Bringing Back Office Functionality to the Treasurer’s Fingertips via Tablets
Mobile banking and payments have been around for a few years in one form or another. Unsurprisingly the majority of mobile innovation and investment initiatives so far have been driven by the large numbers of retail banking customers, not corporate banking customers.
The mobile channel offers consumer customers a new and convenient banking experience, especially when delivered through smartphone apps, which allows the bank to connect into new social media and digital marketing programmes. But how are the mobility needs of the corporate banking customer being met, if at all? Certainly many banks and technology vendors offer mobile corporate banking or payment solutions. But the demands of the corporate treasury and business environment are different, so new approaches are needed – often a tablet is much more convenient and easier to use for a treasurer looking to work outside the office than a smartphone.
Corporate treasury employees also deal with many more systems and applications than consumers. Treasurers need secure access to multiple bank cash management solutions, authenticated authorisation procedures, plus internal enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, and perhaps dedicated treasury management systems (TMSs) – not to mention Excel spreadsheets and the like.
Treasury staff are of course very comfortable accessing treasury and payment systems and applications from their corporate desktops at the moment, but taking that experience to the mobile world – and meeting the security and integration challenges along the way with the help of banking and technology partners – is substantially more challenging than delivering equivalent mobile project to consumer banking counterparts.
The reality is that many mobile corporate banking solutions aimed at corporations and treasurers today have a fairly restrictive level of functionality – where the experience often only provides critical account balances, alerts, and approvals for transactions with not much else on offer. Unfortunately, the majority of smartphones and corporate-issued mobile devices are not equipped to deliver a full treasury experience. Small screens and small keys do not lend themselves well to either the consumption or input of mission-critical data.
With this functionality deficit in mind, treasurers and their banking and technology partners have been experimenting with tablets. The larger form factor of tablets lends itself well to data consumption, decision-making and subsequent action – bringing back office capability to the mobile device. For example, tablets could allow treasurers to review account balances and cash forecasts around the world, analyse the corporate investment portfolio, check a queue of payments pending approval, or initiate an investigation into payments that didn’t reach their destination. But even in this scenario there are challenges with integrating the tablet app experience into the existing treasury department or bank systems and workflows.
One of the key challenges in making mobile working practices convenient is integrating the suite of productivity applications typically used across a back office or treasury department. Chances are that a tablet app becomes infinitely more useful to the user when it also integrates to corporate email, Excel spreadsheets and the ERP, TMS or customer relationship management (CRM) systems.
Consider a treasurer viewing cash position summaries within a tablet app, and then exporting that information directly into the company’s standard spreadsheet application for deeper analysis. The next step might be to save that spreadsheet to the tablet and then email a secure copy to another staff member for review.
To that point, in order to remain competitive it is incumbent on technology developers and banks to develop new and innovative services and solutions that can really add value to the treasury user; a fancy dashboard is not what is required. In other words, tools that help a treasury run more effectively should be the defining characteristic of mobile aids. When taking that to the mobile world this means delivering as rich a productivity experience as possible, especially across multiple device types and operating systems to ensure access and convenience no matter where you are.
Business Intelligence Apps
One area of corporate treasury app development receiving a high level of interest presently is ‘actionable’ business intelligence (BI). Information gathered from multiple reporting and payments systems and delivered in a timely and reliable manner to tablets is one of the most valuable commodities in cash management, and especially suited to app development.
Browser-based online banking and treasury applications offer rich insights and analytics, but it can be time consuming to login and discover the information. With an app, executives can instantly access essential BI summaries and then drill in for more detail without the traditional browser login. Ideally, the same app will run on their phone, their tablet, and the office PC, and can be integrated with the enterprise productivity tools.
The other major mobility challenge is of course securing any corporate data on mobile devices – whether smartphones or tablets. This challenge takes on several different forms, including data at rest on the device, encrypted and secure delivery of data to and from the device, user permissions and authentication for applications, and of course the security of the device itself.
Perhaps later in the day the same example treasurer we referenced earlier is flying off to another office location. On the flight they use their tablet to read news articles, for instance, or perhaps some sensitive work-related documents or spreadsheets, or even the global cash position analysis they saved from the night before. Unfortunately our treasurer leaves his tablet in the seatback pocket. The device is lost – and sensitive, confidential data is lost with it if it is not adequately protected.
With good reason, line of business leaders and IT procurement managers are examining tablet form factors that are designed to be enterprise-ready. That is, these tablets were designed to provide enterprise-grade networking tools and connections to back office technologies. Not only do they connect securely to the corporate enterprise, via virtual private networks (VPNs) or the like, but corporate IT also has the ability to remotely wipe data should the device ever be lost or stolen.
Business executives immediately recognise the value of tablet devices that run the same operating system and business productivity applications that are available on their enterprise desktops and laptops; and share the enterprise grade integration, security and device management tools that financial services IT departments demand. Users can access the same apps from home or on the road as they might use in the office on a different form factor. These form factors should also meet rigorous payment and bank security and compliance requirements, and offer touchscreen user interfaces (UIs) that enable new mobility and productivity scenarios to develop. For example, with the larger screens of a tablet, treasurers can now process payments or analyse cash reporting from the boardroom, or the airport, or their dining room table.
There is constant discussion in the industry about the need for mobile apps for today’s executive workforce. But when is an app much more than a mobile app for tablets? When it runs on many different form factors – PC, tablet and smartphones – to integrate the work-style and lifestyle of today’s corporate users; and meet the stringent compliance and purchasing demands of enterprise IT. Operating systems and devices that can do this can truly bring back office functionality to the fingertips of treasurers.