Treasury Today Country Profiles in association with Citi

Regional business partners

People crossing crowded bridge on foot

No business is an island and at some point every operation will call upon an external partner to enable it to carry out its remit more effectively. The list of potential sources of expertise required by treasury and finance is long and varied and may include accounting, tax, legal, audit, IT, banking, compliance, risk advisory and even HR/training. In this Section we focus on perhaps the most immediate requirements for any treasury operation: banking and technology.

In the Nordic and Baltic regions, the enthusiastic adoption of technology has long been acknowledged, especially around payments and automation of processes. The third-party vendor community may find this region particularly fruitful, but equally the treasury community benefits from the diverse offerings from across Europe and indeed the world.

The treasury technology vendors in the Nordic and Baltic regions are largely the same vendors that capture the market across Europe and, in the case of the top two TMS vendors (SunGard and Wall Street Systems), most of the rest of the world. However, some names in the list focus on regional delivery, such as Swedish TMS provider, CRM, and Finnish IT services company, Tieto (although both of these companies do venture beyond their home markets).

The nature of some providers means they have created country-specific services – Euroclear, for example, having established national Central Securities Depositories (CSDs) in Sweden and Finland to meet domestic post-trade handling requirements.

It is worth noting that data from the Treasury Today 2014 European Corporate Treasury Benchmarking Study shows that the most popular treasury systems used across Europe are 360T, IT2, SAP Treasury module and SunGard. Amongst the Nordic and Baltic company universe it is IT2 and SAP.

Local technology issues were also questioned in the 2014 European Benchmarking Study. This showed that around 65% (the number one issue) of respondents were still concerned with visibility over company cash, with choosing a TMS in second place at just over 40%. The issues in equal third place were corporate-to-bank connectivity and cash flow forecasting (35%). Around 17% were still hoping to migrate away from spreadsheets.

Technology vendors

The following list is not exhaustive but represents the key players in the Nordic and Baltic treasury space at the point of publication. The list is arranged alphabetically with a short description of the general area of focus for each. However, some vendors maintain a particularly broad suite of products (notably SunGard and Wall Street Systems) not all of which are referenced. Individual investigation is recommended.

  • 360T – foreign exchange, money markets and derivatives trading portal.

  • AccessPay – payment and cash management.

  • Accuity – compliance.

  • ACI Universal payments – payments.

  • Atos Worldline – broad IT services.

  • B2 Group – payments and FX.

  • BBP – SWIFT service bureau.

  • Bellin – broad-based TMS offering.

  • Bloomberg – data services and technology.

  • Bottomline Technologies – payments, invoicing and messaging.

  • CashFac – cash management.

  • CGI – treasury and asset management services.

  • Clearstream – securities services.

  • CoCoNet – e-banking software.

  • CoProcess – netting/matching systems.

  • CRM Treasury Systems – TMS.

  • DataLog – TMS, matching, reporting, netting.

  • Demica – working capital/supply chain finance.

  • Euroclear – post trade services for all asset types (national Central Securities Depositories in Sweden and Finland).

  • EVRY (formerly EDB ErgoGroup) – IT services.

  • Exalog – cash management.

  • Experian – payments (especially SEPA-related).

  • Fundtech – payments, SWIFT service bureau.

  • FXall – FX trading platform.

  • Hanse Orga – technology and consulting firm specialising in SAP’s ERP system.

  • ICD – multi-bank investment portal and technology.

  • Kyriba – SaaS-based TMS, broad suite of functionality.

  • Misys – confirmation matching service.

  • MyTreasury – multi-banking trading portal.

  • Omikron – e-banking, data quality.

  • OpenLink – TMS.

  • OpusCapita – payments, cash flow automation, supply chain finance.

  • Orc Software – derivatives trading.

  • Reval – Saas treasury and risk management technology.

  • SAP – TMS, ERP.

  • Seeburger – corporate-to-bank business integration.

  • Sentenial – payments (SEPA specialist).

  • SunGard – extremely broad range of financial solutions. TMS offering is AvantGard suite:

  • AvantGard Treasury Enterprise (Quantum) for complex treasury operations.

  • AvantGard Treasury Corporate (Integrity) for more basic cash management.

  • AvantGard Treasury XE (Integrity XE) for the least complex treasury needs.

  • SunGard Global Network – trade automation and connectivity including SGN Funds, Securities and short-term cash.

  • SWIFT – global messaging infrastructure.

  • Thomson Reuters – information/data services.

  • Tieto – the largest Nordic IT services company.

  • TIS (Treasury Intelligence Solutions) – payments, liquidity, bank management.

  • Wall Street Systems – (multiple TMS offerings to suit the world’s largest and most complex treasury operations and mid-sized or less complex operations):

  • Wallstreet Suite – complex treasury operations.

  • Wallstreet Treasury – mid-sized to large operations.

  • Wallstreet City Financials – broad offering, installed or SaaS.

  • Wallstreet Treasura – simpler, web-based offering.

  • Wallstreet IT2 – full SaaS offering.

Banking in the Nordics and Baltics

Perhaps the other key partnership a corporate treasurer will develop is with its banks. The Nordics and Baltics are well-served by local and regional players. Banks took seven of the top 20 places in Forbes’ 2012 list of the largest companies in the Nordic region. The largest regional institution is Nordea (second only to Norway’s Statoil in terms of market value according to Forbes). DNB was sixth, with SEB (seventh), Handelsbanken (eighth), Swedbank (tenth), Danske Bank (15th) and Sampo Group (16th) following on.

The banking sector in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania has become considerably easier for foreign corporates (and indeed local ones) since the countries joined the euro. The three countries are closely linked physically and historically and, increasingly, economically with the Nordics. But they have had to bridge some large differences in income, institutions and infrastructure as a result of the challenges faced when gaining their independence. As a result the banking sector is less well-developed. Indeed, the Baltic countries all have financial sectors dominated by Nordic-headquartered banking groups, with Swedish players by far the dominant force in terms of ownership (followed by Norwegian, Danish, then ‘other’ which includes the tiny domestic banking market).

In April 2014, the IMF produced a paper (The Baltic Cluster Report) in which it noted: “The Baltics are converging with advanced economies at a rapid pace in spite of the recent crisis. However, they face challenges of high unemployment, the structure of trade, and the ability of the financial sector to provide financing for growth.” Nevertheless, it also reported that “their bank-dominated financial sectors are among the most open, and they have high levels of FDI (foreign direct investment) and trade in their economies.”

Cash management banks in the region

The following represent the major banking players in the Nordic and Baltic regions, listed by size of assets and per country (all information sourced from Accuity). Refer to the relevant country profile in Section 4 of this publication for a fuller description of the local banking sector.

Denmark
Bank Total assets (USD millions) 31st December 2013
Danske Bank 594,553
Nordea Bank Danmark 152,219
Jyske Bank 48,272
Nykredit Bank 41,294
Sydbank 27,248
Finland
Bank Total assets (USD millions) 31st December 2013
Nordea Bank Finland 418,832
Pohjola Bank 60,084
Danske Bank 36,666
Nordic Investment Bank 32,282
Aktia Bank 15,026
S-Bank 4,382
Iceland
Bank Total assets (USD millions) 31st December 2013
Landsbankinn 10,008
Arion Banki 8,160
Íslandsbanki 7,527
MP Banki 526
Straumur Fjárfestingarbanki 148
Norway
Bank Total assets (USD millions) 31st December 2013
DNB Bank 351,504
Nordea Bank Norge 98,669
SpareBank 1 SR-Bank1 25,897
Sparebanken Vest 22,171
SpareBank 1 SMN1 19,030
SpareBank 1 Nord Norge1 12,788
Sparebanken Møre 9,012
Sparebanken Sør 7,902
Sparebanken Hedmark1 7,819
Storebrand Bank ASA 6,443
BN Bank ASA 6,187
Sweden
Bank Total assets (USD millions) 31st December 2013
Nordea Bank 866,403
Svenska Handelsbanken 386,713
Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken 385,941
Swedbank 282,805
Länsförsäkringar Bank 33,154
SkandiaBanken Aktiebolag 15,314
Avanza Bank 8,796
Sparbanken Öresund 5,188
Estonia
Bank Total assets (USD millions) 31st December 2013
Swedbank AS 12,275
SEB Pank 6,106
BIGBANK 429
Eesti Krediidipank 357
Latvia
Bank Total assets (USD millions) 31st December 2013
Swedbank 6,987
SEB Banka 5,904
ABLV Bank 4,585
Rietumu Banka 4,048
Citadele Banka 3,514
DNB Banka 3,355
Privat Bank 1,104
Norvik Banka 1,071
Lithuania
Bank Total assets (USD millions) 31st December 2013
SEB Bankas 9,390
Swedbank 7,782
DNB Bankas 4,766
Siauliu Bankas 2,123
Citadele Bankas 432
Medicinos Bankas 342
Bankas Finasta 163

Source: Accuity

  1. Parts of the Sparebank 1 Alliance.

Choosing the right partner

Before any project to revise or replace technology or services (including banking) commences, all companies should ask this simple question: what business challenge are we trying to solve? All internal partners – including business, finance teams and IT, as appropriate – should collaborate to reveal those needs. By understanding the current issues and where the business needs to be, it is possible to figure out not only which tools or services will be needed to achieve the goals, but also which partners will be best placed to deliver the requirements.

Need help?

The search for business or technology partners can be augmented through the use of internet-based technology user forums, industry media (such as Treasury Today) and peer reference. Indeed, general treasury conferences (such as the EuroFinance annual cash management event) are an ideal place to meet treasurers and finance specialists from the Nordic region and beyond, who will be able to give independent and informed advice on the solutions they have used and the services they have received.

Many companies choose to employ a consultant (either an individual or from a larger consultancy practice) to determine their treasury’s needs, decide which vendor is best suited to them and plan (and possibly manage) any implementation project. Consultants should be impartial advisors to the treasury team. Indeed, treasurers and treasury staff can often be so involved with their current systems that it is difficult to see where improvements and efficiencies could be made; whereas a consultant, familiar with a range of products across the spectrum, will easily identify the gaps in a department’s needs and have access to the right industry experts where required. There is also a risk that treasury staff will become accustomed to using one system or service (and that includes banks) and be reluctant to change to one that is better, simply because ‘it has always been done that way’. If a need for change has been identified then change should occur.

RFI and RFP

If the decision is made to seriously investigate the technology or services market prior to selection, sending a request for information (RFI) and, for those actively seeking a new provider, a request for proposal (RFP), are well-established ways of asking for more details on a provider’s offerings and their suitability to the company’s needs.

The RFI is a high-level document that is designed to reduce an initial long-list to a more manageable size. Typically it will include an overview of treasury functions, aims and needs, and a request for the providers that believe they can meet those needs to forward more detailed information on the relevant products or services they are offering.

An RFP details the requirements, current strengths and weaknesses and also includes a comprehensive array of questions for the provider (see RFP checklist). The aim of an RFP is to garner in-depth and specific responses from a small group of vendors and tease out the differences between their offerings which, on the surface, may all seem much the same. These take time to compile and respond to properly and should only be used when serious about moving forward.

For a technology search, although giving more information to the treasury team, an invitation to demonstrate software will often only reveal what the vendor wants to show. To make the process more manageable and to allow more probing questions to develop, it may be worth breaking the ‘interview’ phase of the selection into three stages for shortlisted vendors:

  • Allow each vendor to demonstrate what they feel are their system’s strong points.

  • Provide a number of scenarios pre-meeting to each vendor so that they can demonstrate their systems’ capabilities.

  • Ask the vendors to demonstrate their systems’ capabilities based on a selection of previously unseen scenarios, thus putting them on the spot.

Obviously it is important to use the same seen and unseen scenarios for each vendor in order to make like-for-like comparisons.

During selection, an experienced consultant will be able to see through a vendor’s sales pitch and identify the products on offer that best suit your treasury’s needs. Although an additional cost, in the long run, employing a good consultant for a major project can improve the likelihood for success in the selection as well as the deployment of a system, therefore increasing the level and speed of return on investment.

When preparing an RFP the following checklist should help steer the project in the right direction.

RFP checklist:

  • Before starting on a major project, secure the support of a senior executive sponsor.

  • Appoint a strong project manager. Consider a third party for the role.

  • If an internal appointment, ensure they can remain objective. Consider having them dedicated to the role for the duration.

  • Factor in all resources likely to be required.

  • Think carefully about which functions and individuals within the group should be involved in the consultation process. Document any agreements with them in advance.

  • Establish ‘rules of engagement’, allowing vendor-contact only with this liaison person (probably the project manager). Log all interaction. A single point of contact avoids confusion and conflicting information. This rule should be extended to cover the implementation process.

  • Ensure you clearly understand and have documented what your main issues are, why you are doing this and what you expect to achieve.

  • Refer to this document often.

  • Be flexible regarding your plans and add a contingency allowance (for cost, time, etc) for project expansion as awareness of the chosen system increases.

  • Do not confuse beneficial project additions with unwanted scope creep.

  • Don’t change anything in the project plan without managing and documenting it first.

  • Always establish a requirements definition.

  • Undertake preliminary research (using Treasury Today resources, conferences, vendor websites, discussion with peer group, etc).

  • Consider issuing an RFI.

  • When building an RFP always ask if it conveys precisely and clearly what it is you require.

  • Ensure questions are clear, understandable and have been tested and proven as such.

  • Do not ask unnecessary or unreasonable questions.

  • Some questions may be approached from different angles to test consistency of response.

  • Beware of simply repeating questions (most likely if the RFP is the product of multiple departments). Proper co-ordination is required to maintain professionalism at all times.

  • Ask open questions where detail is necessary and closed questions where a simple yes or no is sufficient. Remember that open questions are more difficult to compare.

  • Lay out the RFP clearly, in logical order and with sufficient room for a full response.

  • Complex requirements should be broken down into logical, manageable sections.

  • It is in your interest to provide sufficient information to enable the vendor to give the fullest answer possible.

  • Do not over-burden the supplier with unnecessary background information.

  • Weight each question according to your own values.

  • Agree upon weightings before sending the RFP to suppliers.

  • Clear your mind of any bias for or against suppliers.

  • Don’t send it to too many vendors: it makes analysis difficult.

  • Read all responses carefully.

  • Look for added value in vendor responses, eg raising new but useful points.

  • Learn to distinguish between fact and sales talk.

  • Resist the temptation to adjust weightings to get the answer you want.

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