1. Treasury Processes Automation and Banking Services Improvement Races
The development of innovative and increasingly mature algorithms based on technologies such as AI (Artificial Intelligence) and RPA (Robotic Process Automation) is leading solution providers to integrate them to identify trends and automate many tasks. These trends, proposed by the system (i.e. cash management software) and validated by the treasurer, aim to eradicate repetitive processes in favour of strategic decisions.
This evolution is in line with the new regulatory provisions, which open up access to data and thus promote the automated and real-time processing by broadening the scope of action of banks and third parties (Fintech and software publishers). Among other measures, the implementation of the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) in the European Union on the one hand, and Open Banking in the United Kingdom on the other, constrain banks to open access to customers’ banking data, provided that the consumers consent to them.
Data sharing (…) combined with AI can improve the efficiency of operations and decision-making
The major consequence of opening up banking data to third parties is the creation and improvement of solutions for interfacing banking, payment and cash management systems. The OBWG (Open Banking Working Group) of the EBA (Euro Banking Association) had argued “data sharing in the context of Open Banking combined with AI can improve the efficiency of operations and decision-making through automated and autonomous decision-making and insight creation”.
Banking and cash management data are aggregated and used during the system’s learning phases in order to ultimately provide treasurers with pre-processed information and sources of increasing efficiency: definition of forecasting/realization/matching and seasonality patterns, access to balances in real time, partial disappearance of cut-offs, etc.
The relevance of the analyses and recommendations generated being closely linked to the quality and quantity of datasets (in an AI context for example), the opening of datasets allowed by the PSD2 tends to generate the design of new and more extensive features for third parties and the emergence of new “Fintech” needs and services. Thanks to this democratised access to massive banking data and their consolidation in real time, treasury solutions can now offer new advanced automation and management functionalities.
Besides, some banks wish to leverage, with the help of AI, their very large amounts of data collected over a long period of time (transactions, balance changes, interactions between accounts, etc.) to offer companies personalized banking services adapted to their business challenges. Until now, it was complex and costly to exploit all this data with mainly human resources.
2. Emerging Sustainability Issues and ESG Criteria
Although the regulation promulgated in December 2019 by the European Parliament mainly concerned asset management companies, it has an indirect but considerable impact on cash management. The regulation requires institutional investors to explicitly state whether their investments take ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) criteria into account, thereby encouraging the adoption of sustainable investments.
The integration of ESG criteria into risk management processes and the inclusion of specific measures in treasury performance reports are new elements to be put in place in this framework.
This has a real impact on the Treasury department’s financing possibilities. Indeed, companies are responsible for minimising their exposure to environmental risks in order to ensure the extent of their financing possibilities. This takes the form of reports assessing the sustainability of their activity, followed by a “CSR Scoring” of their financial products. If their strategy is to opt for “ESG compliant” products, investors are thus led to make a judgement on the attractiveness of the company and influence its long-term capital sustainability.
Treasurers are also involved in the investment process. Indeed, companies are showing increasing interest in ESG products, particularly in the context of improving the effectiveness and credibility of their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) strategy. Major groups, which are required to produce annual environmental and societal reports including investments, are particularly concerned. Moreover, many of them have set ambitious climate targets and are paying greater attention to ethical and social issues. From this point of view, the treasury department, like all others, is aligned with the company’s overall strategy and objectives.
3. Towards the Cloudification of Treasury Management Systems
Despite the advantages of SaaS offers (streamlining costs, real time, security, maintainability…), companies have long been reluctant to host their financial data outside their servers, particularly through the voice of CIOs fearing for their sovereignty and integrity. After more than a decade of democratisation, the model has managed to reassure and, convinced that application hosting is an area of expertise that is not mastered internally, CIOs are now looking favourably on the move of the company’s critical applications (ERP, accounting, treasury information system or TMS, payment, etc.) to the Cloud.
As decision-makers’ reluctance is diminishing, the balance of demand among publishers is now leaning towards Cloud or SaaS offers, preferred to On-Premises hosting. The survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit confirms the trend: 44% of respondents (out of a sample of 300 treasurers) consider Cloud Computing/SaaS as the major technology of the next 5 years to improve data exploitation, with AI and RPA. The Cloud is thus seen as a reliable solution for processing the growing amount of information and treasury data and accelerating strategic decision-making.