A lot is happening on the electronic bank account management (eBAM) front: Banks are gearing up for electronic messaging with corporates in regard to eliminating paper and managing bank accounts better, and companies are searching the market and are getting involved in pilot projects to get started with eBAM. Nevertheless, most corporates are following closely what is happening on the market but are still hesitant to introduce a solution right now in these early days of the technology. They are waiting for the electronic ‘e’ bit in eBAM to truly happen and for full adoption of the developing standards.
So far, banks have been cooperating to develop standardised messaging facilities to ensure a smooth electronic exchange of data necessary for setting up, maintaining or closing bank accounts. As a result, there are now 15 standardised ISO 20022 messages for eBAM usage which will simplify the communication processes between banks and corporates in relation to bank account management.
The situation is, however, different at each bank: a selective group of banks are frontrunners while the vast majority of banks are in the early stages of defining a strategy or deferring this initiative for a few years. Thus, the situation is sketchy for corporates, and they wonder when will be the right time to start with eBAM and which of the solutions that are getting onto the market will be most useful to meet their needs, now and in the future.
Setting up a bank account management (BAM) system now, however, does make a lot of sense for corporates even if the electronic messaging is still a work in progress. The business benefits are really significant and include: real-time global overview of all accounts and signatories, a reduction of fraud risk, and greater operational efficiency. All this can be achieved even without the ‘e’. In fact, setting up efficient internal structures should be the first step before moving to electronic messaging with banks: if a company does not have well-structured information available to be exchanged with the banks, the electronic messaging will not make processes more efficient. Here is a closer look at the key steps for corporates to take in order to fully benefit from eBAM.
Key Steps for Getting Ahead with eBAM
Corporate treasuries, particularly those serving a complex global structure, are often faced with the different requirements of numerous local banks and they deal with fragmented data storage concerning bank accounts, signatories and signing limits. The information about which employee has signing rights for which account and up to which amount is typically archived in dispersed databases, spreadsheets or paper files. To get an accurate overview in a second is already a challenge, changing all of this when somebody leaves is even more of a challenge.
The first step for accessing the eBAM highway is to standardise and streamline internal processes. Corporates need to ensure that across their entities one standardised process is followed in terms of storing data for bank account maintenance and only one type of data archiving is used.
The second step is to identify and implement software to support and automate the standardised processes.
Different Types of eBAM Approaches
There are two main types of bank account management software: bank-specific eBAM software is offered by individual banks and provides eBAM facilities, once they are operational. Such a solution may be of interest to corporates that use only one bank. However, the proprietary solutions of banks cannot fulfil the requirements of the BAM solution: firstly, they have no interface with the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system of the organisation. This means that changes need to happen in two systems that do not communicate with each other.
Secondly, bank solutions offer a platform for the opening, changing or closing of bank accounts, which is basically only another form of online banking. Moreover, as with such solutions the internal mandate hierarchies of corporates are usually stored in the cloud, corporates will need to address the issue of data security. Last but not least, if multiple banks are used, the organisation would rather look at an interoperable and multi-bank platform offered by specialised vendors with a particular focus on the corporate side. The particular advantage of the latter is the fact that such a solution is not solely focused on the electronic exchange of messages with the bank, but it is achieving visibility and control over accounts and signatories and helps to streamline internal processes in relation to bank account management. Thus, the BAM part of the solution brings full integration, process automation and greater security to the corporate today.
eBAM solutions that are fully integrated in an organisation’s ERP system enable a seamless workflow execution for the account maintenance without duplicating data. So, instead of having to search different systems and databases in case an employee with signing authority for several different accounts at different banks retires, the organisation will have all this data consolidated in a centralised bank account management system. Moreover, the system allows users to generate a signature change in order to remove one or multiple signers from one or more accounts in one single workflow. The signing rights for that particular employee will be automatically removed from all related accounts and banks. This removes the risk that someone who has left the company still has signatory rights with a particular bank.
In addition, all bank-relevant correspondence to inform the bank of the changes is generated by data consolidation and by an automatic population of the outgoing letter, form, email etc. This significantly reduces the workload for the corporate, and, more importantly, ensures that the banks get up-to-date account information quickly so that fraud risks are minimised. What is more, with such a solution the company can generate fully automated ad hoc reports with the current status of all signatory and data transmission authorisations included. This data can also be made available to corresponding staff members. Auditors get insight in tables and receive correct company-wide information at any time at the push of a button. Corporates gain a central overview of bank requirements and can maintain a digitalised archive of all bank-related documents thereby achieving a full audit trail.
There is, however, much more to eBAM: a corporate-centric eBAM solution should also offer features to automatically measure and compare the performance of banks, and to effectively help to manage the bank relations. If fully integrated, the data from the ERP system on actual fees paid can be retrieved and cross-checked with the terms agreed with the bank. As a consequence, the corporate gets an immediate overview of its banks’ performance, which puts the corporate into a stronger negotiating position.
Implementing an eBAM solution now provides corporate treasurers with clear business benefits: with eBAM, corporates gain a single, digitalised source of truth. They will have a global overview of their company-wide accounts. In addition, processes for opening, changing and closing accounts are automated and accelerated.
Corporates save time and costs, and gain stronger control and security, over multiple accounts. Last but not least, corporates will have their internal structures and processes in place for when the electronic ‘e’ bit of eBAM fully arrives.
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