“It’s a professional and personal pleasure to be back in Asia,” says Loïc Sénéchal. “The context is interesting too. The current environment is complex and volatile under the influence of COVID-19.”
During his 24-year BNP Paribas career, Sénéchal has worked in Singapore and China, as well as the Middle East and Europe – with his most recent position being that of Switzerland Head of Transaction Banking.
This has given him unparalleled insight into the way this sector operates across the world. He sees one major difference between cash management in Europe and APAC.
“The Eurozone is one big country with a similar regulatory framework, a similar market landscape, and the same currency,” he says. “But APAC is a crystal with many markets, and each of them has a different regulatory framework. This is the main difference if you compare Europe and Asia.”
But he goes on to explain that in terms of fundamentals, there’s not such a big difference between the markets.
“The requirements and objectives are the same. The treasurer can be a multinational corporate client or a local Asian client. They are looking for the standardisation of the product.”
One specific difference he points out is the APAC region’s appetite for new and improved technology. There is a faster adoption of technology, for example novel payment methods. And the coronavirus pandemic has only served to accelerate this trend, with clients demanding faster digitalisation.
But now digitalisation is not just for client-facing business, but for internal business needs as well.
Sénéchal says, “What is new is the very complex digitalisation that is required by clients for their own internal processes. Digitalisation is not only for payments or connectivity; it’s really to tackle these internal processes, and how to optimise them.
“I would say the entire ecosystem is using this new technology on digitalisation not just for the benefit of our clients, but also for the bank in terms of efficiency.”
Moreover, he notes that the role of the bank is to deeply understand the challenges of its clients, and then work with them to co-design solutions in order to address these challenges.
So, what’s on Sénéchal’s immediate agenda for his new role? He has three main priorities: to reinforce the bank’s existing platforms, to support the digitisation of complex processes using a co-creation approach, and to maintain a high-level of service quality.
But he is clear that cash management is not really about the short-term. “It’s a long-term strategy. And on that front, there is a strong investment plan.”
His goal is for BNP Paribas to be – as they are in Europe – one of the top players in APAC, servicing not just multinational corporate clients, but also their Asian clients in both Asia and Europe.
Sénéchal thinks the future of cash management will still be very much technology-focused, but he also expects there will be a focus on sustainability.
It’s likely the environment will remain uncertain over the coming years. There will be economic challenges, including the issue of interest rate volatility.
“We don’t know how long it will last,” he says. “We will have to support treasurers in this complexity and provide both the technology and the solutions, when required.”
Sénéchal has seen many changes over his long career. When he began over 20 years ago, it was just the beginning of electronic banking. The focus was on payment information underpinning, but now the discussion is about leveraging new technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data.
“The dialogue is not the same, but the trust is probably reinforced because of that. We are creating partnerships for the long term and expanding the company in this changing environment.”