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Optimising the Treasury Technology Framework

Interview #3 with Peter van Rood, Group Treasurer, and Johan van der Westhuizen, Treasury Controller, AkzoNobel

In his last two articles for TMI, Peter van Rood, Group Treasurer of AkzoNobel, introduced the treasury transformation project that he has spearheaded, and outlined the approach that the company has taken of defining treasury policies, including exploring how the company obtained financing during the climatic period of late 2008 and early 2009. In this article, Peter and Treasury Controller Johan talk about the new treasury technology infrastructure that was put in place to support the new and evolving needs of the business.

What treasury technology did you have in place before the transformation project, and what were the limitations of this infrastructure?

As we had inherited treasury technology from both the AkzoNobel and former ICI businesses, it was important to put in place a new solution that satisfied the needs of the newly combined treasury function and businesses. We used Wall Street Systems’ Wallstreet Suite (formerly Trema) which had been implemented relatively recently, but this was surrounded by a plethora of legacy systems, including a mainframe system that we used to support our in-house banking and payment factory requirements. This mainframe system was based on obsolete technology and created operational risk in two key ways: firstly, maintaining the system was becoming increasingly difficult and costly; secondly, it was not sufficiently robust to handle the transaction volume and complexity that we required. In addition, we had a variety of other systems in place, including Misys for confirmation matching and SAP FI (financial accounting). These systems were not completely integrated, leading to process inefficiencies and  manual processes with the increased risk of errors and requiring significant resourcing.

Essentially therefore, with a variety of fragmented systems, some of which had outlived their usefulness, we knew that our IT portfolio would not support the treasury transformation that we intended to roll out. Implementing a new treasury infrastructure was therefore an important element of our overall project.

What were your objectives when devising a new technology strategy?

The objectives for our treasury technology project were aligned with our overall transformation initiative, as opposed to setting standalone objectives. Therefore, we were seeking to achieve 1st quartile treasury performance to enable the full operational and strategic potential of treasury to be realised. To enable resourcing to be allocated to more value-added activities, we needed access to a full range of functionality and a high degree of automation and efficiency in our treasury processes. In addition, we wanted to reduce our IT costs, which had become very substantial as we were the only user of our mainframe system, and reduce our dependence on our banks.