank accounts that you manage. That can be overwhelming and really put a lot of strain on your workforce – and a lot of treasuries and finance operations typically just don't have the resources to do it effectively.”
That’s where TIS and Analyste are stepping in.
“Ten years ago we made the right bet and started a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud solution. Today, we believe it's time for another bet, and this is best-of-breed enabled by API. And why is that? Because this creates value to clients in a very fast and flexible way,” says Wiemer.
“Customers want to buy the best solution for their needs. Those needs are growing, and they are sometimes changing. We’re enabling customers to combine the best solutions without the implementation or with the old lengthy customisation.”
By relying on development sprints that are triggered directly from client feedback, TIS and Analyste say they’re able to ship new software features and updates to modules that power cash forecasting, netting and guarantee management in as little as thirty days. Because these modules are all supported by cloud connectivity, enhanced functionality is added instantly and automatically.
“This innovation flows constantly into our modules, which creates additional value. And that's the beauty of APIs,” Wiemer said.
“In that API world, you can easily connect those best-in-breed systems – and so those modules are not only connecting cloud platforms to each other, but also connecting those platforms to your ERP or on-premise systems as well.”
Unlike some other leading white label TMS or ERP systems companies might ordinarily look to for managing cash visibility and payments, this new approach by Analyste and TIS effectively empowers businesses to pick and choose which services they actually require rather than try to grapple with the cost and waste of unwanted functionality.
“We’ve got a very modular approach, and you can pick and choose all the solutions that you see value in for your business. Consequently, you also pay for those solutions only – but you can add additional components as you need them, so there is also that future proofing element available,” Analyste’s Soirola says.
Tackling regulatory hurdles
Treasury has been exposed to a phenomenal amount of regulatory upheaval in recent times – from the arrival of Volcker 2.0 and question marks over the Libor transition, to SFTR and 5MLD. Add in the flurry of updates, filing delays and temporary closure regulations being introduced as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and treasurers are going to need to plan on devoting a substantial amount of their time managing compliance throughout the tail end of 2020.
This is one more pain point that a range of treasury solutions are able to take on in order to free up some of that time.
“Leveraging a central integration platform ensures consistent workflows and consistent processes according to your company policy,” Wiemer says.
“Segregation of duties is really important on the payments side. That’s why it's so important to have a secure process which complies with the regulations.”
According to Wiemer, by implementing Analyste modules alongside the TIS cloud platform in parallel with an existing on-premise ERP system, corporates would benefit from total segregation of duty from day one of implementation. This means that if a company’s ERP system were to crash, teams could still execute payments via the TIS and Analyste cloud suite – which is backed by ISO, SOC 1, SOC 2 and TSX certifications as well as a server that runs in collaboration with Amazon Web Service (AWS).
“That way you don't have all eggs in one basket,” he says.
In an attempt to extend this added security layer to a wider pool of businesses, the two service providers are currently working to reduce friction and lower implementation costs to ensure treasury teams are able to start benefitting immediately from this new API-powered approach.
“We’re looking at ways and actually have campaigns at the moment that allow our customers and prospects to easily use our solutions without having to make any upfront investments,” Soirola says.