Treasury reporting activities fall into three broad categories: operational reporting, management reporting and ad hoc reporting.
Operational reporting supports standard daily treasury workflows and reflects the majority of the reporting load. It includes diverse outputs such as the maturity schedule, cash position, reconciliation and risk exposure reports, confirmations, deal processing and accounting reports, and reports that support front office risk analysis.
Management reports are daily, monthly and quarterly reports which analyse treasury positions, exposures and performance. The quality of both operational and management reporting benefits from automated scheduling and distribution, to minimise the risk of error in the timely production and dissemination of treasury information.
Operational and management reports should additionally be available on demand. This is always the case for ad hoc reports – often needed in response to urgent requests from senior management, perhaps to identify, measure and analyse a new risk exposure. Ad hoc reports require responsive and flexible report construction tools that are comparatively easy for executives to build in pressure situations.
TMS Report Writers
Many treasury management systems (TMSs) include in-built report writers. These enjoy the advantage of integrated access to the system logic and database and should therefore operate effectively with all sections of the system. Historically, the issue with these powerful tools has been their ease of use, and those tasked with selecting a TMS must determine how well they will fit in with the treasury team’s skills and workload. As a general rule, the less they have the feeling of programming tools, the more comfortably they will work well in a busy treasury. Features such as drag-and-drop visual data management make such tools substantially easier to use.
Most treasuries do not want to depend on securing and paying developers to write new reports; preferring straightforward, non-technical report writers they can use themselves.
Third Party Report Writers
Most TMSs support the use of well-known third party report writers, which can be the primary reporting tool. Some may be embedded in the TMS, which at least suggests a high degree of integration and therefore effectiveness. Other organisations may favour a particular report writer because they have an in-house pool of expertise, which indicates that capable resources will be available to treasury. A general technical drawback with third party report writers is that a TMS upgrade is likely to be needed to preserve compatibility with a new version of the report writer. Users of software-as-a-service (SaaS) TMS technology bypass this issue, with upgrades centrally managed by the provider.
A further item of interest for evaluators in this area is to determine how easily reports that need to access different sections of the database can be built, as this is an area where technical difficulties are common.
Is Excel Still Needed?
Earlier articles in this series have criticised the use of spreadsheets as primary technology solutions in treasury, on the grounds that they lack the necessary robustness to support a critical financial application. However spreadsheets certainly have a valuable place as a most flexible and elegant data presentation tool, and this is the type of use for which they are best suited.
What are Standard Reports?
TMSs are often sold and delivered with impressive packages of standard reports. A well-constructed report library is a convenient facility for users of a new technology solution, as the reports reflect the accumulated experience of the product’s client base. The key question is whether the reports can be easily modified to reflect the new client’s preferences and can this be tested easily enough during the selection process? The outcome determines how useful the library will be in practice.
It should be remembered that a report definition is a type of computer program, which needs to be tested and secured to achieve dependable operation and produce consistent, predictable results.
What is ‘User Friendly’ Treasury Reporting?
‘User friendly’ is a phrase that trips naturally off a software vendor’s tongue. How readily usable a system’s reporting mechanism turns out to be in practice is perhaps the single most important feature of a technology evaluation from the end user’s perspective. It is important to verify that the calculations are accurate and that processes and workflows are fully dependable and comply with treasury policy. However, if the data cannot be easily accessed and presented as required, practical value is rapidly diminished.
System evaluators should look at the quality of reporting as whole – standard report availability, ease of modification, intuitiveness of the report writer, quality of support service for report development and technical considerations are probably best left to IT specialists. Many aspects to this issue need to be considered before a reliable conclusion can be drawn, and the user friendliness of developing new ad hoc reports is among the many important considerations.
Management reporting deserves special consideration, because its production is often a nightmare in treasuries that are under-invested in technology support. As mentioned a TMS, based around a real time database, can be set up to generate dependable reports automatically: the system manages the data collection, calculation and presentation requirements and can be scheduled to generate and distribute the reporting as required. Modern management reporting typically includes treasury key performance indicators (KPIs) chosen to monitor the elements of treasury operations considered the most important. Examples of treasury KPIs include comparative bank fee analysis, payment failures, counterparty limit breaches and hedge effectiveness.
Is Real time Reporting Needed?
Do ‘average’ treasury departments really need real time reporting, or is it a luxury? The value of being alerted in real time to an event is only really apparent when confronted by a problem or crisis – truly unexpected events that were generally thought to happen once in a generation, until the fury of the financial crisis struck in 2008-09. A sudden change in an instrument’s price or a bank’s creditworthiness may require urgent remedial action – the sooner the better – and treasurers alerted to such events ahead of the pack have the best opportunity to perform well.
Not long ago, real time treasury monitoring, alerting and reporting were seen as the preserve of the largest organisations; but today’s cost effective SaaS treasury technology enables clients to enjoy such facilities quite cost effectively. Reporting best practice has come within more treasuries’ reach and budget.
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