21st century treasury: risk and reward in the digital age

Published: Sep 2016

Understanding the drivers of change

Technology and digitisation is having a profound impact on all of our lives. We now live in a world interconnected by bits and bytes, and one in which personal handheld devices – often boasting more computing power than NASA had for the Apollo missions – now outnumber people. This connectivity is also driving big changes in the global business landscape. With the ability to connect instantly with people around the world, businesses have opportunities to find new customers, move into new geographies,and tap new areas of growth. For both individuals and businesses, technology is making what was once unimaginable, possible.

Have we already seen most of the benefits digital technologies can offer? At Barclays we believe we have just scratched the surface.

In the rather staid area of credit underwriting, for instance, the process has remained unchanged for an age. But Artificial Intelligence and machine learning engines have the power to fundamentally change this by allowing banks to harvest an incredible amount of data on a corporate in real-time, enabling banks to more effectively work with their clients to adjust credit limits and even take on data as a form of collateral.

Take blockchain by way of another example. There are already many ideas around how this nascent technology could be applied to cash and trade services. Arguably, though, what is really exciting about this technology is how it is driving people to think out of the box when it comes to developing solutions.

Trade finance, in particular, has the potential to be greatly improved through digitisation and technology. Indeed, there are already a variety of solutions in the market that enable corporates and banks to remove the reams of paper traditionally required for trade finance transactions. Additionally, Barclays is also looking at ways to ensure that these benefits permeate right through the supply chain, working with organisations such as the UK government’s UK Export Finance to help build a digital platform that will help UK exports expand and grow. In light of the recent Brexit vote, these initiatives will arguably become ever more important.

There is little doubt that technology represents a great opportunity for corporates to drive efficiencies across all areas of their businesses. But treasurers also need to be conscious of the fact that the proliferation of technology has also exposed businesses to a range of new risks. Cybercrime is fast becoming the curse of the digital age and a risk that all businesses must face with eyes wide-open. The threat is not insurmountable though. Businesses should instead look to ensure that cyber-security is part of their business and product strategy, transforming it into a business enabler.

Throughout this supplement we explore these issues, while offering insights into what each development may mean for your business. Barclays strives to be at the forefront of digitisation in transaction banking, not only by delivering digital solutions to our clients, but also supporting them with their own digital transformations and forging deep relationships, as we navigate the evolving technology landscape together.

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