While the arrival of the likes of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in global treasury services is not likely to help foment revolution, banks’ use of social media channels and features to service corporate customers does promise to introduce profoundly more interactive relationships. Banks have been reaching out to consumers through social media for a few years now, but the uptake at the business-to-business level has been slow. Security is a concern, and the more experienced executives running corporate finance departments—a polite way of saying the 50-plus crowd—tend to show less enthusiasm for adopting the latest technology. Nevertheless, at least a few national banks plan to launch social media initiatives this year that are intended to facilitate the flow of ideas between the bank and its treasury customers as well as among those customers.
Banks routinely engage in meetings with corporate clients in person or through webinars to discuss initiatives and allow clients to share their experiences. Such meetings are limited by space, time and the number of participants. Wells Fargo, for example, started up advisory councils in 2003 made up of more than 100 representatives from treasury clients, including big and small companies and governmental institutions. The councils meet once or twice a year to talk about services and such issues as how to integrate acquisitions most effectively.
Those features are particularly helpful when clients are using small-screen mobile devices. For example, an executive receives a message seeking a wire-transfer approval but has a question. On the same screen she clicks an icon to bring up a contact list and calls the correct contact to answer the question. When she hangs up, the wire-transfer screen reappears and she can press the approval icon to transfer the funds, all without leaving the application—similar to the multiple communication choices Facebook provides.
Or an executive may be looking at the image of a check and wants to share it with colleagues in accounts payable to show it has cleared. The new mobile apps now allow sharing images via e-mails, Santiago says, and as executives become more comfortable with the capability, it can be extended to other messaging options.