Cash & Liquidity Management

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Executive Interview: Enhancing Customers’ Experience and Exceeding Expectations This month’s Executive Interview is with Markus Straußfeld, Head of International Cash Management Sales at UniCredit Group. TMI ask Markus about UniCredit’s approach to customer delivery, their local and central support infrastructure for clients, and what makes UniCredit’s implementation process unique. Markus also talks to TMI about the internal challenges that clients typically experience and how UniCredit can help them to overcome these issues.

Enhancing Customers’ Experience and Exceeding Expectations

How has UniCredit developed its approach to customer delivery in recent months?

With more than 20 entities making up the UniCredit Group, originating from Italy, Germany and Austria, the bank is characterised by diversity and a strong appreciation of cultural and financial differentiation. However, in addition to recognising and responding to our customers’ in-country needs in the 22 countries in which we do business, we recognised the importance of delivering a consistent experience across countries in order to satisfy the needs of our clients who operate cross-border. When it comes to cash management, over the past 18 months we have focused heavily on further harmonising major processes across countries and entities to enhance the experience of these clients who operate cross-border, such as reporting, cash pooling, and the contracting process.

We have a shared project plan with a client, which provides transparency over tasks, responsibilities, dependencies and is regularly updated with progress and 'red flags'.

In addition to cross-border services, clients also require tailor-made solutions in each country. Optimising our clients’ cross-border and in-country requirements is key to UniCredit’s success. To facilitate this, we have an extensive branch network which provides local flexibility, supported by efficient standard processes that ensure the appropriate level of consistency and professionalism. These developments make it easier for our clients to do business with UniCredit, both at the start of our relationship and in the long term.

How does a local and central support infrastructure work in practice?

Effectively, our teams work on a matrix management basis, aligned with other respected Global Transaction Banking units of UniCredit Group. We have dedicated cash management teams in each country, together with project management and implementation support. In addition, we have central management by function to ensure that the client experience is aligned across countries. For multinational clients, we tend to provide centralised services, but they are still able to benefit from in-country, local support.

How do you structure your implementation process?

Firstly, by harmonising the contracting process across cash management and eBanking services, we can reduce the time and effort required to complete the necessary legal documentation. There is a designated Global Account Manager (GAM) supported by a cash management  product specialist who are responsible for the relationship with the client, who can ensure that project delivery is aligned with the client’s original objectives and expectations. A project and implementation (P&I) manager heads the project, which involves a dedicated team. This P&I manager is the client’s main contact throughout the project, ensuring clarity and consistency.

We have a shared project plan with a client, which provides transparency over tasks, responsibilities, dependencies and is regularly updated with progress and ‘red flags’. We have clear communication channels and an  escalation process so that clients can be confident that any issues are receiving the right level of attention within UniCredit. We based our project plan on realistic time scales, pillared on many years of experience, so that we can accommodate unforeseen events without jeopardising project delivery.

Finally, in addition to consulting clients informally throughout the implementation process, we go through a final project evaluation process as a way of ensuring a continuous process of improvement.

What internal challenges do clients typically experience and how do you help them to overcome them?

I mentioned the importance of communication between UniCredit and our clients, but this also applies to communication between a group treasury or head office and subsidiary companies. Often subsidiaries are not aware of group treasury plans and objectives, the motivation behind certain initiatives and their role within a project. Client resource is a related challenge, as few companies have the ability to bring in additional staff during a project, so they need to manage with existing staff, not only at group treasury level but also within subsidiaries, which may be an even greater challenge. Conversely, some companies make excessive use of third-party consultants. 

These scenarios often lead to confusion and frustration. Too few resources creates delays or risks a decline in quality. Too many external consultants often means that while the project can be completed on time and to high professional standards, there may be a mismatch between the company’s expectations and project deliverables. Additionally, project knowledge may be lost at the end of the project, with a lack of internal ownership.Having senior P&I managers working closely with the sales team from the start of the project helps to avoid these issues, by sharing experiences gained from working with many clients. We ensure that project timelines reflect the resourcing available, and that the project is clearly documented to ensure no loss of knowledge. We include subsidiaries as well as group treasury in the initial project kick-off so that everyone has common expectations and understands the rationale. Finally, we encourage senior decision-makers in the client organisation to take a role in the project to remove roadblocks and balance divergent opinions.

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