Solving Treasury Pain Points Through Co-creation
By Eleanor Hill, Editor
Despite huge advances in technology, treasurers are still grappling with fundamental issues in their everyday workflows. Buzzwords alone are not enough to solve challenges such as painful account opening processes or the growing risk of payments fraud. This is why BNP Paribas is co-creating with its corporate clients to leverage the latest treasury technologies to deliver concrete solutions that solve today’s treasury headaches, while preparing treasurers for the future operating environment.
Auguste Rodin, the French sculptor famous for works such as ‘The Kiss’ might not have obvious links to the world of treasury. But BNP Paribas’ latest European Treasury Board session, bringing together almost 50 treasurers from across the continent, kicked off with a tour of the Rodin museum in Paris – and in fact there were many lessons to be learned about co-creation.
Some of Rodin’s best work was done in collaboration with one of his assistants, who later became his mistress, Camille Claudel. She sculpted the hands and feet of figures for some of Rodin’s monumental works, notably ‘The Gates of Hell’. Claudel was also inspired by Rodin to create her own sculptures, and the two fed off each other in a creative partnership.
As Pierre Fersztand, Global Head of Cash Management, Trade and Payments, BNP Paribas pointed out, this partnership approach is, “Precisely the aim of the BNP Paribas Treasury Board, bringing sharp minds from the corporate and banking spheres together to come up with innovative yet practical solutions.” Working together ensures that any solutions directly address real treasury pain points, since corporates are directly involved in creation and testing of innovations – with the bank appointing corporate ambassadors to each co-creation project. This approach ensures that solutions remain relevant and practical, and are actually what corporates want and need, not just innovation for innovation’s sake.
Welcome to the future
The day of co-creation, which was moderated by Jan Dirk van Beusekom, Head of Strategic Engagement, Cash Management and Trade Solutions, saw the evolution of four projects from previous Treasury Board sessions. First up was a new solution named ‘Welcome’ which aims to vastly reduce the time required to open a bank account, thanks to digital workflows and the use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to pre-populate Know Your Customer (KYC) information.
Despite momentum in the wider market towards standardised KYC processes, notably SWIFT’s KYC Registry, and the longer-term lobbying role that BNP Paribas is playing, the bank is keen to make progress right now – hence the Welcome project. Michel Verholen, Assistant Treasurer, Global Treasury Centre, Zoetis, one of the corporate ambassadors for the tool explained some of the developments around Welcome, and the benefits. “The concept of Welcome is to be able to open a new bank account in just a few clicks,” he said. “We wanted a solution that would stop the duplication of workflows around KYC – every time you open a new account with any bank, you are asked the same questions, when the bank already has that information. This makes the account opening process quite painful and drawn out, especially where there are additional local compliance checks on top of central ones.”
The challenge, explained Verholen, is that the information required to open a new account is often fragmented and unclear. “As such we were looking for a central portal where all of the information the bank holds is already displayed and any missing pieces are flagged up. This is exactly what we are working towards with Welcome.” The solution, as Mikaël Masson, Welcome Project Leader, BNP Paribas, noted, is accessed via BNP Paribas’ CENTRIC platform and uses APIs to pull together KYC information from both internal bank sources and external sources – soon to include SWIFT’s KYC Registry. This information falls into four buckets: company information; organisational structure; tax information; and bank account details.
One of the biggest improvements Verholen has seen so far during testing of Welcome is the use of digital signatures, via DocuSign, and the fact that all digital documents can be signed off in just one click. This means that, where regulations permit, there is no need to send original documents and a large proportion of the to-and-fro with the bank can be dispensed with, vastly speeding up the account opening process. The fact that a large proportion of KYC information is pre-filled on the digital bank account application form also delivers time efficiencies. “Another big benefit is that a bank account number is reserved and supplied the moment the application is submitted. This means that treasury and IT can work to activate it in SAP while the bank completes the final compliance checks, which again saves time” said Verholen.
The project continues to evolve and Verholen is keen to have access to a central KYC repository at all times, not just for opening a new account. He would also like to see more functionality in the tool in terms of integrating new bank accounts into cash pooling structures, for example. Understandably, Verholen also sees standardisation as key – given the multi-bank environment that many corporates operate in.
Masson agreed, stating: “The dream is to have a fully standardised, paperless bank account application process which interfaces with industry utilities such as SWIFT’s KYC Registry and integrates into a client-centric digital lifecycle solution. All information on the new bank account application form should be able to be signed off in just one minute. The bank will then take a few days to open the account and confirm back. It’s as simple as that.”
Welcome is already live in France, the UK, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, and the Netherlands and will soon be rolled out to Germany, Ireland and Belgium. More than 2,000 digital onboardings have already been processed using the tool and many more are expected in the future. And Fersztand hopes the tool will also be used to better manage recertification of existing KYC information going forward.
Track and trace
The next co-creation session tackled the thorny issue of tracking payments – but interestingly, with a focus on beneficiaries and making them aware of the status of specific payments that are due to them. The solution being worked on is called ‘Benetracker’, and complements SWIFT’s global payments innovation (gpi) initiative. As a reminder, gpi is revolutionising the way treasurers track cross-border payments thanks to the use of a unique end-to-end transaction reference (UETR). BNP Paribas is one of the banks leading the charge in delivering gpi Tracker functionality direct to clients and has enabled gpi functionality on MT as well as XML messages.