In the year ahead, the key developments in strategic cash and treasury management will be influenced by four ongoing global trends: standardization, centralization, virtualization and bank independence. The combination of these trends is likely to lead to dramatic changes by fostering a separation between the operational and strategic functions of treasury departments.

Standardization Most companies still face considerable challenges with cross-border payments, reflecting the many different standards involved. The solution is further standardization, and banks, software vendors, standards bodies, regulators and, of course, the corporate community have all been trying to develop one generally accepted payment standard. Despite so many initiatives, including TWIST, Edifact, RosettaNet and the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), we have not succeeded in agreeing on one industry standard. However, there is still hope.

All of the European Union member states have adopted the Payments Services Directive (PSD), the legal framework for SEPA. Although we expect payments convergence within the eurozone with the introduction of SEPA, it remains to be seen how successful the initiative will be. The adoption of the standards is a slow process. Many local payment methods will be earmarked as "niche products" and, as such, will not have a specific migration deadline set for them. As long as these products are not discontinued, true standardization will not be realized. In addition, there is a growing volume of trade and commercial flows denominated in euros outside of SEPA, so standardization courtesy of SEPA is still a long way off.

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