Intelligent treasury and dealing with disruption were on the agenda at last week’s EuroFinance International Cash and Treasury Management conference in Barcelona. Here is a snippet of what Treasury Today found out.
Last week’s EuroFinance International Cash and Treasury Management conference in Barcelona will be memorable in many ways. For one, the conference took place with public disturbance and strikes as a backdrop in the wake of the elections across Catalonia the weekend before – events which reminded those attending that unexpected disruption is never far away.
Thankfully the event went by without a hitch and delegates were treated to two and a half days of invigorating discussion around all the changes currently happening in the world and what it all means for the treasury department. Here are some of the highlights:
Reading the signals
The theme for this year’s conference was ‘intelligent treasury’ and bestselling author and former advisor to the White House, Dr Pippa Malmgrem, kicked off the conference by explaining how by opening our eyes to the world we can read the economic signals and see where the market is heading.
To provide an example, Malmgrem explained that we should all check our breakfast cereal in the morning. If the box has not changed size but there is less content inside then that might suggest the company making the cereal is under cost pressure and that inflation may be high. In her view, this method can be more accurate than the economic information distributed by the ‘experts’ and can give treasury an advantage when making decisions on what to do next.
Brett King, world-renowned futurist delivered a thought-provoking presentation titled Banking 4.0: Will your bank make it? King spoke about why, on his prediction, the biggest financial institution in 15 years will not be a bank and instead a technology company like China’s Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent.
Ultimately, to stay relevant, he believes banks have three strategic options in front of them. They can either partner with fintechs, acquire fintechs or try and mimic fintechs – but no matter what they must try and become less like a bank as we know it. Perhaps his most interesting observation, and in his view key to the success of banks in the future, was the type of individuals banks will need to hire in future – they will not be bankers.
All this being said, the question remains whether big technology companies will want to step into the realm of being a fully regulated financial institution; if they do it will certainly be a game changer.
PSD2, Open Banking and APIs
PSD2, Open Banking and the increased usage of APIs are going to change the world of finance. How they will do this is not quite as clear. Many sessions tackled this subject in one way or another, but few provided a solid set of answers. A use case that was frequently mentioned was banks and other providers being able to position themselves as aggregators of data – allowing you to view all your accounts across all your banks through a single app, for example.
One thing that was clear, however, is that significant change is coming. As such, treasurers cannot bury their heads in the sand. Instead, the prevailing advice was to work with banks and technology partners as PSD2 and Open Banking unfolds to be ready to take advantage of the opportunities as they arise.
The rise and rise of AI
AI has replaced blockchain as the topic that everyone wants to talk about. And over the course of the week in Barcelona it was fascinating to hear from numerous corporates, bankers and technologists about the different applications for AI and machine learning.
One interesting use case that stood out was the idea that these technologies could see the return of banks offering treasury outsourcing services – replacing people with machines. The idea is that in a world that is becoming 24/7/365 the banks can pick up the slack when treasury teams go home, leveraging AI to act on events that happen overnight. Whether treasury teams would be comfortable with this, or if it is even possible, remains up for debate. But it is an interesting idea and shows what kind of impact this technology could have.
A stream dedicated to some of the trickier countries to run treasury in was a novel idea and saw a busy room full of treasury professionals keen to learn about how to run a best in class treasury in Vietnam, Brazil, and even Iraq. But given the importance of China to so many organisations, it was the session on the world’s second-largest economy that drew the biggest audience. After an interesting discussion around where China is heading – deregulation remains on the agenda and the currency may even be freed up before the end of the decade – the panel looked at what is needed in the country to be successful from a treasury perspective. For all the panellists, the key is having a talented team on the ground who can be close to the regulators and banks. The panel agreed that running China from the US or Europe is a near-impossible feat.
A noteworthy mention should also be given to the 4pm panel on Thursday which covered building a best in class treasury operation in Africa. Despite having to compete with a swathe of activities (wine and delicious Iberian ham) in the main exhibition hall, the panellists gave excellent examples of what it is now possible to do in Africa and how they are beginning to use technology to overcome some age-old problems like cash collection.
Treasury Today was delighted to meet so many of our valued readers at the event and it was great to hear your feedback on what else you want us to cover.
Should there be anything else from the event that you would like Treasury Today to explore in more detail then please do get in contact with the Editorial team.