Photo of James Lee, Citi and Dev Dhingra, Maersk Kanoo Emirates LLC.
With manual processes a mainstay in its cash collections process, Maersk Kanoo Emirates wanted to serve its customers more efficiently. A full digitisation programme has changed the customer experience beyond recognition.
Nishat Neelay Deshmukh
Head of Finance – UAE, Oman, Qatar & Iran
Maersk Kanoo Emirates LLC is the UAE agency of Maersk Line, the world’s largest container shipping company. It functions as the headquarters for the firm’s cluster office, comprising UAE, Oman, Qatar and Iran.
in partnership with
Maersk’s ‘digitising receivables’ programme delivers major client satisfaction
Previously, Maersk collected outstanding invoices using cheques and cash. This process was inefficient due to physical transport and storage of cheques, issues with stale and lost cheques, and cheque and cash handling costs. Reconciling these collections against open invoices was also manually intensive and prone to error. Process inefficiency sometimes saw clients queuing for more than two hours at Maersk counters.
This meant the UAE office had over 10% of its frontline resources working as cashiers, not doing more customer-enriching tasks. Additionally, the same number of staff in customer services were also handling the releases of such documents, not talking to clients.
Maersk set three key objectives for its virtual counter. These included: reducing the number of touch points between the client and Maersk from 22 to only two, starting from: “where are my documents?” to “what does my statement of account reflect?”; reducing the time taken for clients to receive their B/L from two days to two minutes. This would eliminate queues at Maersk’s counters; automation, reducing operational errors and enhancing time spent on issue resolution to improve customer experience.
This set Maersk on a three-year path of digitised receivables. Initial efforts to promote bank transfers proved fruitful, with customer adoption rates enabling the closing down of cash counters in the UAE. But this led to new challenges as customer needs evolved while old manual document exchanges persisted. Maersk had to find a way to cut down the document release process from the two-hour committed SLA to zero.
To address these issues, Maersk partnered with Citi’s Treasury and Trade Solutions to deliver an automated receivable solution, integrated with its own technology. This enabled customers to view, dispute and pay their invoices via the Maersk ‘MyFinance’ portal, using its global ‘SmartPay’ product to allow customers to settle invoices directly from a pre-registered bank account, via Citi’s Direct Debit solution and its CitiConnect® SWIFT FileAct infrastructure. The UAE central bank’s UAE Direct Debit System was also deployed.
Citi’s CitiConnect® for Files was also used as the primary host-to-host gateway for file transmission, integrating the bank’s payments, collections, supplier finance, and commercial card transaction products directly with Maersk’s ERP.
Best practice and innovation
The ‘no-hand’ solution ensures that once the customer selects the invoices to be paid on the MyFinance portal, a host-to-host instruction is auto-triggered from Maersk to Citi, enabling Citi to collect the funds from the customer’s account based in any bank in the UAE and credit Maersk’s Citi UAE account. The entire transaction is tagged with a unique ID which ultimately forms part of the credit entry on Maersk’s account. An automated end-of-day report allows Maersk to recognise the collection and reconcile it against the outstanding invoice of the customer.
By incorporating the digitised solution, Maersk eliminated major processing bottlenecks and inefficiencies and helped the business lower its collection costs. Replacing redundant processes with technology helped Maersk optimise its cash flow by reducing late invoice settlements, mitigating risks of bad-debt/write-offs, improving cash forecasting and avoiding overwhelming manual reconciliation processes.
SmartPay is now available to the entire UAE client base and serves as the last step in reaching a 100% virtual cash counter.
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Re-focused frontline staff efforts onto valued-adding tasks.
Reduced number of touch points between client and Maersk to two.
Reduced time for receipt of bill of lading from two days to two minutes.
Eliminated queues at Maersk counters.
Reduced operational errors and processing costs.
Enhanced reconciliation processes.
Increased client loyalty.
Maersk is aiming to achieve the following quantifiable gains:
US$0.5bn per annum mobilised and converted from manual to digital payments.
Improved efficiency of releases to customers from 4.5 hours on site to 90 seconds online.
26,000 man-hours saved per annum in transactional activities.
100% efficiency to the frontline finance cashiering team reinvested in customer service.
Key learning points
We learned that even settling a bill can come as a delight factor when we place the customer at the heart of the change. We came from a point where customers did not want to lose the ‘personal touch’. We had to create an appetite for something better and faster without losing that, as well as constantly watching out for and listening to their evolving needs. Even today, our customers have great ideas for making this solution even better and we will not rest on these amazing laurels but continue to listen and improve!