Corporate finance professionals have traditionally expected a high volume of manual processes and administrative work to be part of their responsibilities. Spreadsheets have been used for years to capture, track, and reconcile data, growing ever larger and more complex. For organizations working with more than a handful of banks and accounts, up to half of a treasury analyst’s time can easily be spent just on bank statement reconciliation – all done manually.
While there is clear value in having a treasury management system in place, many companies are not yet ready to make the financial investment required. That doesn’t, however, mean that automation is out of reach. A bank connectivity provider can help you take the first steps on the road from Excel to a TMS.
“What used to take half a day of my time now only takes an hour or two – the process is much smoother. We’re saving at least 15 hours a week, and the quality of the data is much better than what we had before.” – Megan Kasparian, senior treasury analyst at American Tower.
American Tower is a leading independent owner, operator and developer of wireless and broadcast communications real estate founded in 1995. The company uses Fides to connect with 35 banks and 300+ accounts around the world.
The spreadsheet scenario
Everyone understands spreadsheets. Executives are familiar with them. Treasury staff are accustomed to using them. Microsoft Office, including Excel, is standard-issue software at almost every company, so there is no additional financial outlay, installation time, or ramp-up time. An argument can be made for the fact that spreadsheets can be easily edited, no special system or training (other than possibly an advanced Excel online training course or tutorial for junior staff) is involved. This reasoning, however, fails to take the cost of resources into account. These spreadsheets can be incredibly complex, so much so that it requires one or two dedicated staff to maintain and produce accurate reporting. It’s impossible to be strategic if your staff is completely occupied with what is basically purely administrative work.
Spreadsheets also open an organization up to greater risk: security risks through unregulated circulation of data, such as emailing attachments without encryption or password protection, plus risk of manual error. However, the cost of a TMS may be seen as prohibitive. And even if you have the approval to move forward, evaluating the options and then installing the solution can be a lengthy process, leaving treasury staff to deal with spreadsheets for that much longer.
A modular approach to treasury operations management
For treasurers working with spreadsheets, bank connectivity and data aggregation tend to be areas of continuous pain. High volumes of data must often be manually collected from each individual bank portal. If this is a pain point for your organization, implementing a bank connectivity solution could be the right answer. This approach allows your team to replace the current spreadsheet processes in a methodical, gradual manner, rather than doing it all at once.
Treasury management solutions require banking data. Some TMS’ offer bank connectivity as part of their solutions, but the options are usually limited. Working with a third party multi-banking provider (sometimes also referred to as a treasury aggregator) can automate many of the time-consuming manual processes currently managed in spreadsheets, plus allow you to collect data that could potentially be fed into a TMS in future. They also are scalable, enabling you to add more banks, accounts, and payment providers as needed. Solutions such as Fides ARS for account reporting and Fides EFT for electronic file transfer offer web-based access, eliminating infrastructure costs and providing accessibility to treasury staff globally.
Automate processes through bank connectivity
The core value proposition of a TMS is centralized control – controlled access, controlled data, controlled cash, and controlled risk – and greater operational efficiency. A bank connectivity provider provides all of these benefits specific to banking connections, making it the logical first step towards a full treasury management system. You get automated data aggregation today plus the ability to feed that data into your ERPs and/or a TMS as your business grows.
Millicom International Cellular S.A., a leading provider of cable and mobile services, handles hundreds of accounts globally through multiple banks located in various parts of the world, using multiple ERPs. Regional treasury staff were responsible for managing and reporting on that specific region’s transactions. The central treasury group then had to collect and compile all the regional data into one spreadsheet report.
Now, Millicom uses Fides to receive MT940s from its banks, host-to-host transmitted in files divided per country and bank. For banks that don’t send MT940s, Fides is building converters: the files will be transmitted to Fides in their various formats (which may include XML, CSV, PDF, and others) and automatically translated to the standard MT940 format before delivery to Millicom. This also reduces operational risk: as the transaction data load is automated, there is no longer a need for manual data entry.
A step-by-step path to success
Bank connectivity allows a phased approach, with each step automating more processes and freeing up more time:
- Onboarding: onboard the banks of your choice through the channel of your choice (SWIFT, Host-to-Host, EBICS, etc.)
- Automated reporting: save time, reduce the risk of manual error, and get the cash visibility you need, far faster than possible with spreadsheet reporting
- Cash management: make and receive secure low-latency global payments in the currencies of your choice
- ERP connection: connect your connectivity solution to your ERP to integrate existing data, analytics and reporting capabilities
When you are ready for a TMS, your multi-banking solution will be ready as well. You also gain the benefits of flexibility and portability: if you choose to change TMS or ERP vendors in future, you will not lose any of your bank connections.
“Last year, Millicom established host-to-host connections with some banks in LatAm for our operations – at least 2 banks in each country. Next year we will move to a new version of our ERP. Without Fides, we would have had to rebuild all fifteen connections individually.” – Bogdan Carnaru, Treasury Project Manager at Millicom.
Taking the first steps towards a TMS with a bank connectivity solution will get you out of the spreadsheet rut, provide more streamlined business processes, and make the road to treasury operations transformation a smoother ride.