The relevant business areas are payments management and cash positioning and forecasting, which benefit in different ways from the standardization, control, process optimization and transparency achieved through centralization.
Technology – the enabler
Technology is the cornerstone of achieving effective centralized cash management, providing the central database, processing and reporting functionality, connectivity, communications and control functions for the organization. This includes working efficiently with banks and ERPs, and internally, to ensure that the operation is up to date, accurate and secure. The flexibility of the technology allows a wide range of business objectives to be achieved, in many different types of corporate.
Technology provides the means to define, configure and operate standardized processes right across the organization, readily enabling the achievement of best practice operations in critical financial functions. The key benefits include:
A centralized payments solution offers all users a standardized platform for the management of this most sensitive area of finance operations. This powerful payments factory benefit is today in the budget range for corporates of many sizes, beyond the traditional base of multinationals. The benefits include the operation of cross functional, cross departmental solutions, with the central system taking care of the complexities of different currencies, formats, communications protocols, security protocols and international regulatory demands. Bank communications may be performed via channels such as SWIFT, host-to-host and local communication standards, or a combination.
The standardized communication function manages both the receipt of payments files from multiple ERPs, their validation and authorization, and their release to the banking network. The end result is a secure workflow which eliminates many of the complexities and risks of payments.
A central payments operation accommodates both bulk payments and high value treasury payments such as FX hedge settlements and loan transaction flows. The processes may be set up so that more elaborate approval processes are used depending on the size of a particular payment, in compliance with a pre-defined finance policy.
A fully automated set of operations means that payment files are managed in an end-to-end seamless process, from creation until receipt by the bank, with validation functions configured to fulfill specific requirements. Such automated flows are supported by sophisticated security processes, including user identification, and encryption mechanisms. The centralized structure provides a high level of confidence that payments are being managed as required right across the corporate organization.
The automated retrieval of information from the banks provides the basis for deriving the current cash position, and for building a cash forecast. The process is controlled and monitored centrally, and will include automatic checks that all the required banks have in fact reported, and that the reports are valid. This enables errors and omissions to be researched and repaired quickly, so that key cash management processes do not suffer significant delays. The workflow may be implemented so that the validated bank data is automatically transferred to back-end systems such as automated reconciliation, maximizing the operational benefit.
The effective straight through processes that can be implemented reduce or even eliminate the need for manual intervention, enhancing the quality of many core finance functions.
The use of a centralized cash management resource is not limited to centralized corporations. The system’s process management and permissions functionality are used to control who is allowed to perform specific functions, and who is allowed to see a particular set of information. This allows company-specific structures to be defined, secured and operated. For example, one organization might function with all payments being authorized and operated locally by the business units’ finance teams, with the center simply having overview visibility. In another case, the center would be responsible for all payment operations, with the originator just having visibility of the results. In both cases, and in a range of hybrids, the organization benefits from the power of a best practice solution, configured to comply with policy requirements.
Today’s financial technology is making powerful cash management solutions accessible to more and more corporates, allowing them to take advantage of the efficiencies, risk reductions and control and visibility benefits which have historically been the preserve of the largest operations.
It is now possible for many organizations to centralize the management of payments and bank reporting in full compliance with specific policy requirements and organizational constraints.
This article was first published on gtnews.com