Greenwich Associates has identified eight characteristics, based on our research, that define the best of breed digital-banking platforms and tracked the industry’s progress in developing and delivering on these offerings. Treasurers and finance executives should consider these characteristics in the context of their organizations’ offerings.
Provide secure mobile banking technology that delivers information and insights to smartphones and tablets. The question facing banks is not whether mobile is relevant to corporates. Rather, it’s about which of mobile apps, features and technologies will catch on?
Facilitate unified, fully integrated payment-initiation workflows. Only in the last two years have banks begun to roll out integrated payment-initiation workflows that enable companies to initiate payments to any beneficiary in any payment type through a single, unified application. Just as importantly, the new integrated workflows include a search component that allows companies to view complete payment histories for any beneficiary with just a few clicks. The most advanced payment systems integrate a business intelligence component capable of providing benefits like recognizing standard payment patterns for individual beneficiaries and flagging deviations from prior payment standards.
Use common credentials, and offer a single point of entry for all functions including cash reporting, payments, investments, FX, trade finance, and others. As recently as five years ago, digital banking systems were limited in their functionality due to the difficulty of integrating legacy systems. Fortunately for corporate treasury departments, many platforms are now delivered through integrated portals that provide all or most of the individual capabilities on a single dashboard. Many of these platforms go far beyond simply being an access point to systems that provide balance reports or payment initiation. Dashboards are becoming the aggregation point for key data from across banks’ systems and customers’ accounts, as well as instant communications channels.
Provide high assurance authentication and authorization. Digital banking could never have taken hold among large companies without robust authentication and authorization, which are fundamental to security. In recent years, companies and banks have had an added incentive to demand more functionality in this area. Regulatory compliance demands have become increasingly complicated and burdensome. Banks must be prepared to provide user and security-related data on a regular and ongoing basis detailing which company officials have access to accounts, which corporate employees have accessed accounts, and creation of user groups which make the management process simpler.
Deliver high levels of automation facilitating file imports, delivery of account information and other functions. Corporate treasury departments continue to be inundated with PDF files of statements and reports, and treasury staffs spend inordinate amounts of time combing through these reports to find relevant data. Increasingly, the vast majority of information is delivered as searchable data that can be manipulated by corporate users. The automation of standard reporting remains important, but it is becoming less so as banks enhance their platforms’ ability to deliver dynamic data. This progress represents a game changer for companies and an important shift for bank platforms, as companies leave behind the previous gold standard of custom-defined reports in favor of richer, more interactive data.
Offer payment authorization and customized alerts on payments, balance levels or other events flagged by users. Most bank platforms offer some alert functions, but Greenwich Associates expected these features to reach a greater level of sophistication than has so far not been achieved. Specifically lacking is functionality allowing corporate treasury professionals to receive and act upon alerts. For example, companies should be able to set up an alert informing them if balances in a specified account fall below a certain threshold. Ideally, the treasury official that receives the alert should be able to fix the problem by transferring money from another account or taking some other action.
Support self-service and the ability of users to self-enroll. Banks have made considerable progress on the self-service front, and virtually all bank platforms now provide reasonably effective 24/7 access to tools that enable customers to access data in areas ranging from cash balances and credit availability to trade finance transactions currently in process, and to execute a wide variety of transactions.
Offer collaborative tools for companies to share information with bank staff and other users of the platforms. Collaborative tools are becoming an ever more important part of business work processes. In the context of digital banking platforms, true collaborative tools would enable users to access data that can be manipulated and shared with other users within the application. To date, there are few examples of banks providing their customers with effective collaboration tools. Again, the main impediment is not a lack of reliable technology for data sharing and collaboration, but rather the inability of banks to access and acquire the data needed to populate these applications from within their own internal systems.
Marc Harrison is a principal and Maribeth Farley is a marketing and relationship manager with Greenwich Associates.
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