Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Are banks really global and innovative?

Ann Cairns, CEO, transaction banking, ABN AMRO Bank set the scene at the opening session of Eurofinance's International Treasury and Cash Management Conference in Florence by depicting how the role of the treasurer had changed over a period of 15 years.

She spoke about globalisation, the proliferation of the internet and online payment services such as PayPal(which by the way was developed by a non-bank) and how these forces had dramatically transformed cash management. She asked the more than 1000 treasurers present, whether ERP software was giving them what they wanted in terms of visibility into their working capital and payment flows?

One question she failed to omit, however, was are cash management banks giving corporates what they want? The answer was forthcoming in the next session, where in a live poll of delegates, only 7% indicated that bank innovation had had the greatest impact on treasury over the last 15 years. Technology was the biggest influence on treasury operations, gaining 47% of the vote and centralisation and outsourcing garnered 16%.

In a proceeding session on real-time liquidity management, which concluded that there were too many physical barriers to managing liquidity on a real-time basis, Paulo Mueller, corporate treasurer, Logitech International, Switzerland, countered that whilst working with a global bank made global liquidity management more possible, there was no such thing as a truly global bank. "The global banks are not there yet in terms of their back office, harmonisation of structure," he countered. As much as the banks would have us believe they are global, the final say should perhaps go to the treasurer of a company that is 'truly' global as Logitech is in 33 countries and has yet to find a single bank that can service its global liquidity needs.

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