Almost half of companies are still dependent on Excel spreadsheets to manage their cash position and forecasting, according to a survey of more than 250 UK and European treasury professionals conducted by Kyriba and the Association of Corporate Treasurers (ACT), but larger firms are keen to dispense with it.
The Kyriba/ACT survey of 269 companies, with revenues from £100m to £10bn, was unveiled at this week’s ACT conference in Liverpool, UK, and also featured findings purporting to show that almost half of those questioned want to provide a deeper level of strategic input into the broader decision-making process at their corporate and are keen to see more robust technology. A productivity loss of three weeks per person, due to manual entry of figures and a lack of automation, can also be extrapolated from the findings, claim the partners.
The sometimes unreliable nature of the data emanating from spreadsheets was demonstrated recently by the furore over the mistakes in the research paper entitled ‘Growth in a Time of Debt‘ from the Harvard academic economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, which has been used to justify austerity measures across Europe. This ably demonstrated the perils of Excel.
The Kyriba/ACT survey, carried out this year, also asked for treasury teams’ current tasks and future priorities, and it appears that risk management and regulatory compliance have become the primary concern for major enterprise’s treasury departments.
While cash management is still of course the primary daily task for treasuries as a whole, with 78% agreeing to this statement, the percentage drops as revenues grow. Among larger companies with more than £10 billion in revenues, the number of survey respondents who focus on cash management drops to 57%, with 68% instead concentrating on risk management. This suggests a larger, better resourced treasury team then some others may have, of course, which means multinational corporations (MNCs) can focus on risk while treasurers at smaller firms still just do the core function of cash management without the ‘bells and whistles’, but it is nonetheless an interesting finding.
“It is clear that many corporate treasury teams are looking to take a more high-level role within the organisation,” said Rémy Dubois, executive vice preside and managing director for Europe, Middle-East and Africa (EMEA) at Kyriba. “Treasurers are certainly providing deeper analysis and counsel and undertaking more strategic tasks than before. However, it’s clear that many of them are still not driving new initiatives for creating real value. For many treasury teams, the cash management tools they use – most often spreadsheets – simply don’t allow them the time, nor provide them with the deep insight needed, to make high-level recommendations. Treasurers’ frustration with the status quo is clearly demonstrated by the fact that almost half of respondents want to upgrade the technology they use to perform their daily tasks.”
For smaller treasuries without the same resources as MNCs, however, the ease-of-use and flexibility of Excel spreadsheets mean that they aren’t going away and the attendant risks will just have to be borne for the time-being.
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