It’s natural that treasurers are being kept awake at night by liquidity issues and rapidly changing cash forecasts during these unprecedented times. But one of the less widely spoken-about challenges of coping with the Covid-19 pandemic is the sudden shift from physical to virtual treasury operations.
As Thomas McNiven, Director, Solution Services, TreasuryXpress, explains: “There have been some parallels drawn between the current coronavirus crisis and the financial crisis of 2007/8. But during the financial crisis treasurers at least had the luxury of working from their usual desks, with access to the systems they required.”
Working from home presents major challenges for many treasurers, especially those who do not yet have agile systems that can be easily accessed remotely. “What treasurers need right now is visibility over their cash – and the ability to quickly answer the questions that are being fired at them from senior management. Those teams still working with Excel, or with disparate systems that do not seamlessly ‘talk’ to each other, will be finding things extremely tough right now,” notes McNiven.
While this is challenging on a professional level, it’s also difficult on a personal level. Tracy Kantrowitz, Chief Marketing Officer, TreasuryXpress, comments: “The treasurer is in the hero seat right now. Being at the financial frontlines of the crisis, he or she has a great opportunity to help see the company through this time. But they can only do this if they have the right tools to help them access and share the financial information they need, when they need it. So, there’s a lot of frustrated treasurers out there at the moment, looking for quick technology fixes to enable them to step into that role more easily, especially at a time where there is so much more on their plates.”
No time for bells and whistles
Of course, no treasurer has the time right now to be thinking about a full-scale revamp of their treasury technology. As such, they are looking for solutions to help bridge the gap until such a time when they have the luxury of being able to think more strategically, rather than simply firefighting.
McNiven believes this is where ‘on demand’ solutions come into their own. “Treasurers need cloud technology that can be deployed remotely, in a rapid timeframe, with minimal effort and budget. Critically, that technology needs to be scalable – no one wants to be adding bells and whistles at the moment. They need an easy solution that works from the get-go and provides a Band-Aid to get them through this crisis period.”
Treasury technology vendors are responding to this call for assistance in creative ways, with many of them offering free trials of their technology and fast-tracked remote implementations. TreasuryXpress was one of the first to react, launching its Treasury Technology Relief Program. This initiative offers free subscriptions to the company’s self-service treasury management tool during the current crisis. The program is designed to support new clients that have had their manual and physical operations disrupted during the coronavirus outbreak.
“Without turning this into a discussion about us as a vendor, it’s important to highlight to treasurers what’s possible right now,” says McNiven. “Our on-demand TMS model is characterised by an agile development methodology, short implementation times, digital integrations and open, API-powered bank connectivity. This means that we can give treasurers the visibility they’re looking for – without the hurdles that often deter organisations from deploying ‘traditional’ treasury technology,” he says. “Teams can be up and running with our solution in just seven days.”
As well as assisting with visibility, the solution can help to minimise risk. Kantrowitz comments: “With a cloud-based solution, you have the peace of mind that the vendor is taking care of cybersecurity – that’s a given for anyone providing cloud services. But the tool itself offers further cybersecurity and fraud benefits, which are especially critical at this time.”
McNiven expands on this, saying: “For example, it minimises the number of users that are accessing multiple platforms, by centralising data through a single platform. This can be particularly useful when it comes to monitoring payment flows for fraudulent activities and understanding which users have access to bank accounts.”
And there are many additional elements of the software that users can begin to explore once the fallout from the pandemic starts to settle. “While proving a Band-Aid right now is important, the true benefits of great treasury technology come with the ability to analyse the information you have at your fingertips and use that to be more strategic. Hopefully, once treasurers get a taste for the kinds of innovative technology offerings that are available today, this will accelerate their digitisation and automation journeys – and we will see even greater use of open, on-demand technologies, as well as developments such as artificial intelligence.”
Kantrowitz also believes this crisis will be the trigger for some longer-term, positive changes within treasury departments globally. “In my opinion, this is a true disruption environment. Treasurers are rethinking the way they work and the resources they need. These challenging times could well be the catalyst for new approaches to everything from treasury workflows to treasury talent. Despite the hurdles, this is an opportunity to rewire treasury processes, remove legacy obstacles and put treasury back in the spotlight, for all the right reasons.”