by François Masquelier, Head of Corporate Finance and Treasury, RTL Group, and Honorary Chairman of the European Association of Corporate Treasurers
e-BAM is an acronym that conceals plenty of mysteries for many treasurers. Is it a fantasy or a true message type that will really be in use in the short term? e-BAM or BAM to be more exact at the time of speaking. Let us take the mystery out of this concept by defining the outlines and the challenges of this coming era in the banking relationship.
‘e-BAM’: what lurks behind this onomatopoeic acronym? A term that is fashionable in treasury management? A buzzword doing the rounds? A word redolent of promise but that does not convince us that there is any substance behind it, at least not now? Finally, surely e-BAM is a very virtual concept, not really tangible. A treasurer’s fantasy, a mirage in the middle of the financial desert? Perhaps just wishful thinking? We should not be so negative. Nevertheless, we have not got very far with it.
For once, some treasurers seem quick(er) off the mark and especially more ready than their banks to take advantage of a new type of SWIFT message to manage the banking relationship (i.e., ‘electronic Bank Account Management’). Perhaps treasurers are getting too far ahead of the game? Surely supply falls far short of demand? A number of treasurers have raised a whole series of core, legitimate, questions.
Could the proactiveness of corporate treasurers move things forward and push the banks into offering more? By pushing the banks to offer more, they might make things happen faster. Some eBAM pioneers have anyway already gone down that road, and plan to spur the banks into action.
More than just a fashion item
Aside from being a fashion item or a somewhat innovative concept, eBAM would not seem to be the most exciting and sexiest subject that treasurers could come across. Who, however, would dare say that managing the banking relationship is not worthwhile, or that it is simple, easy, carefree and most of all free of risk. No one, obviously!
It is one of the areas of improvement identified by many treasurers anxious about their procedures and internal controls. Buzzword or fuzz? That is indeed the question that you expect us to answer, to convince you that sometimes you have to act to move things on, without waiting for the banks to serve them up to you on a platter. Treasurers need to contribute to shaping the future of eBAM, rather than submitting to it passively sooner or later when the banks are ready. Many of us have so many other things on our plates that e-BAM has been relegated to the back burner. Worthwhile, helpful, but unfortunately often not considered a priority for the treasurer’s job, eBAM has not kept treasurers awake at night (and with a few exceptions they don’t sleep that well).