Newer market economies face issues of smaller scale and a wider array of currencies than their western counterparts.

Author: Gilly Wright

For the most part, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has progressed alongside (or just a little behind) corporate-banking innovations occurring in the rest of Europe, adapting to the increasingly demanding regulatory environment while increasing speed, transparency and data access.

“Changing customer needs require banks to take action and drive innovation in cross-border business-to-business payments,” says Susanne Prager, head of cash management at Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI). “For RBI Group, it is important to provide state-of-the-art international-payment services,” she says. “With SWIFT gpi, a new era dawns in the international-payments area, making increased transparency and same-day use of funds the standard at RBI for euros and dollars.”

Still, in the CEE specifically, the size of many of the domestic companies—CEE has a larger proportion of small and medium-size enterprises than Western Europe—and continued reliance on sovereign currencies rather than the euro mean the region has certain cash-management issues. RBI converts payments going into CEE into unique formats that are specific to each country and differ from SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) standards.

“Western Europe is a bit more mature than CEE in terms of bank preparation to support the need for centralized cash and liquidity management,” says Cédric Derras, global head of cash management at UniCredit. “The challenge in the CEE is to keep pace with big companies that are looking for full centralization and mobilization of their subsidiaries’ cash.” UniCredit is investing heavily in technologies that will help corporations in Europe cover the whole of Europe, he explains: “It’s a real necessity if you want to be a real pan-European bank.”

With the demand for shared service centers (SSCs) growing, more and more companies are looking to integrate CEE into their SSCs. An increasingly regional approach is persuading pan-European companies to encompasse CEE, Western Europe and future EU accession countries into an SSC—making it an attractive option for maximizing payments and cash management.

On the subject of technology, Prager says customers are looking for solutions providing end-to-end connectivity to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems—improving their liquidity management in different regions: “RBI serves its customers with global solutions customized to their local needs in Austria, as well as in Central and Eastern Europe. It is focusing on a flexible and agile infrastructure that is scalable for continuous functional improvements. Especially, the harmonization of various formats and products across the group is a key feature of the future International Cash Management (CMI) platform. To guarantee state-of-the-art security for online solutions, RBI is rolling out a new software-based two-factor authentication solution in line with highest security standards.”

CEE has long been recognized for its innovative mind-set, and UniCredit launches many of its digital transformation offerings there in order to test them. This includes a new innovative transaction-banking tool called GTB Spider, which processes a large amount of data to provide a deep understanding of corporate customers’ behavior.

Any bank wishing to be a reliable partner in the CEE region will need to continuously invest in service excellence, technology and new developments in digital banking. “Product innovation will continue by working directly with customers to define and understand their demands in treasury and cash,” concludes Prager. 



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