This year's EuroFinance conference took place in Barcelona, set against a backdrop of political turmoil in the Catalonia region of Spain. The irony was not lost on conference attendees that the political instability in the host city could be compared to the increasing turbulence that treasurers face every day. Treasury must rise above currency volatility, sovereign risk, regulatory compliance challenges, payment fraud schemes, proposed tax reform and other issues.
To better equip treasurers with new insight and experience, this year's marquee European treasury event did not disappoint. EuroFinance has always been a step ahead, featuring a program that appeals to treasurers of all types. From a vendor perspective, EuroFinance is an amazing platform to showcase treasury technology achievements through the voice of the customer. There were many themes to consider at the event, but the net result was a clear message to treasury: regardless of the challenges, there are opportunities to progress.
Perhaps the first theme is that security is becoming the paramount concern for treasurers. While FX risk remains a top CFO priority, treasurers are slightly more operational and realize the threat of data and/or financial loss – should it occur – would be more debilitating than a penny or two loss in earnings per share that can happen from a poorly executed hedging program. Losing money on paper due to market conditions demands apologies. Losing real money due to successful fraud attempts means job loss with little hope of immediate re-employment within the field. While CFOs can be forgiven for prioritizing optimization over protection, they can only do this if their treasurer implements an effective defense against fraud and cybercrime.
Additional reading: The Rise of the Chief Treasury Information Security Officer (CTISO)
Another key learning from this year's conference was the role of treasury technology. Most every organization in attendance uses a treasury management solution. The days of relying on manual process and spreadsheets to run treasury are in the rear view mirror. Yet, those in attendance for presentations within the Treasury Technology stream heard repeatedly that having a treasury system is not enough. How you use the technology will determine if you simply meet your treasury objectives versus establishing oneself as a strategic treasurer with a seat at the table. Treasury systems are more than automation – they drive insight, analysis and improved decision making.
Fortunately, attendees gained many perspectives on the role of emerging technology to take treasury performance to further levels, including fraud detection algorithms, machine learning, robotics and distributed ledgers. While we can (and will) dedicate a blog series to each of these individual topics, the larger theme was quite clear. New, emerging technology is fundamental to the innovation of treasury management systems.
Without technology innovation, the treasurer's ability to succeed is constrained and the platforms that support them will ultimately fail and exit the market. Innovation is the key to progression in every industry, including treasury.