Harnessing the Power of Technology Highly Commended: Unilever Finance International AG

Published: Oct 2021


Photo of Gerard Tuinenburg, Director Systems, Innovations and Transactional Banking.

Gerard Tuinenburg

Director Systems, Innovations and Transactional Banking

Unilever Finance International AG is the financing and treasury arm of the British consumer goods company.

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Unilever Finance International uses Insight APIs to transform cash and FX management

The challenge

Like many corporates, Unilever has hundreds of bank accounts across subsidiaries, continents and time zones: it has 100+ payables accounts in western Europe alone. Working in euro, Swiss franc, US dollar and sterling, Unilever’s treasury needs visibility of exact funds in each account in order to make accurate, timely FX trades and ensure proper cash management. Traditionally, Unilever has had to rely on previous-day statements to ascertain its financial positions. But in a fast-paced multi-national, this information can quickly become out of date.

Unilever needed highly accurate, up-to-date forecasts from its subsidiaries in order to effectively carry out cash management and FX trades on a day-to-day basis. End-of-day and previous-day statements make forecasting difficult and runs the risk of inaccuracies. This could lead to mistakes. Unilever wanted access to live, dynamic banking data instead.

The solution

Having discussed potential API solutions with J.P. Morgan, Unilever selected one that could swiftly enhance its treasury functions – Insight API. APIs provide on-demand access to banking data and services on a chosen platform, providing agility and adaptability to meet evolving strategic requirements. Installed via Microsoft Excel, the solution gives Unilever access to constant, real-time information across every business bank account in order to facilitate accurate cash management decisions.

It also reduced risk when forecasting. With live banking data, Unilever’s treasury is empowered to make more reliable forecasts and remains in control of all accounts, no matter which subsidiary, time zone or jurisdiction.

Insight API also provides opportunities to make more effective, timely FX trades. Prior to this solution, Unilever could only see and use bank account data the next working day. With the solution providing real-time information, the company can now utilise this valuable data same-day, allowing it to make better use of its cash when it is available. The implementation took just ten days, from Unilever’s company approval to full operation and was handled almost completely in-house by Unilever, with limited support from J.P. Morgan.

As a result, Unilever’s treasury has real-time access to the data it needs, directly in itsown systems. The solution also makes it easy for the company to manage access to its accounts, crucial in times of remote working.

Best practice and innovation

Unilever’s treasury was able to gain real-time access to 130 accounts in two major regions in which the company operates in just ten days.

Common to all companies of its size, the speed of implementation and straightforward integration with Unilever systems was key. The ease and speed of the implemented API solutions allowed Unilever to operate a real-time treasury that was enhanced just in time to face the uncertainty created by 2020 pandemic, when seconds become critical for strategic global decisions within group treasuries.

Key benefits

  • Rapid, simple implementation.
  • The solution runs on Microsoft Excel, which accelerates the rollout.
  • Secure access for remote working in 2020. This solution makes it easy for Unilever to securely and effectively manage access to its accounts remotely.
  • Real-time account data helps reduce external borrowings and cuts the risk of encountering overdraft fees/charges across 130 accounts. Crucially, this API is helping Unilever to operate as efficiently and as cost effectively as possible.
  • Unilever is now exploring multi-bank possibilities and is considering integrating APIs to improve user management and controls at the company.
  • Unilever is also looking to integrate another API tool: Signature Mandate Management, via the Insight API app. This will provide simplified management of signature mandates, removing a cumbersome manual process, especially important in a time of remote and home-based working.

“It can be cumbersome and time consuming to make changes to legacy Treasury Management Systems and Enterprise Resource Planning software. In contrast, the Insight API solution is agile, easily understood and can be installed by minimal staff,” says Gerard Tuinenburg, Director Systems, Innovations and Transactional Banking.

The Adam Smith Awards is the industry benchmark for best practice and innovation in corporate treasury. The 2021 Awards attracted a record-breaking 309 nominations spanning 40 countries. To find out more please visit: https://treasurytoday.com/adam-smith-awards.

Adrian Calin

Head of Wholesale Payments
J.P. Morgan Switzerland

Congratulations to Gerard and the entire treasury team at Unilever for their success in the Adam Smith Awards.

As an early adopter, Unilever is always keen to try new digital solutions and Gerard has blazed a trail, by implementing this Insight API plug-in without any need for IT support. Achieving such a swift, smooth implementation demonstrates that significant improvements don’t always require radical systems overhaul; in fact leveraging the new digital innovations by deploying relatively small real-time solutions can make a big difference.

We look forward to continuing our long established relationship to support Unilever as they pioneer the treasury of the future.

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