From the November 2007 issue of Treasury & Risk magazine

Gold AHA Award Winner for Tool of the Year

When Boeing--at $61.5 billion in revenues, the world's leading aerospace company and largest manufacturer of commercial and military aircraft--decided to take on the challenge of rationalizing its foreign exchange procedures, it realized it faced four formidable impediments: Processes were highly manual and labor intensive; reporting formats were inconsistent; data was often inaccessible to the business units; and different legacy systems failed to adequately communicate with each other and users. But as vexing as the obstacles, mounting overseas sales and outsourcing of manufacturing made the need to develop a holistic foreign exchange technology infrastructure an inevitable conclusion.

Treasurer Paul Kinscherff decided that if Boeing wanted to be a top benchmark corporate treasury--and it did--it would need a world-class tool to match its aspirations. A project was born--and Randall Durling, director of International Finance and Treasury Operations, was given the go-ahead to pull from IT and work with vendors to make it happen.

Appropriately, taking a page from the airline industry's hub-and-spoke traffic flow system, the department determined it needed one central area to store all of the FX-related data (the hub), which is connected to users throughout the organizations via specialized tools (the spokes). Given the variety of robust commercially available treasury workstations, Boeing decided to buy a commercial product to function as its hub, which was built and is hosted by an outside vendor, FXpress (the Web-based workstation is called FIRST). Both internally developed tools and externally supplied products, the spokes--the suite of tools--run the gamut from FXall, which allows Boeing to electronically connect and execute trades with all banking partners, to FCWR, an intranet-based tool that assists business units to request a foreign currency payment.

Coordinating the internal and external providers was the most difficult part of the project. Durling and his team provided extensive training on the redesigned workflows. "Everything had to be evaluated, tested and connected to the hub," he explains. "We couldn't have done this without our IT people."

The results have been staggeringly good: Treasury has more than doubled the value of the FX program and tripled the number of transactions with more clarity, lower risk and increased controls, without adding headcount. And the formerly burdened treasury has freed up its time and resources to focus on strategic activities. "By creatively harnessing technology, we are more effectively managing our assets and risks," says Kinscherff. "Through a highly automated, controllable and auditable approach to the complex rules governing derivative instruments, this toolset moves us toward a best practices vision."

The new FX tool, already in use in core operations, will be applied next year to subsidiaries and, in the fourth quarter, to some commodity exposures , such as jet fuel and aluminum.

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