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Quick Takes

What’s Keeping Our Members Up at Night

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March 26, 2019

By Joseph Neu

Treasurers confront sleep-depriving fears and frustrations.

To help set the agendas for peer group meetings in the first half of 2019, we’re surveying members about what’s keeping them awake at night or disturbing their sleep. Here are two of the top three sources of many nightmare scenarios:

Cyberrisk and related fraud. This long-standing worry does not seem to be dissipating, suggesting that countermeasures including anti-fraud awareness and training efforts are not sufficient. One member said, “Although we have strong controls and processes to protect the integrity of our data, impede the penetration of our systems and mitigate risks, cyberrisk at large remains a key concern given the increased connectivity of networks and the sophistication of fraudsters. Awareness also needs to improve.”

Geopolitical risks, starting with China. Our members are not alone—this is a top item on many risk lists. The biggest concern is China—its slowing economy and the impact of its trade war with the US on other economies in Asia and elsewhere. Members say the geopolitical situation is also creating uncertainty and general unease about markets and the potential effect on the credit sector of investment portfolios. Oh, and don’t forget about Brexit.

The third in this trio of nightmarish scenarios is one that involves the interaction of people, data processes and technology (aka people, processes and systems):

Digital transformation: failing to optimize. This item will likely interrupt members’ restful sleep for many meeting cycles to come. The key here is to recognize that the drive for more efficient use of technology to make better use of data and scale treasury exposes an equally, if not more important, people concern. Here are some practical implications of this digital-age angst:

  • Data processing. One member’s frustration is getting “access to sufficient information to proactively identify and address issues; right now, we have very manual processes to get information.” Another member puts the issue in more direct treasury terms, perhaps reflecting those geopolitical risks: “I am concerned about the quality of the data I have in assessing my FX exposures. The time lag is too great and the reliability of the data is suspect.”
  • Technology. The nightmares still start with TMS implementations, suggesting the treasury technology market is still looking for a breakthrough solution/disruption. One member cites “difficulty implementing the TMS FX module, and not achieving the automation expected and running into limitations in the product.” And these three letters continue to create sleep deprivation: SAP—also known in treasury as “SAP TMS post-implementation surprises.”
  • People. Treasurers are concerned about how little slack they have in their talent resource pool. And it’s not as if they have a mandate to hire technologists and data scientists in addition to their current treasury specialists to build the treasury of the future. One member, citing people as a concern, writes, “We run very lean but have high demands on our people, so I worry about maintaining the balance so we do not break either the people or processes.” All the while, he has to ensure “we hire the right people and have them doing the right things.”

Pleasant dreams.

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