The British Council, Highly Commended, Bank Relationship Management

Published: Aug 2011

Recognising the reality that no single bank can offer every solution in every country, this is a classic example of how the public sector and private sector can realise collaborative and competitive banking solutions globally for low cost transactional processing across the globe. This is certainly not a case of ‘all the eggs in one basket’, but a unique partnering blend to maximise the strengths of the banks where their respective strengths currently lie to deliver a holistic, competitive solution globally. The solution also ensures the organisation’s future ERP to bank systems becomes bank agnostic and beneficial for the organisation’s long term strategy.


Photo of Ebru Pakcan, Citi, Peter Lay, Inci Yalman, Standard Chartered and Matt Prior, HSBC.

Peter Lay

Head of Treasury and Banking

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We work in over 100 countries worldwide to build opportunity and trust for the UK through the exchange of knowledge and ideas between people. We work in the Arts, English, Education and Society, including science and sport – and in the process contribute to the security and prosperity of the UK and the countries where we work. Last year we engaged face to face with 18.4m people and reached 652m. We are a non-political organisation which operates at arm’s length from government. Our total turnover in 2009/10 was £705m, of which our grant-in-aid from the British government was £211m. For every £1 of government grant we receive, we earn £2.50 from other sources.

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Peter Lay explains, “I think what has helped us is that, from a transactional perspective, we are quite complex with in-country demands, customer demands and support which needed to be respected whilst realising virtual solutions for payments automation and statement delivery across a very broad global footprint. This means that we are and have been an ideal test bed for our banks as an integrated bank-to-ERP for host-to-host solutions”.

There is a fine balance to be struck hooking up your local banks with selected regional banks acting as your virtual banking integrators without eroding the value of local relationships. Each of the company’s major banking partners within the global solution has taken the time to understand the local requirement and in the process the company has sharpened up on what they have required so as to minimise the likelihood of any service delivery shortfall. The nature of these solutions is organic in so far as the major banking partners are also evolving their ability to integrate with the big ERP players, SAP and Oracle, and where solutions have needed improvement each bank has worked to achieve the best level of automation to enable the British Council to be able to process the bulk of its transactions from one geographical Shared Service Centre. They now look forward to taking on the challenge to develop a receivables solution.

Peter Lay commented, “it has been a privilege to have been able to have the opportunity to work with our banking partners in geographical situations where, quite frankly, banking automation remains challenging in many countries due to the realities of local ACH and Central Bank Clearing being absent or in its infancy and where a SWIFT solution, until relatively recently, wasn’t a viable proposition for scattered and comparatively low volume, low value processing. We have achieved enormous benefits gained from identifying several major banks with bricks and mortar plus virtual host-to-host banking capability to deliver a global ERP integrated solution across 110 countries to enable a single Shared Service Centre with our major banks HSBC, Standard Chartered and Citigroup.” This has enabled us to process 200,000 transactions per month from a single base whilst achieving a significant reduction in global bank charges.

“This is a truly global solution which uses the best each of our three core banks can bring to the table in terms of product capability, technology and footprint or geographic coverage.”

The benefits from a single base can be demonstrated in the following key areas:

  • Reduction in the time taken to implement solution and realise benefits.
  • Productivity gains viz effective and accurate transaction processing including same day payments.
  • Process efficiencies.
  • Pricing enhancements.
  • Risk removed/mitigated.

Peter Lay concludes, “This is a truly global solution which uses the best each of our three core banks can bring to the table in terms of product capability, technology and footprint or geographic coverage. We have been able to establish payment and receivables processes specific to each country and region, and we were able to move from five shared service centres to one within just 12 months for host-to-host transaction initiation and receipt of statement data into a global ERP solution across 110 countries. The transparency is further allowing us to identify the best methods for improving processing and reducing costs further still”.

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