The Austrian Corporate Treasury Association’s (ACTA) recent 2022 Tech Day in Linz covered a comprehensive set of topics ranging from eBAM to AI. In this blog, we present highlights from the day and key takeaways for corporate treasurers.
Is the virtual conference already passé? As the Covid-19 pandemic eases its grip on Europe, traditional annual events such as EuroFinance and Sibos are returning to business as usual. The more fledgling annual Tech Day launched in 2019 by ACTA is back at full strength this September – after a cancellation in 2020 followed by a scaled-down event last year – with a full one-day programme of six presentations attracting delegates to the town of Linz.
The 2022 Tech Day saw representatives from major fintech names such as FIS and Kyriba present and ACTA members responded to the opportunity to ask questions mid-session. The day kicked off with a review of developments in electronic bank account management (eBAM) by Gregor Opgen-Rhein, Senior Sales Consultant for e-banking solutions provider Omikron Systemhaus, who outlined the group’s MultiCash product suite, which includes electronic banking, online banking and payment factory solutions.
While awareness of eBAM goes back many years, uptake was initially muted but in recent times has increasingly become a hot topic for corporates. They can benefit from Omikron Systemhaus’ MultiCash solutions even where their bank has been slow in developing its eBAM facilities. Meanwhile the MultiCash Communication Platform has been developed for banks seeking to provide user-friendly transaction banking services for corporate clients and can handle the know you customer (KYC) process.
Gordon Guelal, senior sales executive Germany, Austria and Switzerland (DACH) & Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), corporate liquidity and bank treasury for FIS Global and colleague Sabrina Sommer focused on cash forecasting. The task of cash forecasting, already a tough one even before Covid-19, has been further aggravated by the pandemic and its consequences. In the session, titled “Ways to optimise liquidity planning”, they noted that treasury must increasingly make provision for the “Black Swan” events that have characterised recent years. This is being helped by the adoption – albeit belated – of AI and ML in scenario planning. AI is central to the redefinition of the corporate treasurer’s role as it transforms from an operational one to a more strategic one that can add value to the organisation.
Nearly five years on from FIS’s team-up with Citi to introduce real-time payments and cash management for corporate treasury via application programming interfaces (APIs), the group has developed a central infrastructure payment solution for countries to build their own real-time payments networks or modernise existing ones. FIS has also recently announced the launch of a Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) Virtual Lab to assist countries experimenting with or piloting CBDC initiatives.
Payments-as-a-Service (PaaS) – managed automation that assists with the various tasks of managing global payments – was the focus of the presentation delivered by Thomas Keim, Principal Solution Architect for Finance Automation and B2B Payments Software Group Serrala. Under its recently appointed new CEO, Hartmut Wagner, the group is accelerating its global growth and innovation programme as it responds to the increasing focus on automation within financial services.
Keim described Serrala’s mission as “bringing clarity to complexity” on PaaS challenges. He noted that the digital transformation of treasury structures – and particularly corporate payments – is driven by companies’ general move towards more digitalisation and greater willingness to innovate, coupled with the growing demands of regulatory compliance and the challenges of bank communication and format conversion, which PaaS can help simplify.
Connectivity, open banking and virtual accounts
Afternoon sessions commenced with Alexander Hänsel, Solution Engineer for Kyriba focusing on international connectivity for payment transactions via networks. It’s an area in which the group has a commanding presence as the world’s biggest bank connectivity service and one that also has most extensive format library, with more than 49,000 payment format scenarios.
Hänsel commented that a broad variety of connectivity options is crucial within global payments management and described the Electronic Banking Internet Communication Standard, aka EBICS, as “the holy grail” and global standard for bank connectivity, yet one that is far from widely established. Kyriba’s goal is a “heterogeneous systems landscape”, which is supports through data exchange with its customers source systems.
In a dual topic presentation from Commerzbank, Katharina Berner focused on open banking while colleague Patrik Saal addressed virtual accounts – a term that is often used collectively for a diverse range. While there are many advantages for corporates in transferring from physical accounts to virtual ones there ae also several challenges, such as the variation in regulation from one country to another. Berner said that Commerzbank is keen to maximise the opportunities being released by open banking. It has already launched a number of services and more are planned.
ACTA Tech Day 2022 concluded with a session on cash management from Erich Stark, Head Of Corporate Treasury Solutions at PwC Austria. PwC is an organisation that regularly takes the pulse of corporate treasury through its surveys. The session was titled ‘Cash Management – What Else the Treasury Market Can Expect?’ and examined the “metamorphosis” of payment traffic in the digital age and the respective influences of regulators, banks and IT solution providers. Stark described instant and real-time payments as the enabler for treasury moving to a more strategic role in providing an accurate view of available cash across the organisation at any given moment. He also noted that improving cashflow forecasting had become the top priority for treasury even before the pandemic began yet it remains a major challenge for many companies.
The presentation concluded with the declaration that corporate treasury must fulfil its role to be both a business partner and a performance driver for both the CFO and the company. Treasury’s strategic importance is likely to be further emphasised in what promises to be a grim winter ahead in Europe, with the future course of energy costs – and the scope for hedging – still uncertain. Nonetheless, the mood in Linz was upbeat and the event will have done much to strengthen the profile of ACTA, an organisation that has made great strides since its formation less than five years ago.