Tom Hunt, Director of Treasury Services, AFP
As 2016 draws to a close, our members are turning their attention to the New Year. I’ve had a number of conversations with treasury professionals on the projects they’ll be focusing on in 2017. For the most part, much of practitioners’ attention will be internal in the New Year, as treasury departments attempt to streamline processes and become more efficient.
It comes as no surprise that many practitioners will be working on major technology projects next year. As the treasury profession becomes more strategic and less manual, many departments are looking to upgrade key functions.
A treasury executive from a major food products manufacturer is working to move from two disparate treasury systems down to one. The debate for his organization, like many others, is whether to go with an application service provider (ASP) or a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution. Given that an ASP environment has proven challenging to support internally, his company aims to convert to 75-90 percent SaaS in 2017.
On the payments side, a treasurer for a nonprofit organization explained how his organization is striving to become as bank agnostic as possible. Instead of sending files to banks for ACH processing, they now send them to a bank agnostic payment gateway. The payment gateway tokenizes, does updater processing, etc. If the nonprofit decides to drop one of its banks and move to another one, they just need to make a phone call and redirect files, no formatting required.
Investment policy changes
With money market fund reform now in effect, many companies are in the process of adjusting their investment policies. One assistant treasurer has experienced serious frustration on this front as her organizations has recently appointed a new CFO and a new treasurer, and neither of them have much of a background in investments or even understand money fund reform. She’s now working on her second revision of the investment policy after management killed the last one she did.
As always, know-your-customer compliance will continue to be a headache for treasury professionals next year. As one practitioner explained that banks in both India and Ecuador are now asking for a “statement of personal situation”, which includes family information, monthly incomes and expenses, assets, liabilities, loans and personal bank references. “In due time no one in their right mind would want to be a global treasurer anymore,” he said. “I am now officially operating in the realm of the absurd!”
Fraud and security
Another constant concern for treasury professionals is of course, payments fraud and cybersecurity. Retailers are of course dealing with EMV rollout, which will continue to be a mixed bag in 2017. As Liz Garner, vice president of the Merchant Advisory Group pointed out earlier this year, retailers have seen a large uptick in chargeback fraud losses, which will likely continue to be a problem in 2017.
Treasury professionals in all industries are focused on being more vigilant overall; as noted in the latest Payments Security Guide, business email compromise (BEC) scams continue to proliferate. Perhaps more than any other type of fraud out there, this is one scam where the onus is truly on treasury to prevent it. Accordingly, treasury departments are stepping up their game, implementing tried-and-true security measures such as making sure they verify email requests for payment over the phone with a known contact.