Speed becomes the key differentiator for treasury and cash management providers.

Author: Gilly Wright

Insisting that the treasurer role hasn’t fundamentally changed, John Laurens, head of global transaction services at DBS, says that treasurers have long embraced new technologies to create additional value, drive efficiency and better manage risk.

“What has changed, however, is an acceleration in the array, number and cost of new technologies coming to market and the resultant pace of change that these solutions bring,” Laurens says. “Businesses are increasingly adopting data-driven approaches as they pursue their digital business objectives. The need for usable, reliable, real-time and relevant data has therefore never been greater.”

Banks can provide corporate clients with guidance in building digital treasury and cash-management solutions aligned with regulatory requirements. Multinational corporations face a variety of change drivers—technical, regulatory and even internal, such as supporting liquidity and information-sharing across the business—Laurens notes, and “online advisory services such as DBS Treasury Prism can help to build multidimensional views of potential solutions, pinpoint opportunities or obstacles and support treasurers in maximizing value for the enterprise.”

Mark Evans, managing director of transaction banking at ANZ, says that, while greater speed, efficiency and visibility continue to be important across the Asia-Pacific region, there are also differences country to country. “Asia is a diverse region from a political, economic and regulatory standpoint,” he says. “The treasurer’s job is becoming increasingly complex, especially because of the pace of regulatory change in Asia.”

When it comes to technology, Evans says treasurers have come to expect the simplicity and convenience they experience in their personal lives to also exist at work, but warns that treasurers need to be wary of hype around innovation and new technologies and to be clear on what problems they are trying to solve: “This is the approach we have taken to innovation at ANZ and have focused our trials—with distributed-ledger technology, for example—on proof of concepts that solve real-world problems and specific pain points of our customers.”

Raof Latiff, head of digital in the institutional banking group at DBS, believes collaboration is the best way forward: “As banks, fintechs and corporations cooperate and cocreate, open APIs [application-programming interfaces] provide an essential means of accessing and sharing data to benefit the ecosystem as a whole. Corporations can benefit from these new solutions that enable them to leverage data to identify areas of inefficiency and potential opportunities to improve returns.”

This passion for data, however, brings security into sharp focus. “In the past this may have been viewed as just a bank, or a technology, problem,” Latiff says. “Now, however, there is greater awareness among treasurers that it is also their problem and an issue they need to address.”

Are banks and regulators across Asia-Pacific ready to meet the real-time demands of digital payment systems, and will this require a more nimble approach to liquidity management? Australia is ready because of the New Payments Platform, designed to provide overlay services on top of real-time payments. It’s not just the faster payments that are useful, but also the data that accompanies them.

While there are obvious benefits to virtually instant payments, faster payments mean that everything else—fraud detection, risk mitigation and so on—also needs to happen faster. The transition will require significant adjustments in related processes on both bank and corporate sides. Banks need to bring their other systems, such as online-banking platforms, up to real-time speeds as well. Meanwhile, treasurers also need to update their systems—accounting platforms, for example—to align with a real-time environment.



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