Executive View: Jennifer Boussuge and Fernando Vicario, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Published: Nov 2015

For a major tier one bank, global reach is a standard goal. But for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the attendant themes of structure, adaptability, integration and cultural awareness are the guiding principles by which each client relationship must be nurtured.

Published: November 2015

Jennifer Boussuge portrait

Jennifer Boussuge
Head of Global Transaction Services EMEA

Jennifer Boussuge is head of Global Transaction Services at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Based in London, she is responsible for developing and executing the integrated strategy for the full end-to-end regional treasury and custody business for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

Boussuge has worked for Bank of America Merrill Lynch for 19 years. Most recently, she was head of Global Sales for GTS where she was responsible for setting the company’s global treasury and custody sales strategy, driving revenue and mobilising teams across all regions to win mandates. Previous roles include head of International Subsidiary Banking Sales, GTS, EMEA; GTS Industry Head leading the delivery of global treasury and liquidity management services to large corporate healthcare and consumer and retail clients throughout the U.S.; senior treasury sales officer for International Government clients and client manager for International Corporates.

Boussuge has worked in the banking industry for 26 years. Before joining Bank of America Merrill Lynch, she worked at Riggs National Bank and Citibank in Washington, D.C..

Boussuge graduated from Mary Washington College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and French. She conducted her graduate studies in French at the Sorbonne University in Paris, France and business administration studies at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C..

She sits on the Europe and Emerging Markets (ex-Asia) regional executive committee and the leadership committee for Bank of America Merrrill Lynch’s Global Banking and Markets Women’s Leadership Council in EMEA.

Fernando Vicario portrait

Fernando Vicario
Co-head of EMEA Debt Capital Markets and Corporate Banking Coverage

Fernando Vicario is co-head of EMEA Debt Capital Markets and Corporate Banking Coverage, a role he has held since 2011.

Vicario has worked for Bank of America Merrill Lynch for 20 years across multiple roles including Head of Corporate Banking for FI Europe and Emerging Markets (ex-Asia), Head of EMEA Global Product Solutions, and Head of EMEA and Latin America Corporate Banking. Over the years he has led a significant number of growth initiatives across EMEA in these roles.

Vicario is an active corporate banking committee member of the Association of Foreign Banks and a member of the London Symphony Orchestra development board. He sits on the Europe, Middle East and Africa regional executive committee, the Bank of America Merrill Lynch International Board of Directors and Bank of America Merrill Lynch ‘LEAD for Women’ Associate Affinity Group Council.

A native of Pforzheim, Germany and a Spanish national, Vicario obtained a degree in Banking and Finance (Bankbetriebswirt) from the Hochschule fuer Bankwirtschaft / Bankakademie in Frankfurt, Germany. He is fluent in English, German and Spanish and has a good command of Portuguese.

Vicario is married, has two daughters and lives in London.

Globalisation is a phrase that’s often used. But what does it mean to you, what are you seeing?

Jennifer Boussuge (JB): We all recognise that business has become increasingly global as organisations pursue growth strategies, often outside their home markets. However, whilst globalisation is a much-used phrase, how it is achieved is far less straight forward than simply entering a new market and planting a flag in the ground.

Understanding the structures required to facilitate globalisation is critical to ensuring a successful growth strategy in new a geographic market. Everything from risk, cash and liquidity management must be considered for a business to be “always on” somewhere in the world.

Fernando Vicario (FV): Indeed, and as we have seen, particularly over the last decade, technology is underpinning these structures. It is equipping treasurers and acting as an enabler for businesses to realise their global strategy. Innovations such as ERP systems, technology workstations, software as a service and payment factories all play their part. Critically, scalability must be part of those decisions too, to facilitate the evolution of a business to be “match fit” for globalisation.

JB: Plus of equal importance, but perhaps less tangible, is the need to recognise culture and local practices. Whilst culture is bred from within an organisation, the partners a business chooses to help with its global plans and how they are aligned, fundamentally impact the way it responds to change and ultimately, its success in a new market.

So an ‘adapting to change’ culture seems to be key then?

JB: Absolutely, post-financial crisis particularly, we’ve seen corporates and their treasurers become very adept at “adapting to change”. And as the treasury function evolves, it’s essential that we as a bank understand this too and alter the way in which we interact with clients. We see a need today to develop a far greater understanding of our clients’ culture and businesses than ever before – getting to know their key drivers and shifting the focus from us as a bank to answering what treasurers truly need to be successful.

What’s also changed is banks’ proposition towards an integrated model in order to provide clients with a myriad of strategic support across a far broader spectrum to match their growth strategies. For instance, we might look at how we work with a corporate to implement an in-house bank or develop a payments factory. This is driven by innovation to help companies operate in a more centralised way, and one that gives treasurers an accurate snapshot of their business at any given time.

FV: And let’s not forget regulation and how it has changed the way corporates operate. In fact, there is a real interplay between corporates and banks in this area given recent regulatory changes that impact our lending capability and return on capital, for example. It’s a changing world to which banks and corporates must collectively adapt.

What about centralisation – does it suit everyone?

JB: Many companies are centralising and standardising because of the need to drive efficiency. As this becomes more commonplace, clearly it becomes easier to achieve, particularly when there are uniform standards already in place, either as part of a company’s own initiative but also by working to industry standards such as XML or SWIFT.

FV: And advancements in information management and value flow have enabled both banks and our clients to be much more successful at reducing inefficiencies, even with clients who require complex banking structures. With the benefit of centralisation, integration also becomes easier because there is a more standardised and complete model into which to integrate the company.

JB: I couldn’t agree more – and as we know, the optimum way for a treasurer to work is to be central to the value chain, the company’s processes and its cash and liquidity management structures. While it may be more readily achievable to centralise some processes over others, as a bank we can provide the corporate client with the necessary underlying technology that allows information to flow visibly and accessibly from their overseas operations. This allows for the creation, implementation and monitoring of a corporate’s global strategy via a global hub of information sharing.

What about funding in a globalised world?

FV: Treasurers are under increased pressure to manage their company’s cash and liquidity positions, but also to come up with the answers as to how and from where to fund a growth strategy. As we said before, it’s about providing an integrated model capable of providing clients with a wide array of strategic support that meets their complex funding demands. Also, as we see more activity around mergers and acquisitions, and also divestitures, this changes the capital make-up of a company.

Some markets are easier to access for a host of reasons, although clearly global economic health and the state of the financial markets play a significant role. From a geographical perspective, we are seeing companies tap into new pools of capital from new and emerging markets as part of a debt funding drive or a secondary listing. It wasn’t too long ago that “cash was king” but these days it‘s harder and more expensive to come by. Other opportunities also need to be fully explored across the capital markets spectrum, be it through equity or debt markets. There are windows of opportunities in both public and private markets and with the right access, to both bank- and investor capital, you can actually diversify your funding risk.

JB: Important to remember though, is that no decision can or should be made in isolation by a treasurer. From their perspective, there’s always a need to evaluate the strategic implications from a financing, funding, liquidity and cash management point of view, as well as their risk through good due diligence. By examining all these elements and having strong controls and processes in place, the balance sheet can become the lever to realise that growth strategy.

Do you work with other banks when you’re servicing a client?

JB: If we go back to our earlier discussion, globalisation is becoming a reality for an increasing number of corporates. In turn, they need their banking provider to harness the same geographical footprint as them.

In some instances, a specialist local bank might be the best provider to help a corporate navigate a new environment and we have many examples across continents where we work with them. These local relationships can provide valuable insight into regional nuances, specific practices and cultures. Notably, their knowledge and experience of working to local regulatory requirements, which have become far more demanding in many jurisdictions around the world in recent years, can help to plug that knowledge gap for a corporate client.

FV: At the end of the day, the effectiveness of this structure comes down to the level of integration between the global banking provider and its local banking providers, coupled with the flow of information throughout the global network. Client delivery is often dependent on one concentrated structure overlaid by capabilities that span the globe.

JB: And it is through innovations in technology that we are able to realise this integrated model so that a client doesn’t feel that they are working with multiple banking providers even when this is the reality. For example, our own client interface and overlay structures are shared with local bank providers that allow the treasurer to access a seamless banking environment.

So how does the difference manifest itself?

JB: A globally integrated approach that accommodates a network bank model creates the backbone to build those valuable global client relationships. Success lies in a centralised structure where the capability can be replicated throughout the geographical network. This can be particularly valuable across less traditional territories, where local knowledge can seamlessly integrate with global expertise.

FV: And our clients can benefit because they deal with one global bank that manages multiple relationships, and helps deliver on the clients’ financial needs to leverage business opportunities wherever they do business around the world.

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