Insight & Analysis

Perspectives from Paris

Published: Dec 2017

Treasury Today recently attended BNP Paribas’ Cash Management University in Paris. Here are some of the highlights.

Earlier this month, BNP Paribas hosted its annual Cash Management University for corporate treasurers in Paris – the tenth anniversary of the event. Every year, the bank invites groups of global treasurers to attend its conference with a focus on the realities of best practice in cash management, and it is a fixture which has become well established over the past decade.

With over 200 corporate treasurers in attendance, 2017 saw the bank display a new, more relaxed format and convivial atmosphere with a focus on co-creation and building the strategic treasury department of the future. Digitisation, data and what it all means for the future of corporate treasury were strong themes throughout the event. The bank was also keen to highlight its investment across the organisation into digitisation and a general fostering of an entrepreneurial DNA.

Banking on strengths

Jean Laurent Bonnafe, CEO, BNP Paribas, spoke at the event about the importance the whole bank is placing on its transaction banking sector and its corporate relationships. In his address he outlined that cash management sits firmly at the heart of BNP Paribas’ corporate bank. He also spoke of how the bank is focusing on expanding in the US, growing in Asia and on maintaining its strength in Europe.

Digitisation is a big area for the bank and Bonnafe was keen to emphasise how across all business lines the bank needs to deliver the ‘right’ digital approach. The bank is clearly serious about this, investing €3bn into its digital transformation. He also stressed the banks cannot ‘go it alone’, meaning they must collaborate with fintechs to become more responsive to changing client needs and deliver more than a standalone bank offer.

“There is no choice but to be innovative to survive this highly regulated environment we are all operating in,” he said. “Data offers us the chance to advance and to evolve if it can be harnessed.”

Fintech focus

Bonnafe’s words permeated through many of the presentations over the course of the two days. This was perhaps most evident in a speech by Omeed Mehninfar of Plug & Play who focused on how established companies like banks can work together with innovative market players like fintechs to create new ways of working and build a sustainable, long-term approach to push the whole industry forward.

Whilst some companies are already doing this, Mehninfar noted that many are not. These companies are falling behind and he believes as a result that many will disappear over the next decade. Indeed, he cited that 50% of the S&P 500 will be replaced in the next ten years.

This may seem implausible, so Mehninfar, who has come across to Paris from San Francisco as part of BNP Paribas’ partnership with Plug & Play, instructed the audience to cast their minds back to ABN AMRO and Nokia. He noted that for a long time these companies were market leaders, but without a constant focus on innovation and forward thinking they were quickly surpassed by the Apple generation. The message was clear: adapt and thrive or stay static and die.

New ways of working

It is not just companies that are required to adapt in the face of digital disruption, workforces must too. Yet this is natural and not something that we should be afraid of, said Laurent Haug, entrepreneur and motivational speaker.

Throughout his thought-provoking session, Haug spoke about the constant evolution throughout the history of the jobs market. He highlighted how popular employment options today, such as computer programming and marketing did not even exist 100 years ago, whilst jobs that were common a century ago, such as chimney sweeps, dockers and typesetters are no more.

The fact that jobs evolve and change is not necessarily something we should be frightened of, he said. Instead, we should embrace the change and reskill to take advantage of new and exciting opportunities.

Views of an ethical hacker

A final notable keynote session was delivered by Jamie Woodruff, Technical Director of Metric Cloud and an ‘ethical hacker’ who spoke on cyber-security which is certainly high up the agenda for every corporate across the world in this new era.

Woodruff gave an eye-opening speech highlighting the common notion that the weakest part of any business is your staff. “Data is far more valuable now than currency,” said Woodruff as he went on to explain that hacking is now a large and sophisticated industry.

He concluded saying that there is no longer a question of “if” your company will suffer a security breach, but rather of “when”. He advised that companies should be arming their staff with not just the knowledge of how to prevent a breach but how to sound the alarm and respond quickly and effectively when one does inevitably occur.

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