Could robots do treasury management?

By Bob Stark February 4, 2015

With the recent news that Japanese Bank Mitsubishi UFJ will be staffing its banks with two-foot-tall robots as a pilot project1, it begs the question: what if robots were introduced to corporate treasury? Could a robot do cash and treasury management?

If your answer is “not a chance”, then perhaps we have something to discuss. For those that use treasury management systems today, the answer will likely be “Yes! Here is a list they can start with.” Let’s look at a few examples:

Cash Management

Connecting to banks to download prior day reporting – and then reconciling with expected cash transactions – can easily be done by a robot. If done before sufficient coffee has been consumed, some cash managers would argue it already is! For those that have treasury systems, this is automated already and takes no time out of a cash manager’s day. A robot would have similar effect.

Cash Accounting

When treasury is responsible for coding bank transactions with debit and credit accounts, a robot (like a treasury system) will have pre-built rules that are cycled through to find the right matches. If/then logic will find any transaction that is repetitive or predictable and apply the appropriate accounting detail.

Cash Forecasting

Forecasting cash flows is part art, part science. What if the artistic, creative side of cash forecasting was scripted out so that it could be a series of steps to be followed (much like you instruct your backup when you go on vacation). Analyzing historical data patterns, modeling repetitive cash flows, chasing down regional controllers to submit their projections, and mining the ERP system for relevant payables/receivables information. All of this can be automated. Further, a robot could also be programmed to take snapshots of forecasts at different intervals (e.g. every two weeks) to compare against later versions of the forecast or actual results. One could even program a series of comments which could be automatically applied to explain forecast variances. People can design the right methodology for forecasting, but a robot could execute that strategy every day.

Bank Fee Analysis

I think this is self-explanatory, as bank fee analysis could be automated quite easily. Robot finds bank analysis files, categorizes based on AFP Service codes, analyzes variances as well as other reporting (such as comparisons across banks as well as creating reports such as ‘cost of bank accounts’). Anyone doing this today will gladly offload the work to a robot, I am sure.

There are many other treasury activities (e.g. debt covenants, hedge accounting, counterparty limits) that could be delegated to robots, much like all of these tasks and more are delegated to treasury management systems every single day by thousands of corporate treasury teams. The key is isolating what tasks can be automated and what can I, as a treasury professional, utilize my experience for to add value the organization. Today, distinguishing those tactical vs. strategic tasks means career progression for cash managers and treasury managers. Tomorrow, it may be saving your job from a robot!

Full disclosure: Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, part of the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group is an investor in Kyriba’s Japanese subsidiary.

Resources:

1Japanese bank introduces robot workers to deal with customers in branches – The Guardian, February 4, 2015

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