Mobile phones have been talked about as a solution for treasury for several years, but to date most usage has been confined to approvals and information. GTNews recently spoke with Keng Mun Lee, head of channel, enterprise and account services for Citi in Asia, to find out more about a new solution that enables corporates to replace tokens with mobile phones, as well as what’s coming next.
Lee says that treasurers and chief financial officers (CFOs) have long expressed their annoyance at having to carry a token, especially when they can log in to their mobile phones easily and securely in other parts of their life. Corporate staff who deal with multiple banks and have to carry multiple tokens find them even more inconvenient, so they challenged the bank to find a way to do away with the token.
Citi looked at a multitude of ways to authenticate clients; these included voice, iris scanning, digital fingerprint and mouse movements as well as solutions already available such as fingerprints on Apple or Samsung phones. The focus was on testing a multitude of options and finding a more convenient solution.
After conducting the research, the bank rolled out an application, dubbed MobilePASS, earlier this year for its corporate clients across 11 Asia Pacific markets. This replaces physical tokens for logins with an app-based soft token that enables users to leverage their own smartphones to generate dynamic passcodes and log into their e-banking platforms from a mobile phone, tablet or desktop.
While using a phone is more convenient than a token, an added key benefit has been greater security. While staff in some companies may have shared tokens in the past, they can no longer do so as it can be identified by their phone. Companies also don’t have to replace tokens when staff leave, since they can cancel the old token and have new staff simply download the solution from the app store. The mobile phone can also have an additional layer of security, since corporates can add touch ID, a password, another biometric or a squiggle pattern that they design.
What comes next?
While tokens are important, Lee reports that treasurers and CFOs are continuing to use the mobile to obtain information and approve transactions, making it a part of their day-to-day life.
They can use an app to see how their account situations performed whenever they want, and whether accounts have adequate balances. They can also view balances across countries, or look into a single country to get the information they want. Finance professionals are also continuing to use mobile to review transactions, authorise them, send them to their shared service centre (SSC) or finance department to make amendments, and have them sent for reauthorisation
The key to success is for the solution to be intuitive, such as using red or green for overdrafts or credit balances. Mobile solutions can also deepen relationships, since banks gain a holistic view of how corporates interact with them, such as whether staff view transactions on a tablet first thing in the morning or wait until they have arrived at the office.
Going forward, Lee reports that the focus for innovation will be data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). What corporate treasurers want is the data that’s relevant to them, rather than all the information that is available. The bank can use machine learning to determine which information is more important, send appropriate alerts to treasurers and CFOs, and automatically push out the right information. Data analytics can be used to identify outliers in the customer’s transactions, for example, and send an alert.
As mobility evolves into interactive devices, robotic process automation and AI can be incorporated into any chat through the mobile app. Voice-activated services, such as Siri or Amazon Echo, can be used interactively to provide information on status and balances, and perhaps even for approval using a voice-activated solution.
The phone is finally going beyond just balance information and approvals, then, to provide more of the solutions that treasurers and CFOs actually need.
A US study, based on the quick service restaurant chain Chick-fil-A, offers conflicting evidence on whether a TMS is the best option when upgrading from Excel-based forecasting.
The EU's updated Payment Services Directive (PSD2) is expected to heighten competition among the banks, open markets to non-banking challengers and foster vigorous innovation across the financial sector.
The geopolitical shocks of 2016 saw businesses understandably concerned about how the new reality of resurgent economic nationalism might affect cross-border trade and capital flows. Yet as this article explains, there’s no need for overreaction.
Banks which start to prepare now for the region to join the move to immediate payments can secure a major competitive advantage.