by Nancy Colwell, Director of Treasury, USI Holdings Corporation
Although eBAM (electronic bank account management) has been discussed for some time, there are currently only a few corporates exchanging eBAM messages either through banks’ proprietary solutions or through SWIFT. The term eBAM is often incorrectly used to refer to tools provided by treasury technology vendors for managing bank account and signatory information within the organisation. These tools should more correctly be described as ‘BAM’ or bank account management, while eBAM refers to the electronic exchange of messages with counterparty banks for opening or closing accounts, or changing signatories using banks’ proprietary systems or SWIFT. Despite corporate enthusiasm for eBAM, adoption has been delayed in many cases, firstly as their banks or vendors may not yet support it, but secondly as companies have not first implemented an internal bank account management tool. USI has been one of the first companies to adopt both an efficient process for managing bank account information internally, and to extend this solution to incorporate eBAM, as this article describes.
Account management at USI
At USI, we have a centralised approach to account management. Accounts are opened by group treasury, and functional control is then passed to the local business unit. Typically, we have 80-100 accounts, although this number increases when we acquire new businesses until entities have been integrated fully into the group. In most cases, accounts are held with one bank, except for accounts of acquired entities, and we also hold accounts with regional banks when required.
Taking the first steps towards eBAM
Historically, the process of opening and closing accounts, and updating signatories, has been manual, using spreadsheets to hold bank account information, and faxing or emailing instructions to the banks. This involved significant manual processing and was prone to error and omission. As a business, we are committed to efficiency and transparency, so we recognised the need to enhance the way that we managed our bank accounts.