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Freeing the Potential of Data: The Right People and Technology

By June 26, 2024No Comments

HSBC dives into unleashing the power of data, emphasizing the need for the right tools and individuals who know how to use them.

Corporate treasury teams are increasingly embracing data, but not everyone has the technology and analytic skills to draw insights from oceans of info. Some members are embracing the idea that it’s easier to teach finance to employees with tech expertise than teaching treasury teams high-level computer programming—a concept that drove a number of conversations at a recent meeting of NeuGroup for Payments Strategy sponsored by HSBC.

  • In the meeting, one member company’s fintech lead—who had an IT background before joining treasury—impressed members and HSBC by sharing the process behind developing an innovative dashboard that delivers treasury and market insights.
  • Experts from HSBC dove into the growing importance of having a data strategy and offered a framework for finance teams to replicate this member’s success, emphasizing the need for employees with technical skills, the right technology, high-quality data and more.
  • “We are finding data more available than ever before, between file sharing, host-to-host connections, and a disproportionate amount of customers accessing APIs,” shared Mark Evans, HSBC’s head of cross-border and cross-currency payments. “This elevates the role of treasurers to be more than just treasurers—they have insight into the past and present, and can have foresight into what’s next.”

Technical know-how. In a breakout session, the fintech lead shared her process behind building the real-time markets dashboard, alongside an assistant treasurer. The AT said he found that “finance can be easier to learn than the hardcore technical side,” so instead of teaching analytics skills to treasury, the treasury team onboarded employees from IT.

  • The dashboard tracks market fluctuations and regulatory changes that could impact the company’s cash investments—similar to negative news alerts, but for more than just reputational risks. It also features visibility into the investment portfolio, including FX and economic data, credit rating updates of counterparties, cash balances and more.
  • The dashboard is built in Power BI and pulls from various sources: two data lakes, a SQL database in Quantum (the company’s TMS) and market data from Bloomberg pulled via an API.

A holistic approach. The fintech lead said the tool allows treasury team members, as well as any executive with access to the suite of dashboards, to be quick-thinking and agile by connecting them to all relevant information—especially during strategic meetings with management and banks. “The AT gives presentations to all senior management in investment meetings, and if they have questions, he needs to be able to answer them on the fly, in the meeting,” she said.

  • Another example: In a recent meeting, someone from a bank said the company had not made a deposit. “The AT just pulled up his phone to confirm, and showed them,” she said. “He was able to say, ‘No, we made that deposit here on x day.’ It allows us to work better with all the information readily available.”
  • By combining external market data with internal financial metrics, she said the setup ensures a holistic approach to monitoring and analyzing treasury activities, enhancing resilience. “When information is at your fingertips, and it’s readily available, you can respond right away.”
    • The CFO’s near real-time visibility to treasury info has been an immediate advantage, according to the AT. “There are virtually no ad hoc data requests,” he said. “It’s all available to him whenever he needs it.”

Laying the groundwork. Having the right employees and the best possible technology, as this member did, should be two of the highest priorities for treasury teams looking to kickstart analytics programs, according to HSBC’s Mr. Evans. But some preparation will be required before teams begin drawing insights from the data.

  • One of the first steps toward building a successful data strategy is to ensure the numbers being analyzed are high-quality data that accurately reflect the most up-to-date information at treasury’s fingertips. This is often achieved through strict controls, ensuring that individuals without expertise cannot touch and potentially poison the data, as well as preventing leaks and fraud. He added that updates to various payment standards, including ISO 20022, are already providing corporates with richer, better-structured data.
  • It is also critical, Mr. Evans said, to break down data silos in which various figures are buried in different solutions. One member shared that this is an issue for his treasury team, with some numbers only accessible in a TMS and others scattered among multiple ERPs. He is aiming to establish a data lake to function as a single source of truth for all of treasury’s systems.
  • Some members said the ever-increasing quantity of data can be difficult to parse, and Mr. Evans responded that in some cases, insights can be better drawn through analyzing the right data, not necessarily the most. “The amount of data we push around is amazing, but we’re learning that less is sometimes more.”
Justin Jones

Author Justin Jones

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