Leveraging Bank Connectivity to Enhance Customer Service
by Jonathan Quin, World First
World First was founded to provide small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and private individuals with a personalised and responsive foreign exchange (FX) service with excellent exchange rates. Furthermore, World First is able to offer foreign exchange options and derivatives, usually only available to larger companies. As a result, we have seen rapid growth over the past five years, growing from three to 98 staff, and exponential expansion in trade volumes; for example, our payment volume has increased by 400% over two years. We can provide FX services in most tradable currencies, and provide both ad-hoc and regular transactions to our clients. Clients use our services for a variety of reasons; private clients are usually buying property abroad, emigrating or sending money to their overseas accounts. Corporate clients are usually importing or exporting.
While our payment volumes were still small, it was relatively straightforward for our payments team to fax payment instructions or input them into our banks’ online payment systems. However, our goal has always been to offer the most responsive, reliable service possible, so as our volumes increased, we wanted to implement a more reliable solution to avoid the risk of error and enhance our operational efficiency. There were various elements to this. Firstly, we needed a highly functional and automated back-office system for transaction processing. Secondly, we needed to extend efficient straight-through processing (STP) through to our banking partners.
We therefore made the decision to build a back-office system that facilitates end-to-end STP from customer request through compliance checking to payment. Customers can access the system directly to transact online, or contact us by telephone. We made the decision to build our own system as opposed to licensing a third-party system as we recognised that a system that was designed around our needs, and to which we could add functionality very rapidly, would be a major strategic and competitive advantage. We now have nine dedicated IT developers who can enhance our system in line with customer priorities and to enable us to provide the best possible customer service. Our system is integrated with a variety of specialist applications, such as an external credit tool and Accuity for checking bank account details online. Any necessary approvals can be done within the system according to customer-specific rules, and incoming and outgoing payment information exchanged with our banks. We then cover our risk automatically with key partner bank, Barclays.
Achieving service level targets
One of our objectives as a business is to provide a highly responsive service to our customers, so we need to identify incoming payments promptly, then make the onward payment to the customer’s requested beneficiary as quickly as possible. We have established challenging service level agreements with our customers by guaranteeing same-day payment for transactions where we receive the client’s funds before cut-off time. To achieve this, we need immediate notification of incoming payments for automatic reconciliation, and the ability to make payments quickly, securely and reliably. World First was one of Barclays Corporate’s first users of its web-based banking system, Business Internet Banking, a solution that we found very reliable and user-friendly. However, we couldn’t integrate this system with our back-office system, so with rapidly increasing daily payment volumes, we were seeking a solution that provided industry-leading automation, security and rapid information flows.