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Helping Companies to Achieve their Potential in CEE There are few companies today that find their suppliers and customers solely in their domestic market. We examine the benefits of choosing a regional banking partner when expanding into new regions, such as Central & Eastern Europe (CEE).

Helping Companies to Achieve their Potential in CEE

by Kristine De Lepeleire, General Manager International Cash Management & Cash Clearing, KBC Global Services

The economic landscape has changed unrecognisably in recent years, as a result of globalisation, the emergence of new regions, such as Central & Eastern Europe (CEE), Asia and Latin America, and the continuing ricochets of the financial crisis. These events have converged, and will continue to influence fundamentally the way that corporations do business. There are few companies today that find their suppliers and customers solely in their domestic market, and competition is increasing continually, with new market entrants often from remote regions with different business models.

The liquidity challenge

While Asia is often feted for its attractions both as a sourcing and consumer market, CEE is quietly continuing to grow and offers considerable opportunity for every industry. This is being recognised not only by European companies, but trade between CEE and Asia is also growing rapidly. As companies expand into new regions such as CEE, maintaining liquidity becomes more important but also more complex. In addition, the global financial crisis has resulted in constrained market liquidity, which further complicates treasurers’ and finance managers’ efforts. Often, companies have appointed local banks on entering new markets in the past, leading to fragmentation of cash, difficulties in achieving visibility and control and the considerable complexity of managing multiple banking relationships and interfaces.

CEE is quietly continuing to grow and offers considerable opportunity for every industry.

With liquidity at a premium, treasurers are increasingly focusing on rationalising and centralising cash. They are also seeking to work with fewer, trusted banking providers, in order to manage their counterparty risk while ensuring cash management efficiency. This is leading many treasurers to realise that they can achieve their cash management objectives by appointing regional banks. For example, the KBC Group, with subsidiary banks across CEE, has developed a reputation for proven capabilities in the region, combining local proximity, expertise and cultural appreciation with the ability to support a regional or global cash management strategy.

Differentiation and standardisation

When delineating the world by region, it is tempting to think of each region as a cohesive bloc, but this is never the case in reality. For example, every country in CEE has its own language, cultural identity, political and economic strengths and challenges, in the same way as countries in every other region. As some CEE countries join the European Union, adopt the euro and join SEPA, the synergies with other countries in Europe are growing, making CEE an increasingly attractive and logical business destination. Even countries that have not yet adopted the euro have an interest in SEPA, as they recognise the opportunities for pan-European trade: for example, Hungary was one of the first countries to implement SEPA Direct Debit.

Standardisation is key to achieving corporate objectives, to avoid fragmentation of information and technology. SEPA will be helpful in enabling this, by delivering consistent payment methods and formats. KBC is integrated closely into the European payments landscape, and a pioneer of SEPA services. We go further than this however, with a pioneering approach to streamlining communication and information flows beyond the geographic reach of SEPA. Consequently, we are well-positioned to bridge CEE and Western Europe, meeting local and pan-regional payments and cash management requirements.

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