The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a period of technological breakthroughs that are redefining practically every aspect of society – creating new ways of living, interacting, and working.

    The World Economic Forum estimates that the Fourth Industrial Revolution could create up to USD3.7 trillion in value by 2025, as firms benefit from productivity increases1. This alone is a compelling vision. But even more than improved productivity, what Industry 4.0 offers firms is the opportunity to innovatively apply new technologies and create new solutions that better respond to society’s needs.

    As firms come to grip with the new opportunities and challenges that Industry 4.0 presents so too must their treasury functions keep pace. Corporate treasury functions need to evolve and transform, in order to support their firms’ changing business models.

    At HSBC Global Liquidity and Cash Management, we believe that efficient, effective and adaptive treasury management plays a vital role in the success of firms of all sizes, across all industries. Whether it is forecasting and liquidity planning, funding and capital management, or managing risk, the contribution of treasury management to the corporate value chain cannot be understated.

    The same technologies that are driving Industry 4.0 – from artificial intelligence and machine learning, to cloud-based services, big data and advanced data analytics, are also poised to enable Treasury 4.0.

    In order to monitor how today’s corporate treasury functions are preparing to transform to Treasury 4.0, HSBC commissioned independent financial services client engagement firm Ideas and Action to survey over 200 corporate treasurers from large-scale businesses around the world. The research delved into the extent of change treasury teams expect, as well as the technology, treasury techniques, and team talent they believe will be transformative in the near future.

    I hope that you find this report informative and useful, as you embark on your own treasury transformation journey.

    Executive Summary

    • Significant change is at hand for treasury functions, and the majority of treasury professionals feel prepared to meet the challenges of change head-on. However, there are still a number of treasury professionals that feel ill-equipped to manage today’s demands, let alone prepare for the future.
    • The demands on treasury functions are peaking, as firms look for more strategic advice from their treasury teams, new technology rapidly comes on tap for assessment, and business models change as firms create new revenue models, explore new markets, and expand their product and service offerings.
    • The need to change is primarily driven by the need to achieve efficiency and visibility. Treasurers are focused on transformation programmes that will drive greater operational and cost efficiency, as well as provide better visibility of cash positions.
    • While all areas of treasury management are expected to benefit from transformation, the top two areas they expect to benefit the most centre around the ability to better manage their firm’s liquidity: forecasting and liquidity planning, and cash visibility and optimisation.
    • Technologies, techniques and skills being used today or currently being implemented are focused on leveraging the value of data, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data and analytics.
    • Key success factors to treasury transformation include generating a better understanding of the technologies and techniques that are available, as well as the ability to get their house in order before embarking on a change programme, through centralisation, outsourcing of routine tasks and conducting reviews of existing policies and processes.
    • The greatest threats to successful treasury transformation for many treasurers are organisational complexity and inconsistency of systems, platforms and processes.
    • The lack of critical skills and knowledge within treasury teams are also seen as a key barrier to transformation. Crucially, the skills treasury believes will be important in the future are the same skills that they report as gaps today – cybersecurity, data analytics, and new risk management techniques.

    Fit for the future

    Monitoring Transformation to Treasury 4.0

    Click the thumbnail to enlarge

    The case for change

    Despite the rapidly changing business environment, the majority of treasurers are confident in their teams’ current ability to support their firms, with just under 80 per cent reporting that they are very well or fairly well set up today.

    “I’d say right now it’s working well. If we tweak it by automating a few more manual functions, it could be better, but for now we don’t have an issue servicing current requirements.” – VP, Corporate Finance, Treasury and Taxation, Infrastructure and Real Estate

    But while treasurers may largely feel confident today, there is still a number that feel ill-equipped to cope with current demands. For one, 20 per cent of respondents, or one in five, believe that change is needed for them to even meet today’s business needs.

    “There’s pressure on working capital, there’s pressure on cash flows, so definitely, it’s going to have to change. My personal feeling is that we are still handling the treasury function in a traditional manner and that definitely needs to change.” – Country Head of Finance, Chemicals

    • 79 per cent – treasurers feel very well or fairly well set up to support their firms today.
    • 1 in 5 – treasurers feel less well set up (neither well nor poorly, fairly poorly, very poorly) to support their firms today.

    Additionally, interviewees warned that while treasury teams’ capacity and capabilities may be adequate given the scale, structure and operations of their businesses today, it may not be fit for the future. They are not confident that treasury could keep pace as their firms evolve their business models in response to changing industry and customer demands.

    There are also concerns that resource-constrained functions will not be able to cope with the additional workload should their firm experience a spurt of growth or increase in complexity.

    “Currently [treasury] is adequate and functioning fine. We’re able to participate in all the strategic discussions and still manage the existing requirements of our partnerships and the company. But going forward, if we were to, say, expand by another 25 per cent , it would be a problem with the existing resources that we have now.” – Treasury Director, Consumer Brands and Retail

    “Five years back, the structures of loans were very simple, plain, vanilla… but now we have more complicated structures. It’s difficult from a systems point of view to cater to all types of structures in one common platform.” – Treasury Controller, Aviation

    It is thus not surprising that treasurers believe significant change is not only needed, but inevitable. Over 85 per cent of treasurers expect at least moderate – if not significant – change in the near-term, and they expect this to impact the full spectrum of treasury management – from the technology treasury uses, the techniques or ways of working deployed, to the skills and people that will be required.

    Shifts in the automotive industry are challenging the way firms think about their business strategies and revenue models. The Asian regional head of treasury for one of the world’s largest suppliers to the automotive industry notes, “There are many changes in automotive, such as what we call the ‘AECS’ – autonomous driving, electric cars, connectivity and shared ownership…. all these trends lead our company to change as well… Treasury also need to change ourselves – it’s not just about focussing on transactions and treasury operations. I think we need to get closer to the business, support the business, and help them find better solutions so that we stay profitable.”

    Significant change is expected across treasury management

    Over the next 12-18 months, to what extent is your treasury function looking to change…

    “There are a lot of changes coming out, so to stay abreast with those changes, and stay relevant, definitely I would say treasury functions need to change”.

    – Country Head of Finance, Chemicals

    Drivers of transformation

    Case study:

    Large multinational firms face the challenge of managing a multitude of banking relationships, creating both a cost and operational burden.

    The global head of treasury of a FTSE 250 technology company reflected on the operational challenges posed by the myriad of banking systems they use across geographies.

    As part of day-to-day management, he accesses and uses multiple banking platforms to monitor and transact throughout the firm’s geographic network. The differing technical requirements and capabilities of each system is an ongoing source of frustration.

    “As you would probably expect, I have more access to banking systems than anyone else in the group. But I cannot have them all working at the same time because different versions of Java for example, won’t work on the French banking system or the German banking system or the UK banking system. I go and update something for one banking system and find another one has stopped working. That gives me a constant headache and is a constant source of pressure.”

    By consolidating their banking relationships with a global bank that provided them with a consistent system across countries accessed via a single portal, the firm addressed the operational issue, while gaining greater visibility into their cash positions.

    “As we’ve set up the smaller entities, as well as existing ones, I’ve pushed those towards one banking solution. We use HSBC for that as clearly, they have one of the best global reaches out there. Therefore, I’ve got one consistent portal I can use in HSBC for a number of our entities – our US, China, Indian, Polish, Mexican entities, etc.”

    The push to transform stems from a wide range of drivers, from improving operational efficiency to meeting regulatory requirements, and managing new business models and revenue streams.

    However, the top three drivers of change come down to operational efficiency, cost efficiency, and improving the visibility of positions.

    Operational and cost efficiency are of primary importance, as treasurers grapple with ever-more complex flows of information from multiple systems and platforms and highly manual processes – all with limited resources.

    “Our treasury team is limited in terms of resources and we’re pretty full up in terms of managing all the in-house banking, the cash management and the global banking… there’s a limit that we hit with resourcing.” – VP, Corporate Finance, Treasury and Taxation, Infrastructure and Real Estate

    “Operational efficiency is really important because the movement of funds is quite fast… we need to minimise the pressure on our working requirements.” – Country Head of Finance, Chemicals

    Another key driver of transformation is the need to achieve greater visibility into cash positions. Despite all the developments in treasury management over the past two decades, getting the right level of visibility into cash positions leading to accurate cash flow forecasting remains a significant challenge for treasurers.

    “Having one or two hours just to get your opening balances is something that I feel we need to go beyond – to get a system which gives you the information at the click of a button.” – Treasury Controller, Aviation

    “One of our biggest challenges is to do the forecasts… we still rely on a very traditional way to do forecasts, which is to connect all the input from many local sources. It is tedious and not as accurate as expected. I would say cash flow forecast accuracy is still a challenge.” – Regional Treasurer, Automotive

    Treasurers report a number of reasons for this – multiple data sources from internal and external systems that are not interconnected, to the integrity of the actual data within the systems, organisational complexity, and lack of consistency and standardisation, to name but a few.

    “Our banking administration is very manual. We administrate probably over 200 bank accounts for a number of sites, each and every one of which are locally managed.” – VP, Corporate Finance, Treasury and Taxation, Infrastructure and Real Estate

    “It’s a big organisation… there are different systems that are being used in different departments so to manage everything centralised under one umbrella is challenging.” – Treasury Controller, Aviation

    Greater operational and cost efficiency will allow treasurers to move their focus from day-to-day processes to the more strategic, higher value areas. Greater visibility will enable management of treasury across increasingly complex business structures and geographic markets.

    “It all starts with the complexity that comes with the business and the exposures which are being created, so a lot of treasury resource is spent on understanding exactly what our exposures are because we are looking to close them down immediately. It is also about the value-add time spent with the business… making sure we’re safeguarding the cash deposits and maximising the interest yield.” – Group Head of Tax and Treasury, Technology, Media & Telecoms

    “We are really looking for something new which can cater to all our needs… a better way to manage the entire portfolio of the company.” – Treasury Controller, Aviation

    The most important drivers of change: gaining efficiency, improving visibility

    What are the main drivers and single most important driver of change within your firm’s treasury function?

    Top 3 – percentage citing as the single most important change driver

    1. Operational efficiency – 28 per cent
    2. Cost efficiency – 15 per cent
    3. Improving visibility of positions – 15 per cent

    “A really big component is trying to streamline processes and get efficiencies out of existing processes to reduce manual work”

    – VP, Corporate Finance, Treasury and Taxation, Infrastructure and Real Estate

    The transformative power of data

    When treasury teams embark on their change and transformation journeys, they will seek to deploy new technologies and new treasury management techniques to set them up for success.

    From the plethora of new technologies available, treasury professionals point to artificial intelligence and machine learning, big data and data analytics and cloud-based services as ones that off er the most potential for future-proofing their functions.

    The most important treasury technology creates and enables data and insights.

    Over the course of the next 12-18 months which of the following technologies will be important / the single most important to your firm’s treasury function?

    Top 3 – percentage citing as the single most important

    1. AI (artificial intelligence and machine learning) – 28 per cent
    2. Big data and advanced data analytics – 22 per cent
    3. Cloud-based services – 16 per cent

    “Clearly a key enabler there for me is access to data”

    – Deputy Group Treasury Director, Consumer Brands and Retail

    The desire for greater data and insight is also refl ected in treasurers’ predictions of the most important techniques or ways of working in the near-term. Over a quarter of treasurers surveyed expect that advanced data analytics and reporting will be the most important processes over the next 12 to 18 months.

    Treasury techniques that create better visibility also ranked highly, with virtual account structures and global centralisation via shared service centres expected to be important methods of gaining greater transparency and control in the near future.

    The most important treasury techniques leverage data and create visibility of positions

    Over the course of the next 12-18 months which of the following structures, processes or ways of working will be important / the single most important to your firm’s treasury function?

    Top 3 – percentage citing as the single most important

    1. Advanced data analytics and reporting – 25 per cent
    2. Virtual account structures – 20 per cent
    3. Global centralisation via shared service centres – 15 per cent

    “You’ve got a CFO that is challenging you and constantly asking for data”

    – Deputy Group Treasury Director, Consumer Brands and Retail

    Together, these technologies and techniques are expected to generate insights that will not only help treasurers pinpoint specific areas for efficiency gains, but perhaps more importantly, enable them to achieve the visibility needed for more accurate forecasting and liquidity planning, cash optimisation, and risk management.

    “One is the transparency, that is very important because the transparency is not there, and we are not informed in a timely manner or we are not in position at the time of confirmed information so that really aff ects the operation of the company.” – Country Head of Finance, Chemicals

    “Cash balance visibility is extremely important. We still “count the money” every day, so ideally we would have a system where every morning, we could just push a button and I get a full, integrated view of all our 150 bank accounts across the region.” – Regional Treasurer, Automotive

    “It’s pretty easy for me to see how, with improved technology, I can better manage the risk, get better information, and give the business better support.” – Group Head of Tax and Treasury, Technology, Media & Telecoms

    Treasurers believe that these are the areas that will benefit most from a transformation. Ultimately, a data-driven, digital treasury will enable them to better support and contribute to their firms’ strategic financial decisions.

    “People are wanting more and more information, so it becomes less and less about processing and more and more about analysing… it gives you more headspace to do that decision-making and to do that thinking so you can react more quickly. You can take on greater quantity without taking on more people.” – Head of Treasury & Credit, Oil and Gas

    Which areas of your firm’s treasury management will be impacted / single most impacted by implementing any change in use of technology, processes or people?

    A reality check

    Despite many embracing the vision of a data-driven, digital treasury, the stark reality is that many fi rms are still a long way from this nirvana. Spreadsheets and treasury management systems (TMS) continue to dominate treasury technology today. Seventy-six per cent (76 per cent) of respondents report still using or implementing spreadsheets, and 69 per cent are using or deploying TMS.

    “In terms of analytics, we have an Access database that warehouses a lot of [our] data. Basically, somebody goes in, writes the report, copies and pastes it into the Access database or an Excel sheet, the database aggregates it and we run pivot tables off it.” – Treasury Director, Consumer Brands and Retail

    “A lot of what we do is spreadsheet-driven at the moment. There was an emphasis on trying to standardise the spreadsheets that we were using… make the processes as similar as possible… for example for forecasting, or for understanding our currency exposures.” – Group Head of Tax and Treasury, Technology, Media & Telecoms

    “Ultimately, what we want to do is put in place a treasury management system because we need to address numerous issues that we’ve got a t the moment with regards to the manual processes… risks and ineffi ciencies… a TMS system will give me greater functionality over my forecasting so I can pull things directly from my ERP system, and have a more robust and resilient way of managing items in my forecast.” – Group Head of Tax and Treasury, Technology, Media & Telecoms

    Still, progress is being made. Even as legacy or manual processes remain in play, 72 per cent of fi rms are already using or implementing big data and data analytics solutions, 67 per cent are employing application programming interfaces (APIs) and 66 per cent are beginning to deploy artifi cial intelligence and machine learning.

    For each of the following technologies, which best describes your treasury function’s current position?

    As treasury teams consider other technologies, a number are testing out and conducting proofs of concept on blockchain, SWIFTgpi, and Robotic Process Automation (RPA). RPA, in particular is being considered by treasurers as a viable means of freeing up their teams from manual, repetitive processes. RPA is the use of computers or software robots to automate human actions. For instance, treasurers are looking at applying RPA to speed up standard and replicable tasks such as pulling information from different systems (TMS and ERPs, for example) into a single, consolidated view. This can be particularly useful for cash and FX positioning, as well as reconciliation of bank accounts, freeing up the treasury team’s time to focus on more strategic work.

    Although the best-case scenario for most treasurers would be to implement a fully centralised and integrated system that can complete all manual tasks at “a push of a button”, this is still far from reality for most companies. RPA is seen as one of the most viable solutions in the interim. It is no wonder why more than a quarter of treasury teams are already pilot testing how RPA can support their teams.

    There’s probably a whole bunch of manual processes that we do in terms of banking administration, banking oversight, cash forecasting, some aspects of debt management that are very manually based... If there’s a way to move that to a more automated electronic format…that would help with the resourcing as we bring on more JV partners. The more automation we can bring on board to service those partnerships, the better efficiency we can get out of our existing resources. – VP, Corporate Finance, Treasury and Taxation, Infrastructure and Real Estate

    “If you were able to set up a workstation as automated as possible it could help with some of the daily decision-making and reconciling.” – Deputy Group Treasury Director, Consumer Brands and Retail

    “We are on a journey of continuous improvement, without necessarily badging that as a transformation.” – VP, Corporate Finance, Treasury and Taxation, Infrastructure and Real Estate

    “We will evolve gradually and carefully, and make sure we don’t make any mistakes.” – Director of Treasury, Technology, Media and Telecoms

    Setting the stage for treasury transformation

    For many firms, the evolution has begun. The majority of treasury teams report that they are ready to implement the required changes to technology, techniques or talent. However, a third of firms still believe they are, at best, only moderately prepared for the wave of change about to take place.

    “I think that we don’t yet have the true enablers in place to transform treasury. I think that within our central treasury function, we do aggregate as much as we can, and we are looking to continually improve and develop… making sure that treasury activity to the greatest extent possible is centralised.” – Deputy Group Treasury Director, Consumer Brands and Retail

    The majority of treasurers feel confident and geared up for change, some however are not so ready

    How ready is your firm to implement any changes to your treasury function’s...

    “It involves a lot of work in terms of understanding some of the technological tools and utilising it fully”

    – Treasury Director, Consumer Brands and Retail

    For those that do feel prepared, what have they done to get ready? For those that feel unprepared, what can they do to start getting their treasury functions fit for the future? And what elements do all treasurers need to keep an active eye on which could unhinge transformation efforts?

    Setting up for success

    With a large number of highly promising new technologies and techniques to consider and test, treasurers feel the most important factor for a successful change program is the ability to understand the technology solutions available, how these can be deployed, and the potential impact they will have on what they see as unique challenges of their treasury operations.

    “I’ve noticed some tools out there. They have literally every bell and switch imaginable and possible, but then the challenge is understanding all of those. Seventy per cent (70 per cent) might not even apply to your organisation but you still have to check those boxes.” – Treasury Director, Consumer Brands and Retail

    Interviewees recognise that there is a slew of new solutions available, both from banks and fintech providers. Attitudes to working with fintechs vary, with interviewees expressing the need to manage the risk of working with new entrants. Identifying trusted providers to offer the right advice is key, but even more critical is identifying which processes can be safely supported by particular partners.

    “I would leverage what is available outside and keep communicating with the suppliers, the banks, and get a good feel of the trends. This is very ‘company-by-company’, so you need to keep in touch with the right people.” – Regional Treasurer, Automotive

    “There are certain areas such as our bank accounts which we would always hold with major banks because of the sheer amount of money going through them… it’s too risky for that to go through anything but a major bank. But it’s more likely to be enabling technology around the side is where you get the value add, the stuff that improves your process.” – Head of Treasury & Credit, Oil and Gas

    “An ideal combination is a fintech working with a bank or being acquired by a bank.” – Director of Treasury, Technology, Media and Telecoms

    Treasury teams also acknowledge that while new technologies and techniques do bring great promise for more effective and efficient treasury management, there is another side to the coin. With new systems and processes come new risks, and the ability to identify, understand, and mitigate these new risks is critical.

    “If you bring innovation into the process, the risk can be too high in terms of potential losses, so you must do the costbenefit analysis… so definitely on one hand I am going for technology innovation, but on the other hand, there’s a need to stay safe.”– Country Head of Finance, Chemicals

    Another important area in preparing for successful treasury transformation is ensuring that the house is in order before introducing new technologies and techniques. Treasurers report that restructuring or centralising treasury functions and freeing their teams from routine tasks that can be redesigned or outsourced will create the environment necessary for successful transformation. Similarly, many treasurers believe that a redesign of existing processes and policies is needed first, rather than simply overlaying new technology and processes over sub-optimal or outdated ways of working.

    “If I wanted to adopt certain technology opportunities, I cannot utilise those opportunities if my policy is not aligned to them” – Treasury Controller, Aviation

    “You can’t buck the trend of the organisation with your treasury aspiration. It’s very hard to run, let’s say a very centralised treasury function in a very decentralised company. You just don’t get the buy-in to do that. Unless you get the buy-in for that sort of change and transformation, it doesn’t work.” – Deputy Group Treasury Director, Consumer Brands and Retail

    Getting ready means understanding the what and why of new technology, potential new risks, and getting the function internally fit for transformation

    Which of the following are important / the single most important if your treasury function is to be successful in implementing any change in its use of technology, its processes or its people?

    Top 5 – percentage citing as the single most important

    1. Assessing new technologies and treasury management solutions – 20 per cent
    2. Assessing new risks associated with the adoption of new technology – 16 per cent
    3. Restructuring or centralising the treasury function – 15 per cent
    4. Outsourcing routine components of treasury operations to a third party – 14 per cent
    5. Redesigning routine components of treasury operations to a third party – 13 per cent

    “An understanding of the IT environment that could house that, how that works, how that could be configured… that would be super helpful” – VP, Corporate Finance, Treasury and Taxation, Infrastructure and Real Estate

    “Aggregate as many of those activities as we can…making sure that treasury activity to the greatest extent possible is centralised” – Deputy Group Treasury Director, Consumer Brands and Retail

    Barriers to break

    Large global firms such as those surveyed for this report tend to have complex organisations with multiple business lines spanning a number of geographic markets. Treasurers report that this complexity within their operating environments can greatly hinder transformation. One in five treasurers (20 per cent ) feel that their firms’ structural complexity is the single most significant barrier to change.

    Internal inconsistencies also make implementing new technologies and techniques a challenge. Many treasurers bemoan the many diff erent platforms and technologies from their banking partners. Compounding this fragmentation is the multitude of systems within their own firms. Diff erent lines of business and geographic markets can also come with stark diff erences in internal processes and policies across the firm, due to diff erences in local regulations and business practices.

    Treasury transformation must hurdle over the barriers of internal complexity and inconsistencies

    What barriers / single most important barrier does your firm’s treasury function face in implementing change?

    Top 5 – percentage citing as the single most important

    1. Complexity of the firm’s lines of business and structure – 20 per cent
    2. Knowledge and skillset gaps within the treasury team – 18 per cent
    3. Inconsistency of platforms and technology across the firm – 13 per cent
    4. Inconsistency of processes and policies across the firm – 8 per cent
    5. Lack of budget for investment – 8 per cent

    “Nothing’s integrated. There’s no one consistent platform… it’s a bit of a challenge to manage”

    – VP, Corporate Finance, Treasury and Taxation, Infrastructure and Real Estate

    Survey respondents also highlighted knowledge and skills gaps in their teams as a key hindrance to transformation.

    With transformation being driven largely by the desire to access and leverage better data, and with treasurers keenly aware that with new approaches come new risks, cybersecurity, new risk management techniques and data analytics are expected to become the most important skill sets for treasury teams over the next 12 to 18 months.

    “Data is by far the biggest challenge. Because companies have so much data – they’re constantly creating data – they have more data than they know what to do with. You will need people who understand data, because if they don’t, you’re dead in the water.” – Head of Treasury & Credit, Oil and Gas

    With a vast array of new technologies available today, let alone all those being developed for launch tomorrow, many treasurers also see that the ability to assess the actual value and impact that new technologies will bring to treasury, is rapidly becoming a vital skill for treasury teams.

    “It comes down to having people who are comfortable with technology, testing it, and making sure that it works for the firm, because what you will tend to find is that people are very nervous about technology.” – Head of Treasury & Credit, Oil and Gas

    Herein lies part of the transformation challenge for treasury. Treasurers acknowledge that the most vital skills for their teams to have in the future are their biggest gaps today. In particular, over a quarter of treasurers see a need to boost cybersecurity and data analytics skills within their teams, with around a fifth wanting to close the gap on new risk management techniques and the ability to assess the value of new technologies.

    “I think the fundamental risks – funding, liquidity, interest rates, foreign exchange, credit, fraud, cyber… they exist today but the techniques of managing them may well change.” – Deputy Group Treasury Director, Consumer Brands and Retail

    “The same risks are the same risks, but the ways and the tools for managing them will evolve.” – Director of Treasury, Technology, Media & Telecoms

    To address the issue, treasurers are not necessarily looking to make wholesale team changes. Instead, they are looking to upskill and re-tool the teams that they have, draw on the support of their banking partners, or bring in external consultants.

    “There might need to be change towards the more ‘techy’ people. It won’t be radical, as what I’ve got within my team are bright, intelligent people that are able to evolve.” – Director of Treasury, Technology, Media & Telecoms

    “We would look to upskill our knowledge within the team… but we will look to external consultancies as well. We’ve had conversations with [consulting firms] with regards to what we should be thinking about.” – Group Head of Tax and Treasury, Technology, Media & Telecoms

    “We don’t have the knowledge, and to be honest everybody fears it, but I think in the end, we can do it with support from our banks. We will not be shy to leverage our banks, to use the resource from our core banks.” – Regional Treasurer, Automotive

    In summary, in addition to understanding the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of new technology, identifying potential new risks, and getting the function internally fit for transformation by removing complexity and inconsistencies, treasurers also need to be focusing on closing the skills-gap within their teams in the areas they see as most critical for the future.

    Mind the skills gap

    Over the next 12-18 months what vital skills or experiences will be the single most important to the successful functioning of your treasury team?

    Top 5 – percentage citing as the single most important
    Do you currently have a skill gap in the capabilities that you have identified as vital to the successful functioning of your treasury function over the next 12-18 months?

    Top 5 – percentage citing as a skills-gap
    Cybersecurity 23 per cent Cybersecurity 38 per cent
    Data analytics 19 per cent Data analytics 27 per cent
    New risk management techniques 17 per cent New risk management techniques 21 per cent
    Assessing the value of new technologies 10 per cent Assessing the value of new technologies 18 per cent
    Communication and internal stakeholder engagement 9 per cent Communication and internal stakeholder engagement 17 per cent
    Top 5 – percentage citing as the single most important

    1. Complexity of the firm’s lines of business and structure – 20 per cent
    2. Knowledge and skillset gaps within the treasury team – 18 per cent
    3. Inconsistency of platforms and technology across the firm – 13 per cent
    4. Inconsistency of processes and policies across the firm – 8 per cent
    5. Lack of budget for investment – 8 per cent

    Monitoring treasury transformation

    After analysing the responses of treasury professionals from around the world on the extent of transformation in their function, how they are preparing, and what might de-rail their transformation programmes, we have identified some clear priority areas for treasurers to understand and monitor as they prepare for change and transformation in their own firms.


    AI, big data and advanced data analytics and cloud-based services emerge as the technologies seen by treasurers as both with the most promise, and the ones most implemented to date.

    Priority technology: future importance and current usage and implementations

    Techniques and processes

    Aligned with – and in support of – the belief in the transformative power of data, the ways of working or treasury techniques that are both expected to be the most important in the future, and currently most widely implemented are advanced data analytics and reporting.

    Treasury techniques that deliver greater control and visibility such as virtual account structures, centralised shared service centres and in-house banks are also among those expected to be most important. However, whilst Global centralisation via shared service centres are already being widely implemented, virtual accounts are currently less utilised.

    Priority techniques: future importance and current usage and implementations

    Talent, skills, experiences

    From a talent perspective, the skill sets seen as most important – cybersecurity, data analytics and new risk management techniques – are also those that are most commonly identified as current skill gaps in today’s treasury teams.

    Priority skills: future importance and current gaps

    Transformation success factors

    Based on the responses and experiences of treasury professionals around the world, below are some emerging areas to consider as firms embark on their transformation journey to Treasury 4.0:

    Prioritising tomorrow’s technology

    What functionality is missing today? Conduct a review of the functionality and frequency of existing technology platforms deployed within the firm to assess the extent of change and required functionality for your own firm and function.

    What technology is available? Engage with trusted banking partners, technology providers and other suppliers to determine what is available today in terms of data supportive technologies.

    What are others implementing? Research case studies and examples from companies of a similar size, complexity or sector as your firm on the technologies they assessed and implemented for their treasury function.

    How will your firm assess new technology? Develop a robust, standardised and quantifiable methodology and process for assessing the value of new technology for your firm, to both prioritise from the array available, and sell the benefits of transformation internally.

    Transitioning to tomorrow’s treasury techniques

    How does the firm need to change? Identify which current ways of working or treasury techniques are currently useful for your firm, and which are feeling out of date and ineffective today or will impede efficiency improvements in the future.

    Are there opportunities to centralise? Review the extent of centralisation within your firm and identify opportunities to complete further centralisation of selected tasks and processes where an operational or cost efficiency will be achieved.

    How can your banks support you? Discuss the latest treasury solutions on offer from your banks, and what would be required to implement, such as solutions for virtual accounts, in-house banks, and instant or real-time payments.

    Are your policies aligned with transformation? Review the firm’s existing treasury policies to determine which are feeling out of date, or ineffective today. Discuss findings with other functions within your firm for their input, such as compliance, risk management, finance, information security.

    Plugging the talent gap

    What skills are available today? Conduct a skills assessment of the current team – based not just on the current roles team members hold, but also on their past experiences and future potential.

    Where are your gaps? Based on your vision for the future, determine which skills gaps exist within your own team.

    How can you develop your own team to be fit for the future? Determine how to build out the skills and experience of existing treasury team members, through special project work (e.g. supporting on technology implementations) or short-term assignments to other treasury teams or functions within the firm.

    What skills are available within the firm? Discuss available resource with other functions within the firm to see if skill gaps can be plugged with internal staff, such as compliance for risk management skills, IT for cybersecurity skills.

    What can your partners do to fill the gap? Leverage your banking partners, technology providers and external consultants to explore what expertise they may be able to provide.

    Research methodology

    HSBC Global Liquidity and Cash Management commissioned financial services client engagement firm Ideas and Action to conduct independent research as the basis of producing this report.

    From September to October 2019, Ideas and Action surveyed 200 senior treasury executives from large, multinational corporations from key markets in the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

    Respondents were selected from firms with an annual turn-over of USD2 billion and above from six industries: Consumer Brands and Retail; Infrastructure, Real Estate and Construction; Oil, Gas and Chemicals; Technology, Media and Telecommunications; Automotive; Aviation and Logistics.

    To gain deeper insight into the drivers behind the responses, the quantitative survey was supplemented with nine in-depth interviews with senior treasury decision-makers. Profile information about the sample for the survey and interviews follows:

    What is your role in your company?

    What is your firm’s main area of business?

    Where is your role primarily based?

    For more information on how HSBC can help meet your needs please contact your local HSBC representative or visit


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