Today’s workforce is more mobile than ever. Technologies that allow us to remain productive while on the move have redefined working parameters across a whole range of departments, from those who want to make the most of a long daily commute, to senior executives that need to remain connected during work trips abroad. But has this trend extended to the world of corporate finance, and if so, how far has it penetrated? It is true that the consumer market and the retail banking and shopping arenas have lead the way, but there are numerous uses for treasurers too and many lessons that can be learnt.
In corporate finance, rarely are decisions made in isolation. Consent is sought and checks conducted before the final approval is given to act. Inevitably, this process slows everything down. In large enterprises especially, the problem is compounded. By virtue of their seniority, key decision-makers often have to split their time between multiple locations and time zones, making it tough for them to remain reactive to requests that need their attention in order to progress.
In response to this issue, mobility now plays a key role in the lives of treasurers and corporate finance professionals. Take transaction management, for example, a key function of any treasury. Today, secure mobile devices are routinely used to obtain permissions from different staff levels by sending them a direct link to the transaction in question, enabling each team member to approve the transaction directly from their own device, regardless of where they are or what time it is.
Access to key financial information is also greatly enhanced through mobility. Much of today’s non-transactional use of mobile devices in corporate finance is focused on ensuring key personnel receive timely automated alerts, usually via SMS or email, triggered by a predefined set of conditions. Pertinent circumstances could include when corporate securities achieve a determinate value, when expenditure on corporate card transactions reaches a predefined limit, or when the balance on a corporate account fluctuates unexpectedly. In contrast to a desktop PC, desk phone or even a laptop, the fact that the mobile device is continuously in its users’ possession makes it by far the most appropriate tool through which to receive these time sensitive alerts.
While it would be unusual to find a treasury function that was managed entirely from mobile devices, the proposition is, at least, feasible. It is beyond question that the introduction of mobile financial services has raised efficiency in corporate finance and enabled senior executives to be more flexible in their day-to-day movements. Wider acceptance of mobile device utilisation in key corporate finance tasks could improve treasury operations even further, again by enhancing the provision of timely information to support key decisions and by offering more secure applications for initiating and managing transactions.
What’s next? Over the next two years we will see a raft of new services coming to market which will accelerate this wider acceptance in core treasury processes. Already we are starting to see bespoke applications emerging that are tailor-made to answer the treasurer’s specific needs. Tools designed to enhance the treasury’s reporting functions, automating the capture and formating and distribution of critical financial data direct to the treasurer’s device, according to their personal specifications, will become ubiquitous. Financial institutions will also be able to extend this functionality beyond their own internal operations, enabling customers to personalise information sent to their devices pertaining to the specific products and services they consume.
We will also see the treasury conducting more corporate transactions over smartphones, as mobile payment technologies continue to emerge. But building greater efficiency and convenience into traditional treasury operations is only part of the opportunity for corporate finance professionals. There is money to be made too.
New Revenue Streams
The advent of mobile payment technologies brings with it new ways to manage relationships with customers, which will drive new revenue streams for those treasurers who are prepared to think differently. Mobile marketing will be a key determinant in how rapidly mobile payment technologies are adopted by consumers. Treasurers who collaborate closely with their marketing departments will be able to monetise from the development and delivery of innovative mobile value-added services (VAS) to both consumer and business customers. There are several mobile delivery vehicles for such services, all of which are maturing rapidly including mobile wallets, remote payment technologies and proximity payments using near field communications (NFC) chips embedded in the latest smartphones. A collaborative effort between corporate finance and marketing to develop VAS will reap future rewards, not only through revenue, but also through customer loyalty and acquisition.
So, has the treasury been left behind in the mobile revolution? Certainly not. Can the treasury be managed on a mobile phone? Theoretically yes, but we’re not quite there yet. What we can say is that across a host of different organisations corporate finance professionals are embracing mobility and reaping its benefits for personal and departmental efficiency. Treasurers are making decisions faster than before, their departments are better informed of market developments and are communicating their activities more efficiently to the rest of the organisation. With new revenue opportunities on the horizon, along with a rare chance for corporate finance to play a part in enhancing customer relationships, it is time for the treasury to really get serious about mobility and the potential it holds.
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