First Steps in Collaboration
by Hakan Aldrin, Head of Client Relationship Management and Jonny Sander, Offering Manager Corporate Segment, GTS, SEB
It may seem inconceivable in a world of smartphones, tablets and laptops that communication can still remain quite so difficult. Ordering your holiday reading material, checking the weather forecast at your destination on the way to the airport, and using your phone as your boarding pass are no longer anything special. Over recent years, we have witnessed the growth of collaborative information sharing, where parties can engage in a dialogue to gain real-time access to information. For example, while electronic communication using email and SMS messaging was a major step forward in instantaneous communication, both are unidirectional. With social media, however, one way communication is replaced by a dialogue or even ‘multi-logue’ across a community of individuals who share something in common, across a single network. The business community is benefitting from greater collaboration just as much as individuals, including leveraging more structured forms of collaboration. For example, SWIFT connectivity enables banking and corporate counterparties to communicate across a single network, with significant potential in the future for a wider range of services and information exchange. This article explores the theme of collaboration in treasury, and considers some of the opportunities that exist.
Where can I find ...?
Treasury departments are typically small but as Erik Seifert outlined earlier in this Guide, they are taking on an ever wider set of responsibilities, both to influence the factors that affect working capital, and to respond to increasing globalisation of the business. This leads to a changing set of knowledge and skill requirements, which may not fall within the traditional forms of treasury and finance education programmes. Furthermore, as the diversity of treasurers’ roles, and geographic reach of their activities expand, treasurers increasingly face dilemmas that no-one in the department will have dealt with previously. For example, it may be strategically important for a Swedish company growing in Asia to offer distributor or customer financing in Indonesia. How does treasury go about setting this up, bearing in mind that the regulatory and cultural environment will be quite different to the company’s home markets? Conferences, seminars and roundtable events are very valuable in facilitating dialogue and knowledge sharing, but they take time away from the business, which is particularly difficult in a small team, as well as incurring costs. It is also ‘hit and miss’ as to whether you will meet people with the relevant expertise.
Making the connection
As people share experiences and best practices, the professionalism and richness of insight across the industry as a whole is enhanced.
Accessing a common platform with a large membership of professionals working in similar fields, who combine diverse skills and experiences, allows treasurers and finance managers to open up a huge body of knowledge and tap into the expertise they require in a convenient way. Not only can individuals access the information they need, but as people share experiences and best practices, the professionalism and richness of insight across the industry as a whole is enhanced. This was the original rationale behind the formation of the Benche, the online meeting point for the financial community, founded by SEB. Although SEB facilitates the Benche, it is open to any financial practitioner and their bankers, vendors and advisers. Since launching the Benche and extending its reach across trade, cash management and custody, it has become a primary reference and communication forum for finance professionals, with around 5,500 members and 20,000 visitors each month. Visitors originate from over 200 countries worldwide, with members from large multinationals through to small and medium-sized enterprises, together with their banks and advisers. We quickly realised that the Benche had a major role to play in relieving the professional isolation that many practitioners were experiencing, not only those located outside their company’s headquarters or in countries without an established treasury community, but all those dealing with new challenges or expanding into new countries. Furthermore, recognising that many people have connected to one or more online social media sites, we have extended the accessibility of the Benche by linking to Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Benche) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/thebenche), and podcasts are now available through iTunes.