Jan Dirk van Beusekom (BNP Paribas): From proprietary solutions to co-operation and platforms
Jan Dirk van Beusekom, Head of strategic marketing for cash management and trade solutions at BNP Paribas, says the bank is embracing a wide range of technologies and partnerships that can help corporate clients improve their working capital management.
How can new technology make life easier for treasurers, especially in increasing visibility and control over cash?
Finding cash internally or reducing the need for working capital is currently of the utmost importance. Internal solutions are often cheaper and easier than tapping external sources, especially in times of crisis. Working capital management involves trade finance, global markets including foreign exchange, interest and commodity hedging, leasing, supply chain finance, factoring, cash management and other disciplines, which in most corporates and banks tend to be decentralised. That makes it more complicated for treasurers to find what they’re looking for.
Corporates are increasingly seeking support in the quest for cash, working capital optimisation and speeding up the cash conversion cycle. With the latter, much depends on one’s position in the value chain and power to extend payment terms without upsetting relationships with suppliers. There are fewer options regarding receivables, except with insight into collection methods – for example persuading clients to switch from cheques and manual transfers to direct debits or instant payments. To enable our corporate customers to analyse their own clients’ payment behaviour, we provide them with dashboards both for cash – CashBoard - and trade - TradeBoard.
We have also developed Centric, a single sign-on working capital portal giving treasurers and other corporate stakeholders access to features including Connexis Cash, Connexis Trade, the Supply Chain and FX+ modules, as well as fintech partners such as CashForce. This offers treasurers visibility and control over the chain from procurement to sales, and the ability to discuss with procurement and commercial colleagues how best to optimise working capital. To keep free cashflow above strategic and reserve optimal levels, not to mention operational cash, treasurers need a broader view of working capital and their cash conversion cycle.
"Corporates are increasingly seeking support in the quest for cash, working capital optimisation and speeding up the cash conversion cycle."
How are you helping treasurers to improve working capital management?
Covid-19 notwithstanding, most corporates continue to implement their centralisation and harmonisation projects. We advise clients to join one of our initiatives, since today everything is about imagination, resilience, rate of learning, being part of an ecosystem and embracing a hybrid digital and physical world. Not just methods and tools but the entire environment, business models and our attitude toward competitors have changed. We are competing on user experience, which needs increased creativity to meet client expectations, and resilience in the face of virtual and real viruses as well as climate change.
We are creating communities in areas including digital technology, cyberresilience, corporate social responsibility, payments and treasury in general, such as the Journeys to Treasury initiative with the European Association of Corporate Treasurers, SAP and PwC, or our Treasury Board events. We are also active in supply chain initiatives on blockchain and platforms such Concur and Marco Polo. We were a co-founder in 2018 of the Trade Information Network, which aims to fill the financing gap in early stages of the supply chain and make it easier for suppliers to obtain financing from their bank or other network members. It enables companies to share transaction data including purchase orders, invoices and shipment information simply and securely with banks when they request financing.
What technology is already in place or on the horizon today?
There is a shift from proprietary and individual solutions to co-operation and platforms, even as technology drives further digitalisation. Technologies already at hand include robotic process automation, APIs and cloud-based applications; blockchain and artificial intelligence are maturing, while we are monitoring areas such as biometrics and intelligent process automation. The EU’s revised Payment Services Directive has helped open up markets to new entrants, obliging banks to become more innovative and co-operative, and expanding the scope of APIs, which have been used for a long time in intrabank processes. Given the multitude of accounts and counterparties, a practical solution is to start small, with information from one bank, for example using CashBoard, then bring in ERP systems, and finally an application such as CashForce to assemble data from other banks.