Cash and Payments Transformation at Wienerberger
by Chris Van Tieghem, Group Treasurer, Wienerberger
The construction industry was hard hit by the worldwide recession in 2009, which triggered a sharp drop in the demand for building materials. On the one hand, new residential construction is heavily dependent on bank financing and, on the other hand, consumers tend to postpone investment decisions as a reaction to the weak economy and uncertain expectations for the future. Wienerberger implemented a wide-ranging action plan to adjust capacity to reflect these developments, which also included active working capital management to reduce inventories, a decrease in administrative and selling costs and a cut back in investments to the minimum. In 2009, the company earned revenues of €1.8bn and it employs more than 12,600 staff.
Group treasury at Wienerberger
Wienerberger has a group treasury department based in Vienna, Austria, responsible for cash management, risk management and financing on behalf of the company. Over the past five years, the company has embarked on a cash management and payments transformation project, so these functions are now centralised in treasury. A project of this type brings significant complexities, but as Wienerberger’s experiences demonstrate, the advantages can be considerable.
Embarking on centralisation
Treasury manages cash pools per country, and a euro cross-border cash pool in Vienna with UniCredit. Where regulations permit, Wienerberger implements local zero-balancing solutions. We also perform inter-company netting on behalf of the group to minimise the total number of external flows between business units. We have a variety of leading systems in treasury to manage our activities, using Wallstreet for treasury management and SAP for netting.
In 2006, prompted by new cash pools in central and eastern Europe, we made the decision to implement a payments factory, for which treasury is responsible. We selected SunGard AvantGard Payments for centralised payments processing which we started implementing in 2007, and which now forms part of an integrated treasury technology infrastructure.