A Centralised Approach to Cash Management at Menarini Group
by Alessandro Nesti, Financial Activities Corporate Director, Menarini Group
Pharmaceutical company Menarini Group has a strong reputation for quality and innovation across the 100 countries in which it has operations, developed over many years. To support the ongoing expansion of the business, Menarini’s group treasury embarked on a project in 2012 with UniCredit to rationalise bank relationships, centralise cash and liquidity management, and streamline financial processes both in Eastern Europe and in Italy. In this article, Alessandro Nesti, Financial Activities Corporate Director, Menarini Group describes the background to the project, Menarini’s achievements and future plans.
Before embarking on this project, we had a decentralised approach to cash and liquidity management in our major Central & Eastern European (CEE) locations that are part of our subsidiary company Berlin Chemie, with local operations in each subsidiary, and cash held in a large number of bank accounts with multiple banks and in different currencies. This created particular challenges, as it was difficult to establish consistent, complete visibility over cash, and to leverage group liquidity effectively. For example, cash surpluses in one entity needed to be transferred manually to fund deficits in another, resulting in considerable administrative effort and inefficiency. Furthermore, there were credit and operational risks associated with holding balances in local entities and accounts. In Italy, although cash management for the ten Italian subsidiaries was centralised, we lacked the ability to sweep cash balances into a single account automatically. It therefore took considerable time and resources to undertake this process manually, with a high probability of error.
Adopting a centralised approach
In 2012, we decided to launch a project to centralise funds across the Berlin Chemie subsidiaries in Central & Eastern Europe (CEE), and to automate cash centralisation in Italy. Our aim was to establish timely, accurate visibility and control over cash, increase financial efficiency and reduce risk. In addition we would be able to rationalise our banking relationships, close a large number of redundant bank accounts, and extend our relationship with UniCredit from being our domestic partner bank in Italy to become our CEE cash management bank. We already had a well-established relationship with UniCredit, and recognised the bank’s experience in designing and implementing efficient liquidity management structures. The bank’s network matched the Berlin Chemie footprint in CEE, which includes Austria, Romania, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Poland.
We implemented pool accounts in each entity in CEE and Italy with UniCredit which are automatically zero-balanced to/from the header account at the end of each business day. This enables treasury to take full control of group cash across the countries belonging to the Berlin Chemie Group, without the need to conduct manual transfers. We also implemented UniCredit’s electronic banking system, UniWeb in Italy, which provides us with full, real-time visibility over cash flows across all of our Italian subsidiaries. UniWeb is also used by each of these participating entities to monitor balances and flows, and in some cases they are responsible for local payments, which they also conduct via UniWeb.
There are a number of challenges to consider when rationalising bank relationships and centralising cash and liquidity via a cash pool. The most significant obstacle is resistance from subsidiaries that are concerned about the loss of autonomy and control over local cash. We overcame this by explaining that as the primary goal of each subsidiary is to grow the business rather than expending resources on managing cash, the project would enable them to redirect these resources to supporting and developing their business activities. We also received considerable support from UniCredit’s cash management team, which has a local-language, expert presence in each of the relevant countries in CEE as well as Italy. The team offered support to each local entity and helped to overcome some of the initial resistance as well as ensuring a smooth transition. This team was co-ordinated by a single project manager and the global sales manager who managed the relationship throughout.