Treasury Practice

CashPro Assistant rollout continues with a reimagined authority management service

Published: Mar 2021

Identifying and maintaining authorised resolution and account signers is a common challenge for treasurers – but Bank of America’s new CashPro Assistant skill for authority management turns the traditional approach on its head. Jennifer Boussuge, Global Head of Treasury Fulfilment Service Operations within Global Technology & Operations, and Linda Haddad, Global Product Head for CashPro Assistant, explain why the tool is needed, how it works, and how the rollout is progressing.

A digital blue image of a city
Jennifer Boussuge, Global Head of Treasury Fulfilment Service Operations within Global Technology & Operations, Bank of America

Jennifer Boussuge

Global Head of Treasury Fulfilment Service Operations within Global Technology & Operations

Bank of America

Linda Haddad Global Product Head for CashPro Assistant

Linda Haddad

Global Product Head for CashPro Assistant

Bank of America

Managing who has access and authority for maintaining bank relationship, accounts, services and in general to conduct business on behalf of their company has long been a challenge for corporate treasurers. From initially adding these authorised individuals, and then maintaining the list over the life of their bank relationship, authority management is a complex, monotonous paper-based process that has an incredible opportunity to evolve with the digital age. At times the process may even involve sourcing replacement documentation when the authority list gets out of synch over time.

To compound the challenge, when corporate treasures are prompted by their own auditors or policy to provide evidence of the authorities related to their bank relationship, they will need to work with the bank to recreate a view that at times may be many years old, using a paper-based process.

Other shortcomings of traditional approaches to authority management include repetitive data collection, signature sample capture, and jurisdictional requirements for individual Know Your Customer (KYC), which may include personal identifying information (PII).

Given these challenges, there is plenty of room for improvement. Over the last couple of years, Bank of America has, in consultation with clients, devised a new way of approaching this topic. The resulting authority management skill added to CashPro Assistant has been successfully released in EMEA and is now being rolled out in North America.

Today’s authority management: the challenges

“Traditional signer maintenance is time-consuming and entails a myriad of extensive, manual processes for clients and banks alike,” says Jennifer Boussuge, Global Head of Treasury Fulfilment Service Operations within Global Technology & Operations at Bank of America. “We’ve challenged the status quo by creating streamlined, digital efficiencies clients will benefit from tremendously.”

When companies open an account, they must inform banks who their authorised signers are for actions such as signing documents and cheques. Typically this is done using a paper signature card which is passed to the bank. The bank then scans it and adds it as an image onto a repository or database that can be accessed internally.

“Many clients have multiple accounts with us, with the same set of signers for every account,” Boussuge explains. “So if you have 100 accounts, a bank can request the same signature card, with the same signature samples, 100 times.”

Traditional signer maintenance is time-consuming and entails a myriad of extensive, manual processes for clients and banks alike. We’re changing that.

Jennifer Boussuge, Global Head of Treasury Fulfilment Service Operations within Global Technology & Operations

Keeping authority profile records for accounts up to date is a similarly inefficient process for both banks and organisations. “Many of our clients do not have a centralised location for accessing this information,” explains Linda Haddad, the bank’s Global Product Head for CashPro Assistant. “It’s difficult for clients to determine their total bank account population, let alone who has which authorisation on those accounts.”

Compounding the challenge, treasury teams don’t always remember to keep their banks informed about changes to their authorised signers – as Boussuge points out, “the question of who is authorised is very much a part of a client’s own process and policies. Inevitably the bank can become a second thought, which means we get out of sync very quickly.”

With no means of automatic records synchronisation by the bank and by the company, challenges can arise when companies need to request signer details from the bank, for example when an audit is required. Traditionally, accessing this information from a bank can take days or even weeks – and when banks do provide signer information, it will often be inaccurate. In today’s global economy, the complexity can be all the greater when reviews encompass different regions.

Rethinking the process

To tackle these issues, Bank of America engaged a pool of clients to help design a new approach. The result: CashPro Assistant authority management, a new skill that will ultimately be available to all CashPro clients.

“We had been hearing feedback from clients and operations about the manual, paper-based aspect of signer management, and we decided to do something about it,” says Haddad. “We formed a cross-business team that included some of our key clients, with the objective of simplifying the tracking, modifying and reporting of signatory authorisations. CashPro Assistant authority management is that re-imagined solution.”

Crucially, the new approach involves organising authority management not by account, but by signer. “Rather than having one signature card with a list of signers for each account, we thought, ‘What if we create one signer profile per person, and then add and remove accounts that are assigned to that person?’” says Boussuge. “Instead of one person providing their signature specimen ten times for ten different accounts, we can now give that individual an authority profile card and then add or remove the ten accounts. The beauty of this solution is the signer only provides their required information and signature specimen once.”

As well as being more efficient than traditional methods, a signer-based approach also addresses privacy issues that can arise when using standard signature cards. “If you pass a signature card within your company to collect signer information and signature specimens, everyone who is on that signature card will see each other’s potentially private information,” says Boussuge.

When authority profiles are organised by signer and stored in an accessible database, individual signers can give the bank their details without sharing them across multiple channels and people.

Digitising the process

Replacing an account-based process with a signer-based process is one part of the new approach. Another piece of the puzzle involves digitising the signature card process and storing signer profile cards not as PDF images, but as data.

“The authority profile card then becomes a data collection device synced through CashPro,” says Boussuge. “The data is stored on a centralised, secure database, which allows us to grant access to necessary teams within the bank, enabling access to a single set of data.”

For example, this means that when a signature needs to be verified, a bank employee can pull the specific information from the database – and the bank can control the details users are entitled to view, protecting potentially sensitive information, such as a driving license.

“The next step is to make the data visible to our clients,” says Haddad. “Through CashPro Assistant, a client can now view their authority profiles we have on file, allowing them to essentially pull a report on all their signers with the click of a button, saving everyone days or possibly weeks.” She adds that when clients want to make a change, they are able to submit simple, digital requests to make changes to their data.

Looking further ahead, Bank of America plans to extend the concept beyond the parameters of signature cards to include other types of authority – such as the authority to submit phone wires, or the named contacts for failed payment files. Finally, the project will see clients being given full control over their data, with the ability to manage their own authority information in real-time and without the need for paper signature card documents to effect changes.

Building connections

As Haddad explains, the ability to connect the client-facing and back-end applications is key to the development and success of the solution. “Often, bank portals aren’t connected to the back-end operation,” she says. “The portal may be great for the client to interact with, but it stops there – and at the back-end, the bank is still operating in the traditional way using paper.”

Bank of America’s approach, conversely, involves directly linking the back-end and client-facing applications, while digitising both of these components. “This means that when the client sends a request to add an authority profile, it is auto-cased and completed often without delay,” says Haddad. “The client can see it in CashPro Assistant at the same time.” She explains that this integrated approach makes the solution scalable for the future, as well as reducing both the need for manual processes and the risk of error.

CashPro Assistant authority management: the low-down

The new skill includes the following features:

  • Full authority profile.

    The inclusion of product contacts, payment approvers and access entitlement roles will expand the view of an authority profile, making it inclusive of the full view of authorities an individual holds at the bank.

  • Signer at the centre.

    CashPro Assistant authority management includes signer profiles for individuals, with accounts added or removed from scope as required.

  • Digitised records.

    Whereas account signature cards have been stored as PDF images, the new process will record signer information as data that is stored on a secure single database – meaning bank users can access single fields as needed, instead of viewing the whole signature card. This removes the potential of oversharing sensitive data.

  • Client access.

    Providing clients with access to the data and the ability to edit it directly will make it much easier for them to run reports, submit change requests and self-manage their authorised signer data.

Progress so far

The new authority management approach is also about overcoming historical silos. “This is a unique partnership between the front-end client-facing experience, and the bank’s fulfilment operations,” says Boussuge. “The treasury world has historically been very transaction focused – but this moves us to the next frontier, by melding a process that is so painful for clients.”

The development of the solution has been shaped by the bank’s CashPro client advisory board and roundtables, with clients providing feedback on how the experience should be designed. “We had a vision, but the design and evolution of how we actually created this new tool is directly tied to client feedback and interactions over the past three years. They were part of every design decision,” says Haddad.

Rolling out the solution

Bank of America first released CashPro Assistant authority management in March 2020. The first stage of launch was purposefully focused on EMEA, where signer management tends to be more complex than in the US. The launch encompassed both the internal and external applications, with a subset of clients, varying in company size and scope, included in the first instance.

The launch came at a time when the COVID-19 crisis was gaining momentum. If anything, the crisis has accelerated the need for the solution. “We are in a very unique time, when companies are looking for opportunities to digitise anything and everything they can, to best enable their remote workforce,” Boussuge notes. “So in a way it was an opportune time to help clients focus on business continuity and digitising data.”

The EMEA rollout was completed last year and the bank’s focus is now on North America. “We’ve already started the phased rollout for clients and teammates, generating interest and excitement across the board,” says Boussuge.

All clients in the US and Canada are set to be added by the end of 2021. As such, in the coming months Bank of America will focus on launching the changes and the new skill. Looking further ahead, Latin America and Asia Pacific clients will benefit as well.

As outlined in a previous Treasury Today article, authority management is only the most recent of a series of skills being released in CashPro Assistant. Service dashboard, the skill that provides actionable request monitoring, and document centre, for sharing and eSigning documents, were released in CashPro Assistant previously.

Anatomy of a digitisation initiative

Bank of America’s initiative to digitise the signature card process will include the following five stages:

  1. Gain control of signatory data and entering it into a database.

  2. Make data visible to clients.

  3. Give clients the ability to request changes to the data.

  4. Expand the database to include other types of authority.

  5. Provide clients with full control over the data on the database.

Client experience

As authority management rollout continues, treasurers are seeing benefits of the new tool. Clients who use the tool are reporting satisfaction due to being able to produce reports in minutes instead of weeks, and submitting requests online in-tool. The client experience is also optimised in the process. “The game changer,” says Boussuge, “is that clients now have the time-saving option to submit requests very quickly online instead of picking up the phone or typing an email.”

“The benefit of this new digital, online option is that any required documentation can be exchanged via the online portal, which is a secure authenticated channel,” she adds.

With the rollout in EMEA now complete, Boussuge says that feedback from clients has been very positive. “They love the entire concept and digital focus,” she says. “They love the idea of having control, transparency and being able to overcome the challenges of antiquated, manual signer management. We have a continuous stream of clients already requesting the service.”

Haddad agrees, citing the example of a large retail chain that has high staff turnover, and consequently makes frequent updates. “They were very excited about the idea of no longer needing to complete signature cards manually, that they can do so in a digital way through CashPro Assistant and with eSigning,” she says. “Seeing and hearing how our services solve real-world problems is valuable feedback. It’s the reward we get when we use innovation to help our clients.”

Summary

Managing and accessing authorised signer information is a well-known challenge for treasury teams – and in today’s landscape, treasurers are placing more value than ever on solutions that reimagine outdated processes, increase efficiency and digitise data. With the rollout now under way in North America, CashPro Assistant authority management offers treasurers a new way of managing signers and authorisations.

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