Similar to what has happened recently, where operational and transactional tasks have been streamlined and partly automated, the evolutionary phase we are seeing now is focusing more on what automation is yet to achieve; making it more pervasive and better integrated within the full treasury platform, while helping to more effectively manage risk.
These factors may have the following immediate effects on the daily activities of the treasury function:
As automation starts delivering on multiple aspects of treasury, the creation of bandwidth will allow teams to focus on strategic aspects and less on manual tasks.
New data processing techniques will continue to grow and, as such, these skill sets will develop within treasury, leading to more data-assisted decision-making across treasury.
Treasury will be part of business strategy discussions. The main benefit will be the reciprocal understanding between ‘business’ and ‘treasury’ where key decisions will take into account the treasury perspective.
To facilitate the shift from the current semi-automated treasury status to the fully-automated version, one ingredient is essential: the right ‘culture’. Often, those who work in treasury don’t have the time to consider how best to innovate treasury and its processes, despite having the in-depth knowledge required to envision such a change. Hence, the overlaying framework and organisation in which they operate is critically important. A company culture fostering advancement will be the ‘secret ingredient’.
The expectation is to have treasury converging toward a more automated organisation. To achieve this status, treasury teams will need to evolve accordingly (and this includes development of new specific skills). Working on this assumption, it is likely that a radically different set of skills – such as those of the data-scientist, developer or IT professional – will be as prominent as a traditional grounding in economics and finance.
However, whilst the emerging technologies will deliver actionable intelligence and predictive analytics, with the potential to significantly reduce the manual overhead, there is still no expectation that machines will replace humans, as our oversight will still be required.
Before embarking on a digitisation journey, there are many things that treasury organisations must consider. These include which technologies to invest in, and how the organisation will approach the implementation process. It’s critical that organisations adopt a well-balanced approach, matching the benefits of any new technology with the readiness of the business to adopt them.
Understanding external factors, such as regulatory requirements and the evolution of the banking infrastructure in specific contexts and/or geographies, is another important consideration when making decisions about technology.
There is no doubt that we are living through some of the greatest changes in business; not for nothing has our time been dubbed the ‘fourth industrial revolution’. The most likely effects of this period on treasury are two-fold. There is the growing relevance of treasury in the core-business decision-making process, thanks to the bandwidth created by process automation. But there is an increased risk that treasury’s shift toward automation may bring about an uncontrolled ‘revolution’.
With the pros and cons in mind, it is clear that careful planning, a balanced approach and a future-oriented culture, alongside closer partnerships with key banks, is the solution to a smooth transition into the treasury of the future.