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BreakThrough Preview: Where is Treasury Technology Going?

  • By Andrew Deichler
  • Published: 5/1/2018

Next week at the BreakThrough Treasury and Finance forum, attendees will receive expert insights on some of the biggest innovations in technology for treasury and finance. AFP recently spoke to Bob Stark, Vice President of Strategy for Kyriba, who will provide attendees with a look at the latest technology trends impacting the treasury landscape.

AFP: So your session will look at emerging trends in treasury technology. What are the most immediate developments that you see having an impact?

Bob Stark: There are many things that are emerging, and there are different levels of emergence, so what we’ll be starting with in our session are the things that you can touch. So that’s data visualization and business intelligence. A lot of systems are integrating those technologies, especially on the treasury side. They’re integrating those into their platforms, because they offer a very different way of looking at information.

Then there are real-time payments. Obviously, there’s been some work that’s been done there, both on the bank channel side and on the non-bank channel side. So I plan to touch on not only what’s going on there with The Clearing House’s RTP system in the United States and instant payments with SEPA, but also on what all of that means for treasury. It’s everything from predictability to the implications that real-time has for supply chain and fraud prevention. Since those payments settle immediately, you have to be more diligent in what goes out the door.

AFP: How about APIs? We’ve seen a lot of movement in that space from banks as of late. Will we be seeing some practical solutions for treasury?

Stark: APIs also fit into that discussion—maybe not in the next 12 months because banks are just getting into the pilots for them, especially in the U.S. But they’ll begin to understand why APIs are not just a different way to communicate with the bank; they actually can change the way that cash management is done. So we’ll begin to see what APIs mean from a corporate treasury standpoint in the next couple years.

AFP: What about the technologies that are a little farther out, like cryptocurrencies and distributed ledger/blockchain?

Stark: As far as cryptocurrencies go, we’ll have to talk a little about bitcoin. Obviously bitcoin is not the cryptocurrency that’s going to permeate within corporate treasury, but it has implications for a lot of use cases that corporate treasurers are looking to achieve going into the future, as they become more global.

There are also a lot of use cases for distributed ledger technology and blockchain. It seems like every day, there are different conversations around what it could do. We get approached by a lot of organizations for our perspective on potential applications for technology that is based on blockchain. There is a lot of noise out there, and so it’s best to simplify—here’s what blockchain is, here’s what it means, and here are some things it can actually be used for in our real world of treasury.

AFP: There has been a lot of interest in how artificial intelligence (AI) can apply to the treasury space. But along with those discussions has come a common concern that implementing AI could result in some treasury jobs getting phased out. Has that been your observation?

Stark: There is a little bit of fear in corporate treasury about what robotics and AI bring to the table, in relation to what corporate treasury professionals do today. There is a lot of concern about whether their jobs will be automated away. But it is a reality that we’re going to see robotics permeate more and more. So it’s important to understand what that looks like, and which processes might be candidates for further automation. That way, those of us in treasury can keep in mind what things we should be doing so that we can take advantage of the situation and not become causalities.

Every time there is talk about the capabilities of robotics, people start to think, ‘Wait, that’s what I do every day.’ But this concept of automation is not new. We saw it with the advent of TMS over Excel. So even though, technologically, this is very different, in practical terms, it’s not. Your job will evolve and you’ll do different things than you did before—things that are more value added. So it’s taking what is a fearful topic for some, and turning it into a way to think about what we could potentially do differently to prepare ourselves.

AFP: With treasury roles evolving over time, are you observing practitioners striving to become technology experts? Are they relying less on IT?

Stark: Yes, there is an opportunity for treasury professionals to not get consumed in an automated way. Definitely IT is a resource that is falling by the wayside in terms of availability to corporate finance and treasury. It’s not because it’s too expensive or because they don’t feel they can take on those roles within treasury, but it’s because it’s not needed. It’s less expensive to outsource it.

Ten years ago, you had a lot of treasury and ERP platforms that we installed and required in-house IT staff. That’s just not the case anymore; you look at ERPs and they’re all cloud now. You don’t need on premise solutions for anything anymore and as a result, IT support has evolved.

So what we’re finding is that some of the newer entrants to the workforce within treasury certainly have a different way of looking at the use of technology. They’re always thinking, ‘What can this do for me?’ rather than ‘What will this do to me?’ And so you find that there’s a new embrace of technology. ‘I expect that my role will change’ is becoming the mantra for those that are coming into the workforce now. That makes sense, because if you look at what technology can do to make your role better, then you can actually add more value. Maybe that new role isn’t totally visualized yet, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not there.

Don't miss Bob Stark's session, Understanding the Treasury Technology Landscape, at BreakThrough Treasury & Finance, May 6-8 in Nashville, sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Register here.

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