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Cash & Liquidity Management
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Responding to Trends in International Cash Management: Solutions based on heritage and innovation

An interview with Roemer Paquay, Head of Transaction Banking Sales, Fortis Bank

Fortis Bank has a long and respected history of serving the pan-European cash management needs of mid-cap and large corporates. Until the demerger, Fortis Bank was the number one challenger in Europe, with a network spanning 20 countries and 140 business centres. Since the split with Fortis, Fortis Bank Nederland has rapidly rebuilt its cash management network and retains the heritage, culture and absolute commitment to service that clients associate with the Fortis name. In this interview, Roemer Paquay, Head of Transaction Banking Sales for Fortis Bank Nederland discusses the structuring of the bank, looks forward towards the legal merger with ABN AMRO in the second half of 2010 and assesses the business environment in which it operates.

Have clients’ needs changed with respect to accessing services internationally from their bank?

Corporates across Europe have changed the way they work with their banks, and consequently, they now have different priorities when choosing to work with a banking partner. Financial stability and access to liquidity are typically the first priorities, but after this, we see that our clients value a variety of different elements of the service that Fortis Bank Nederland offers today, and in which we continue to invest. Based on close communication with our clients, we have developed some key differentiators in our services:

Service culture. The Fortis name has always been synonymous with a strong service culture, which remains pivotal to our approach both today and in the future once the merger with ABN AMRO has been concluded. Our new transaction banking centres, and the strength of our partner bank network ensure that we deliver local services in the locations that our clients need us most. Looking forward, we will further expand on our multiple award-winning service model.

Centre of excellence in cash management. Treasurers are increasingly looking to their banks for advice and support on defining and delivering an international cash and liquidity management strategy. To address this requirement, we have formed a centre of excellence in cash management, based in the Netherlands, dedicated to the cash management requirements of our large corporate clients. This centre is staffed by cash management experts who have extensive international experience, a deep knowledge of the bank and of our delivery platforms. We use integrated technology internally to ensure that we have full insight into each client relationship.

Short communication lines. As working capital and liquidity optimisation have grown in importance, treasurers have taken on a wider variety of responsibilities across the financial supply chain. As they look across their business on an holistic basis, treasurers are seeking a similar approach from their banking partners. Consequently, in addition to the use of integrated technology internally, short communication lines are key in order to be proactive and responsive towards our clients.

Client satisfaction goals. Enhancing client satisfaction is an ever-evolving objective: when we achieve our targets, we set ourselves even more challenging goals. Client satisfaction is a key metric of our success that we constantly measure and seek to improve.  

Connectivity. Treasurers and CFOs are seeking both efficient transaction services for payments and collections, and information tools to obtain visibility and control over their cash position. As companies have banking requirements in different countries, maintain different internal systems and employ different business processes, a bank needs to deliver flexible connectivity solutions whilst ensuring simplicity and convenience. For example, clients of Fortis Bank Nederland will soon be able to take advantage of ABN AMRO’s web-based system Access Online, widely regarded as best-in-class for corporate-to-bank communication. We also actively support SWIFT Corporate Access, and provide a Connectivity HUB for host-to-host connectivity between Fortis Bank Nederland and clients’ internal systems.

How will the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) and the Payments Services Directive (PSD) affect corporates’ cash management needs?

Although it has taken some time to gain traction, there is now a good level of understanding and acceptance of SEPA amongst large corporates. Although some companies have already migrated to SEPA Credit Transfers, a large majority did not initially see the advantages, particularly in countries such as the Netherlands that already have a highly efficient and cost-effective payments infrastructure. Driven by recession, the potential benefits of SEPA are now being investigated further, with companies using SEPA as a catalyst for establishing shared service centres (SSCs) or payment/collection factories. Consequently, we are happy to see both existing and potential clients approaching the bank for advice on the design of their European payment and collection architecture, and seeking advice on how to leverage shared services most effectively.

To what extent do you see SEPA as a catalyst for corporate treasurers to select a single regional bank?

While there are clearly some advantages to working with a single banking partner, and some clients will undoubtedly decide to do this, the crisis emphasised the importance of credit risk management and financial flexibility, which has led many companies to work with a select group of partner banks. This creates both challenges and opportunities. On the one hand, in order to benefit from an efficient cash management strategy, treasurers need visibility and control over their cash position, which requires open connectivity and a commitment by their banks to support their communication objectives. On the other, they can leverage the specific strengths, specialisation and in-country expertise of individual banks to create a best-in-class banking panel. If companies make use of bank-agnostic technology such as SWIFTNet, the technical barriers to a multi-banking arrangement are removed.