For Janko Hahn, Head of Treasury Operations at Autoneum the last few years have been about driving efficiency and standardisation across the company’s treasury operation. Here he outlines what he has been working on and what is on the agenda for 2017.
What big projects have you been working on of late in an effort to add value to Autoneum?
Autoneum as a whole has been undergoing a significant enterprise-wide transformation in recent years with the decision to adopt SAP as the company’s new global ERP system and reengineer processes. The overall aim of this project has been to become more streamlined and efficient across all of the group’s activities.
Treasury has been involved heavily in the SAP rollout, especially because we decided to use the software as our treasury management system. We were originally considering a number of standalone solutions but saw big benefits in integrating our treasury activities into the new system, most notably ensuring that we can drive straight through processing and use consistent data sets across the whole company.
The rollout of SAP also allowed us to implement our flagship project: a new company-wide payment factory. This solution is enabling us to centralise our payment flows and ensure that the execution of file transfers can be conducted in a low-cost and efficient manner.
What was the toughest part of this project?
For many treasury departments, it is making sure that the voice of treasury is heard during these big enterprise-wide projects, but at Autoneum this wasn’t such a problem because we were involved very early on in the process. Instead, it was the change management side of the project that took up the majority of my team’s time. This was primarily because the rollout of the payment factory would not only impact how the treasury operated but also how the local business units on the ground operated because until then they had run their own payments processes.
Previous experience told me that this would work best if we got their buy-in to the changes planned. We therefore spent a lot of time speaking to the units on the ground and making sure that they understood what we were doing and why. We also took on board their own concerns and leaned on their intimate knowledge of the countries they are operating in. At times these proved incredibly insightful and enabled us to make more informed decisions.
To highlight this, when working with the team in Mexico we asked them to use the US-based bank that we use in the rest of North America. The business units, however, claimed this bank could not support them in some nuanced areas around tax and social security payments and suggested another bank that could. We investigated this bank and then found we could leverage the relationships in some South American countries as well, so it made sense to go with them and everybody was satisfied.
Away from the creation of the payment factory, what else have you been managing of late?
We have been focusing on how better to manage treasury in some of the world’s more challenging markets.
Take China, for instance, which is a very important market for the company. In recent months, there has been a growing use of Bank Acceptance Drafts (BADs). These dramatically extend the terms in which our customers are paying us which puts pressure on the liquidity of the entities in the country. They also provide a challenge from an operational perspective because of the volume of paper that needs to be processed.
What do you have your eye on for the coming 12 months?
There is a lot. We are further investigating leveraging more advanced tools around our payment factory, such as POBO and COBO and expect to make some progress here in 2017.
I am also paying keen attention to the evolving technology landscape more broadly. There is a lot happening at the moment across payments and supply chains, to name but two. For treasury professionals, the difficult part is deciding what is simply hype and what will make a genuine difference to what we are trying to do.
It is also interesting to watch how fintech is impacting the banks and forcing them to think and act differently. In the short term at least, I see this being the main impact of fintech in the corporate space. It is constantly evolving though and it will be very interesting to see what happens in the years to come.
Read the full interview with Janko Hahn in the next edition of Treasury Today.