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Photo of Olawale Bello and Chinonye Nzewi, Flour Mills of Nigeria and John Murray, Citi.
Flour Mills of Nigeria is the largest flour milling company in Nigeria with an installed flour milling capacity exceeding three million metric tonnes per annum. It is Nigeria’s largest publicly-traded food company, with a high-quality product portfolio and gross revenue of circa N542bn. It has over 3,400 employees.
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How total digitisation optimised Flour Mills of Nigeria’s daily treasury processes
Before Flour Mills of Nigeria (FMN)’s adoption of CitiDirect BE – Citibank’s web-based banking platform – the company’s payment process was largely manual because the impact of the company’s use of two individual bank payment platforms on its treasury management processes was minimal and did very little to introduce any form of efficiency to the company’s process. It was administratively onerous to have an overview of all the bank balances across FMN Group on a daily basis. As a result, there was lack of transparency and control over working capital flows, which resulted in increased risk of fraud, significant amount of time spent managing positions across banks and high financial expenses.
There were many approvals done manually and, in some cases, letters would be physically taken to signatories at locations outside the office to be signed, before being dispatched to the processing banks for authorisation to release the funds. To complicate the situation further, the Group had over 300 bank accounts across the country and it was expectedly difficult to manage them efficiently under the then-existing conditions.
In 2018, FMN implemented CitiDirect BE (including multi-banking capabilities) to digitise its treasury operations in the following ways:
- Automate the account information/reporting retrieval process.
- Automate payments and reconciliation of collections and payments.
- Consolidate all banking payment processes in one secure electronic platform.
- Provide centralised real-time access to account information (from a computer or mobile device).
- Implement cash pooling across FMN Group.
- Enable transfers across FMN bank accounts or to external beneficiaries in an efficient manner from a single front-end.
Its objectives included substantial cost savings through a reduction in financial charges, and working capital optimisation. It also sought improved security and control, operational efficiency, and improved reporting (to enhance and speed-up decision-making). The solution had to be easy to deploy across the FMN Group, and cost efficient.
In the words of Steve Jobs, ‘great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.’ Winning the Adam Smith Award for Best in Class Treasury Solution in Africa is evidence of this and Flour Mills of Nigeria’s core values. It is a great honour and has certainly inspired the team to perform even better.
Chinonye Nzewi, Treasurer, Flour Mills of Nigeria
Best practice and innovation
The elimination of manual activities from FMN’s treasury processes cutting across the company’s interaction with over 15 banks and 300 bank accounts underpinned best practice and innovation in the following ways:
Digitisation: FMN took the decision to digitise the entire treasury process by integrating into the electronic banking channels of banking service provider, Citi, as well as using the same provider to access multiple bank accounts for the benefit of streamlining processes as much as possible.
Connectivity and straight through processing: FMN connected its ERP, Axapta, to Citi’s banking systems for straight through payments and reconciliation, thereby fully eliminating all the hitherto manual process handled by a large treasury team.
Improvement in financial metrics: Nigeria went through a period of recession in 2016/2017 that significantly impacted the profitability of most companies. FMN’s ability to claw back some savings from its financial operations demonstrates best practice in this environment.
Improvement in staff work-life balance: FMN was also able to demonstrate marked improvement in the staff work-life quality.
- Substantial cost savings and improved optimisation of working capital: as a result of the improved treasury set up and operations following the adoption of CitiDirect BE, FMN was equipped to implement cash management processes and optimise its balance sheet. The impact was a reduction in financial expenses of about 40% and increased interest income compared to the previous year.
- Risk of fraud mitigated.
- Enhanced audit and governance procedures and ability to meet regulatory requirements.
Improved operational efficiency through workflow automation tool, optimal account/treasury structure, more effective use of manpower, improved account visibility and reporting.