“May you live in interesting times.”
The old Chinese saying has been likened to being less than a blessing and more of a curse. After all, “interesting” is not synonymous with peace or tranquility.
Corporate treasurers live in interesting but hardly easy times. Managing cash positions has become an exercise in thinking big, thinking long-term, and at the same time addressing constantly shifting smaller details and demands of businesses that are increasingly global in scope.
Navigating it all can seem overwhelming, and indeed, it’s enough to keep executives up at night. But the executive insights in the pages that follow offer a bit of roadmap for cash managers to see more restful nights.
Among the Highlights
The high-level picture is fraught with challenges and rewards. Manish Kohli, global head of payments and receivables at Citi, noted that treasurers must grapple with geopolitical uncertainty and the constant threat of cyberattacks. Vigilance is critical, but at least some of those factors lie beyond any individual’s (or firm’s) control.
The trend of business model disruption is an inexorable one, too. But it can offer opportunities for executives who embrace technological innovation as global supply chains are increasingly interconnected.
Connecting those supply chains across borders also means executives must think about payments in a different way, especially when managing transactions across time zones and currencies.
As commerce becomes 24/7 and strives for speed and transparency, Kohli noted that “flat currency models” and infrastructure are the future of payments.
Building on new initiatives to overlay legacy systems (like ISO 20022 messaging standards) can aid in those endeavors. And when it comes to fraud, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are potent weapons.
Changing the way payments are done, the way cash is managed — indeed, the way treasurers function to help bring company strategies to fruition — requires a team effort.
Kohli noted that corporate executives across different departments can rally around the common cause of faster payments, and partnerships between financial institutions and FinTechs.
The promise of faster payments, of course, has yet to be fully realized, Kohli said, due in part to the lack of ubiquity, especially here in the United States.
The vacuum created by lack of government mandate has been partly filled by the private sector, and peer-to-peer (P2P), business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) offerings will continue to proliferate as the economy itself shifts toward on-demand work. For treasurers, innovation tied to the digitization and enhanced messaging can provide greater visibility as to where funds are (and where they’re headed) at any moment.
Such knowledge, we wager, can and will help treasurers’ heads rest a bit easier on pillows at night.