Virgin Atlantic decided to change the way it processed its accounts receivables (AR) and accounts payables (AP) when it realised its old payments system was nearing the end of its shelf-life. The company wanted to create an operational environment in which their multiple business units shared a common centralised ‘best practice’ model for the processing of sterling accounts payables and receivables.
Photo of David Soan, BELLIN, Edward Collis and Mike Rayfield, Lloyds Banking Group.
Since it was founded in 1984, Virgin Atlantic Airways has become one of the world’s leading airlines serving the world’s major cities. Now based at both London’s Gatwick and Heathrow airports, it operates long haul services to 32 destinations worldwide as far apart as Las Vegas, Shanghai and Sydney.
Virgin Atlantic has enjoyed huge popularity, winning top business, consumer and trade awards around the world. The airline has pioneered a range of innovations setting new standards of service, which its competitors have subsequently sought to follow. Despite Virgin Atlantic’s growth the service still remains customer driven with an emphasis on value for money, quality, fun and innovation.
Virgin Atlantic currently has a fleet of 40 aircraft which includes 13 747s and six A340-300s, 19 A340-600s and two A330s.
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The solution needed to accommodate a range of up to nine existing ERP technologies, with their associated differing file formats, used across seven business units. It was also required to consolidate all traffic into a common interface, whilst creating strong visibility (with the associated liquidity benefits), control and reporting throughout the AR/AP lifecycle. In addition, having made a strategic decision to utilise the SWIFT network as an interface to its financial institution partners, the company needed the solution to be SWIFT enabled.
The solution, which is the fruit of the collaboration between Virgin Atlantic, Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) and BELLIN GmbH, creates a single ‘plug and play’ secure interface to a fully managed BACS payments and collections service and provides the customer with real-time payment status messages on an individual transaction basis, from when the bureau receive the file through to the delivery of files to the BACS system. The customer can track the status of a file in BELLIN’s tm5 and also receive custom reports as well as the standard BACS reports if required.
The new system involved several ‘firsts’ across all parties, and the high levels of cooperation and attention to detail, exhibited by all involved was paramount in guaranteeing the success of such an innovative solution. Both BELLIN and LBG provided excellent expertise in the crucial detailed design, testing and implementation phases of the project, collaborating extremely tightly and efficiently with the project team at Virgin despite a highly challenging timeline. The project worked hard to establish and record all elements of the detailed solution design, and deployed strong governance to ensure all parties remained aligned in terms of their respective deliverables.
“We are proud to have instigated such a high profile initiative with our partners at BELLIN and LBG, and to have successfully delivered such a state-of-the-art solution to our business units.”
The integration of this payment solution into a fully web-based treasury management system enables the user to use any browser supporting device – for example, personal computers, laptops, handhelds or smart phones – to enter, sign, release and monitor the payments from any location. The solution is not only a major step in banking connectivity, but also enables mobility in treasury with the highest level of security.
This innovative solution embraces best practice with a single, scalable, secure, ERP agnostic, generic and reusable process which spans multiple business units. It is future-proof, utilising the latest progressive industry standards such as SWIFTNet and ISO 20022 XML and allows the use of the latest mobile devices to enable secure real-time message tracking, visibility and control from any location. All this was delivered on budget from a ‘standing start’ to live within six months with the collaboration of several parties with no defects in development and an excellent record in live operation.
“We are proud to have instigated such a high profile initiative with our partners at BELLIN and LBG, and to have successfully delivered such a state-of-the-art solution to our business units. It was clear throughout the project that our partners listened very clearly to, and understood the smallest details of, our requirements. The teamwork between the various project team members was a key reason why the solution was delivered on schedule with no negative impact to us as the customer. The feedback from our business units has been extremely positive,” says Edward Collis, Virgin Atlantic’s Group Treasurer.