Harnessing the Power of Technology Highly Commended: Embasa

Published: Aug 2023
Photo of Leandro de Almeida Quintal, Citi and Leonardo Góes, Embasa.

Photo of Leandro de Almeida Quintal, Citi and Leonardo Góes, Embasa.

Leonardo Góes

Embasa logo

Empresa Baiana de Águas e Saneamento S.A. is a Brazilian state water utility responsible for providing potable water to more than 13 million people in Bahia. It is also responsible for wastewater collection and treatment services benefitting more than five million people locally.

in partnership with

Citi logo

Brazil’s water utility Embasa transforms payments with Pix

The challenge

The Brazilian government is focused on improving access to water and sanitation for 212 million people, of which 14% lack access to a reliable and safe source of water and 51% to safely managed household sanitation facilities. A new national sanitation framework aims at supplying 99% of the population with drinking water and 90% of the population with sewage collection and treatment by the end of 2033.

Overhauling customer payments is fundamental to Embasa’s ability to meet these targets. Customers typically face long lines to make payments via ATMs, at bank branches, or at retail stores such as supermarkets and the utility needed to find better ways for customers to pay their bills. In addition, processing often takes several days, leading to accounts closing and creating reconciliation challenges for the Embasa’s treasury team.

Embasa’s treasury recognised the need to find a more inclusive payment process that would help customers while ensuring a more consistent flow of working capital and supporting critically important sustainable service objectives. The decision was made to adopt Pix, the Brazilian Central Bank’s instant payment system, allowing instant transfers 24/7 via cell phones and through the use of QR codes. The modernisation would drive tremendous payment efficiency, while dramatically improving the customer payment experience.

The solution

Embasa’s decision to implement Pix has made the water company an instant payments pioneer in the public sector, elevating the company to one of the first utilities to offer receivables QR codes for customers. By partnering with Citi, Embasa has made it possible for customers to conveniently pay the company 24/7 using their cell phones without a third-party app or portal to issue the payment. Even last minute payments are accepted immediately, eliminating service interruption – even on weekends.

In addition, this solution allows Embasa’s treasury to receive transaction files from all payers within 30 minutes, allowing for faster, more efficient reconciliation. Using Pix has allowed Embasa to better serve its consumer base. This initiative has been instrumental in supporting the utilities efforts to meet its goals of universal sanitation by 2033, providing sustainable services well into the future.

Best practice and innovation

In its quest to meet long-term sustainability and universalisation objectives by 2033, Embasa has taken bold steps to improve payment efficiency and customer loyalty. Embasa’s treasury team has embraced payment innovation, ensuring customers have the ability to pay instantly and safeguarding them from water services interruptions. Customers use a QR code scanned into their mobile phone to initiate payment. Even when customers are late with a payment, Pix allows them to pay quickly, and immediately restore services. These are significant advantages for both Embasa and the company’s customers.

In addition to helping the company meet its sustainability and universalisation goals, this highly scalable solution also delivered faster reconciliation. Treasury now receives transaction files from all payers within 30 minutes. The cost saving is also noteworthy. Using Pix, the original 20 cents per dollar per transaction cost is now 25 times lower. The savings will be instrumental in providing working capital to meet Embasa’s ambitious 2033 goals.

Key benefits

  • Cost savings.

  • Process efficiencies.

  • Increased automation.

  • Improved visibility.

  • Manual intervention reduced.

Antonio Albuquerque

Treasury and Trade Solutions Brazil Sales, Public Sector Segment Head, Citi

Embasa is one of the pioneers in the public sector industry in successfully implementing digital payments via QR codes instant payments in Brazil (PIX). This has brought them significant efficiency improvements in their payments and reconciliation processes. In addition to this, Embasa’s customers have benefitted from using QR codes directly via their cell phones. One of the key factors we are proud of at Citi is that through this collaboration, we have been able to help Embasa with their universalisation of water objective in Bahia, key to their sustainable business objectives.

in partnership with

Citi logo

The Adam Smith Awards is the industry benchmark for best practice and innovation in corporate treasury. The 2023 awards attracted 320 nominations spanning 34 countries. To find out more please visit: treasurytoday.com/adam-smith-awards.

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