How would you characterise the current environment for businesses?
This is an unprecedented time for us all but even amongst the dire situations in which many find themselves, there can be a silver lining. Whilst many corporates have already started adopting what they perceive to be the ‘new normal’, the immediate focus naturally shifted towards ensuring business continuity. This has seen most trying to understand the impact of various risks on their businesses, and taking those critical steps in managing the disruptions that have been caused by COVID-19.
As the impact of the pandemic continues to be felt around the world, the need is for all to take a measured approach. This time will pass but it is critical for businesses to remain connected with all of their stakeholders, including customers and employees. This can only really be achieved through the adoption of digitalisation at the core of the business.
Most corporates will have been super-sensitised to the power of technology in such critical and unexpected situations as we are experiencing now. This is the silver lining. COVID-19 has delivered a critical learning, that organisation-wide digitalisation and automation can be highly effective when adopting a holistic approach. In fact, I believe technology will be the only way businesses will be able to fight pandemic situations in the future, enabling us to be always prepared for unimaginable risks.
What in particular do you believe the current crisis will change or accelerate, in terms of how we work and the technologies we adopt?
There was a world pre-WWII and there is the world post-WWII. COVID-19 is the life-changing event of our lifetime. The post-COVID world will be revolutionised to the same extent; a new normal will be seen.
I strongly believe our world will be totally different afterwards. Working style and behaviours – everything will change. It will be less ‘physical’ and more ‘virtual’. It will be less paper-oriented and more digitised. Companies will prioritise mandates to upgrade process automation, and there will be faster decision-making with regards to the adoption of digitalisation, especially for critical operations. In particular, we will see rapid innovation around the use of blockchain, AI and machine learning.
Corporate treasury has transformed in the last few years into a more strategic function. For some, it has even become a profit centre. But there is still more than 80% of corporates worldwide that are dependent on manual methods for treasury and trade finance management. Considering the critical role of treasury, and the risks of not attending to its effective operation, its digitalisation should become a priority for today’s CFOs.
How should treasurers be planning for the future fitness of their organisations?
This is one of the most critical times of the professional treasurer’s life; overnight, the role in the organisation became much more important. It now falls upon the treasurer’s shoulders to further drive corporate treasury towards technology adoption for future security.
With the right treasury and risk systems in place, evaluating the financial risks created by the current pandemic would have been a lot easier, especially where these systems have been integrated with other data sources and core systems, such as ERPs and trading platforms, across the organisation.
In essence, immediate visibility of the right data becomes the most powerful decision-support system for the CxO. The need therefore to automate the whole area of strategy and risk management should now have become abundantly clear for any corporation’s treasury department.
Ultimately, humans have become the most adaptive of species. Tough times come and go, and so shall this. But we need to ensure we fully absorb the learnings each time if we are to prepare for the future. The ‘silver-lining’ lesson from COVID-19 is that the digitalisation and automation of corporate treasury operations is the way to ensure business continuity in the time of need.