SAP & SWIFTNet for Treasury & Payments Efficiency
by Bart Jansen, Director of Treasury & Risk Management, Coca-Cola Hellenic
Coca-Cola Hellenic (’CCH’) was formed in 2000 as a result of the merger of the Athens-based Hellenic Bottling Company and the London-based Coca-Cola Beverages. Since then, we have become one of the largest Coca Cola bottling companies globally with annual revenues of €7bn and a territory extending across 28 countries from Ireland to eastern Russia, serving the needs of over half a billion people. As the company expanded its geographic footprint, our banking partners multiplied, leading to fragmentation of cash flows, account information and connectivity, and a lack of standardisation. Consequently, in addition to enhancing our liquidity management through increased use of cash pooling techniques, we made the decision to standardise and rationalise our bank connectivity, in order to enhance security and compliance, improve ease of maintenance and reduce costs.
We are currently undertaking a major multi-year project to roll out a single SAP platform across the group, which will be completed by 2014. We recognised that this was an ideal opportunity to enhance centralisation, standardisation and efficiency in treasury. Until two years ago, treasury was not part of this initiative; however, it made business sense to align our objectives with those of the overall SAP rollout. We therefore decided to upgrade our SAP Treasury installation and connect to SWIFTNet in order to create a single, global gateway for all of our subsidiaries to connect to their banks. In addition, we wanted to set up an in-house bank to enable treasury to provide centralised FX and liquidity services to the group. We presented the business case for all three elements of our project in November 2009: the SAP installation; SWIFT connectivity, and an in-house bank. This was accepted, so we proceeded with defining detailed objectives and project tasks.
Approach to implementation
At the start of the project, firstly, it was important to align our project steps with those of the overall SAP project. Secondly, we did not have the appetite for direct SWIFT connectivity, so we needed to appoint a service bureau. We had only a limited time to make a selection, but we went through a careful process and ultimately selected BBP in Switzerland on the basis of their quality of service, technical resilience and experience connecting to SAP. The latter point was particularly important as we could leverage BBP’s expertise derived from working with corporates with comparable business and technical needs, therefore reducing our project risk.
We decided to connect SWIFTNet in order to create a single, global gateway for all of our subsidiaries to connect to their banks.
We opted for a phased approach for implementing SWIFT connectivity. We first set up treasury payments at headquarters level with one bank, Citi. Once we had proved the concept, we could then roll the solution out more widely with lower risk and greater credibility. Adopting this approach has meant that any project challenges were minimised and more manageable. A key consideration was to co-ordinate the major players in the project, each of whom had a major role to play. For example, it was crucial to bring IT into the project early, not least to ensure that our security and compliance objectives would be achieved. The same applied to the relevant bank personnel. We found that it was not always easy to identify the right resources within the bank who had the necessary experience with SAP, but to do so was essential. So too, we needed to engage service bureau personnel, who then worked closely with our consultants and internal and bank colleagues to progress the project. Timing was very precise throughout, not only due to our internal project constraints, but also as it is only possible to go live on SWIFTNet on one day each month; therefore, had we missed our initial timescales, we would have had to wait a further month.