About 2,000 delegates converged on Rome for this week’s EuroFinance International Cash and Treasury Management conference. In keeping with the 20th anniversary of the annual event, the keynote panel yesterday focused on what the treasury profession might look like in another 20 years, in 2030.
Colin Kerr, industry solutions director at Microsoft, observed that the treasurers of the future would not be the audience, but the audience’s children, who are already using technology in a very different way than the current generation of treasurers. Interestingly, 70% of the audience felt the types of collaborative technology envisaged as the way of the future would result in less free time, not more.
For the many delegates confronted with e-mail silence as a result of the on-going BlackBerry outage, the subject of technology was particularly close to home—albeit the technology of today, rather than tomorrow. The technology of the more immediate future was another recurring theme.
“One thing I am interested in hearing more about is eBAM,” says Martin Bina, treasury operations manager for Caterpillar, who is based in the company’s Swiss office. “We’re a member of SWIFT and we get the statements and payments like a lot of people. Now we’re focusing on everything related to the ISO 20022 standards and emerging initiatives like eBAM and 3SKey—anything that can help us rationalize and streamline our treasury operations.”
Bart Jansen, director of treasury and risk management at Coca Cola Hellenic, is also interested in eBAM although he sees it as an initiative that will take longer to materialize. “We would like to use eBAM in the future, but at the moment it is not yet visible or good enough,” Jansen says. “Another area we are focusing on is mobile collections. We have a couple of million customers and many of them could pay for goods at the point of receiving them using a mobile device. This would cut out the cash, which is expensive to handle.”
Aside from technology, there was much talk among delegates about the state of the European economy. With Italy downgraded by both Moody’s and Fitch last week, and some predicting that the country’s days in the euro are numbered, this year’s location is certainly topical.
A key question for treasurers is what impact the economic uncertainty will have on funding. “The topic which is of particular concern this year is the condition of the economy, the potential issues relating to bank liquidity—and if the liquidity dries up, how this will impact on corporate access to credit,” says Bina.
Not everyone sees the economic situation as central, however. “The people here will not want to focus overly on the macroeconomics side,” commented Jansen. “They are more interested in the things that directly impact on the treasurer’s role. Regulation is one key topic this year, and I would like to see treasurers having more input on initiatives like SEPA.”
Jose Franco, global head of corporate banking liquidity at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, agrees that regulation is a central issue. “Corporates are concerned about the different stances on regulations for banks, the segments we serve and the different geographies we operate in.”