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CFOs: More can be done to offer global standards and automated solutions
Banks can do more to provide global solutions to facilitate standardisation and automation of routine cash and treasury management processes, and enable collaboration across business units to increase corporates’ finance performance

January 03, 2018 | Foo Boon Ping
  • Brian Stief, Johnson Controls’ chief financial officer, believes that global capabilities, standardisation, and assistance with increasing global regulatory requirements are important considerations in determining whether a bank is a core relationship bank
  • The difficulty in updating technology and the lack of system integration or compatibility are some of the challenges to making finance function more efficient
  • A global survey revealed that Asian firms generally scored above average in their adoption of new technologies, notably big data and the internet of things

As businesses grow increasingly internationalised and corporations have to confront evermore complex cross-border regulatory environments, banks are becoming an essential part of the corporate global finance value chain. Corporates rely on banks for many essential services that include cash and treasury management; credit and loan products and services; foreign exchange (FX) and commodity; capital allocation and market; and investment banking and advisory services.


Brian Stief, chief financial officer, Johnson Controls

For instance, Johnson Controls that operates global diversified technology and multi-industrial business across more than 150 countries maintains a core group of global relationship banks that it partners for these services. According to Brian Stief, the company’s chief financial officer (CFO), “global capabilities, standardisation, and assistance with increasing global regulatory requirements are important considerations in determining whether a bank is considered a core relationship bank.”

He shared that there are many challenges and opportunities to better serve a CFO’s needs: “These include offering global solutions to facilitate further standardisation and automation of routine cash and treasury management processes; providing a single global relationship manager that knows the entire company; and providing timely advisory services related to strategic matters, risk mitigation, and capital allocation.”

“One example is the opening of the SWIFT network to corporations. By embracing standardisation, banks provide and enhance opportunities for CFOs to improve payment processing, cash application, and cash conversion,” he elaborated.

Banks can also do more to facilitate collaboration across the business functions of their corporate customers. One way is by creating global standards for payment protocols and reducing the number of proprietary bank platforms.

As a result of these actions, banks are helping to facilitate cross-business unit collaboration and provide additional opportunities to centralise core finance processes. For example, our business units can now further improve their shared services environments by efficiently processing global payments from more geographic locations.

“On a daily basis, Johnson Controls receives bank statements for each of its global bank accounts. These statements are linked to our reporting systems, improving the speed and efficiency at which we complete cash application and reconcile statements,” he shared.

A 2017 global survey of 1,500 senior finance executives commissioned by SAP found that leading CFOs in top performing companies use the latest tools and technologies to enhance the finance function’s performance. In Asia, three-quarters of CFOs cited automation as key to improving their finance function’s efficiency, allowing them to focus on value-added tasks. And more than two-thirds (68%) said they are also using technology to boost collaboration between finance and other business units.


Richard McLean, regional CFO of Asia Pacific and Japan, SAP

While using technology to automate and streamline the finance function can help companies to boost efficiency, not everyone is benefiting from it. In Asia, just 75% of respondents of the survey said automation is improving their finance function’s efficiency. “The top challenge to making finance function more efficient is the difficulty of updating technology and the lack of system integration or compatibility,” explained Richard McLean, regional CFO of Asia Pacific and Japan, SAP.

While using technology to automate and streamline the finance function can help companies to boost efficiency, not everyone is benefiting from it. In Asia, just 75% of respondents of the survey said automation is improving their finance function’s efficiency. “The top challenge to making finance function more efficient is the difficulty of updating technology and the lack of system integration or compatibility,” explained Richard McLean, regional CFO of Asia Pacific and Japan, SAP. Notwithstanding these challenges, the survey showed that Asian firms generally scored above average in their adoption of new technologies, notably big data and the internet of things. Investments in cloud-based applications, security platforms, analytics, and mobile platforms could represent opportunities for Asian firms to increase efficiency.


David Craig, former CFO of Commonwealth Bank of Australia

“We’re going through a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve customer service, boost efficiency, and lower costs by using technology,” said one of the survey respondents, David Craig, former CFO of Commonwealth Bank of Australia. He added: “Technology improvements make producing the numbers dramatically easier.”

And it definitely gives CFOs more time to collaborate on strategic initiatives that not only enhance finance efficiency but also improve the overall performance of companies.




Categories: Technology & Operations, Transaction Banking
Keywords: Johnson Controls, CBA, SAP regulation, transaction banking, foreign exchange, technology

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