A further slowing in growth
The growing wave of digital transformation in finance is helping solve today’s key corporate treasury challenges by leveraging the latest developments in data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning
Corporate treasurers are expecting more automation to streamline processes across their top priority areas as rapid advances in real-time technologies continue to transform and strengthen cash management solutions and insights.
These are some of the findings from the latest Deloitte Global Treasury Survey[i] which highlights “enhance liquidity management” and “improve cash forecasting capabilities” as the two top priorities for action today. At the same time, those polled say forecasting and cash management are also the top areas they expect to find further automation in over the next two to three years.
NAB’s Head of Liquidity Management Advisory Brett Healy says the results suggest a “growing confidence” from the corporate treasury community in these evolving technologies and is a development the bank is closely involved with.
“Cash management innovation has really accelerated over the past three years,” Healy says. “We’ve got robotic process automation, open banking APIs and last, but most exciting, is machine learning and artificial intelligence. They’ve all collectively evolved to where they are providing tangible solutions to real world use cases.”
Healy also says corporate treasury has become infinitely more complex over this same period, from navigating the disruption and the uncertainty of the pandemic to a new economic cycle of inflation, rising interest rates and increased volatility.
Coupled with lean treasury teams, largely working around legacy systems and processes, there is a clear imperative for the latest technology solutions to help enhance decision-making using faster and more accurate data analytics, Healy says.
To help bring these latest innovations to corporate customers, NAB has invested in Trovata[ii], a global fintech based in San Diego designed around the evolving technologies driving cash management solutions today.
Trovata’s platform uses secure, open banking APIs to integrate account data directly and then leverage AI and other tech advances – including the recently notable ChatGPT – to seamlessly manage cash flow and working capital.
“NAB is genuinely excited by the Trovata solution,” Healy says. “So, in addition to participating in Trovata’s latest funding round we’re also working on how to best partner with them to bring this to our clients.”
Trovata currently has $US125 billion in operating cash accounts on the platform and more than 175 clients including payments fintech Square, speaker ecosystem provider Sonos and cyber security firm CrowdStrike[iii].
As part of introducing Trovata to the Australian market, NAB has implemented a pilot program with customer REA Group[iv], the digital global property business that includes local brands like realestate.com.au, realcommercial.com.au and Mortgage Choice.
Liz Wong is Treasury Manager at REA Group and says she is pleased to be using this solution through NAB to enhance operations ahead of the official launch locally.
Wong says traditional cash and liquidity management operations have involved wrangling data from different sources and formats, with a multitude of time-consuming manual processes – especially around the working capital position.
“It’s really quite onerous at the moment,” she says. “With our daily cash flow forecasting we only really get a two-week outward view at any point in time. In terms of our long range plans we do leverage off our ERP [enterprise resource planning] system but it also means there’s a lot of manual assumptions and other calculations to get to that point in time.”
She says it currently takes the business around five or six hours a week just to manually download bank statements, manually tag the transactions and then consolidate all of those balances to the parent company.
Wong says being able to use the technology for the past several months to pull in REA’s banking data from NAB has allowed her to build out a long-range cash forecast in a more dynamic way, with impressive accuracy.
“It’s actually given us a lot of value-add just to actually predict the longer range,” she says. “To see that data in real-time is amazing as well. You can see the actuals versus forecast graphically and you’re still able, if need be, to extract the data into Excel to do your other reporting as well.
“It’s been good to experiment – say applying a growth rate and seeing what the downstream impact looks like. It’s shown our businesses how much of a value-add and time-saving this can actually be.”
Trovata founder and CEO Brett Turner says after being US-focused for the first several years he is excited to be bringing the platform into the Australian market with NAB to help customers strengthen their decision-making using real-time data insights.
“We’re entering this wave of digital transformation that is finding its way into banking and corporate finance, accounting, treasury and all of that is super exciting,” Turner says. “We’re looking at how we partner with NAB in a complementary way to really augment and bring about this next-gen tech experience for managing cash.”
He says rigid and expensive legacy tech stacks, whose formats can date back to the 1970s, don’t offer business the opportunities available today. Open banking APIs allow for the analysis of real-time transaction data, with the user experiences on Trovata done in natural language search at 300 millisecond speeds. A recent development rolling out is a secure generative AI assistant for treasury and finance based on ChatGPT technologies[v].
“It’s about how we connect in a secure way to be able to utilise that banking data and drive automation in a lot of these cash workflows,” Turner says.
“We need the data to drive the automation, bringing about things like machine learning and AI and at scale and then being able to realise this user experience of better visibility in cash.”
Turner says Trovata has the largest library of APIs in the world of global corporate banking. Cloud-based infrastructure enables a very fast and scalable experience “with no IT and no implementation required” he says.
“We sit between the ERP system and the bank so there’s more interoperability between the two to automate the workflows in the middle. All of these workflows – daily, weekly or monthly – all of that is built into the fabric of Trovata.”
The platform is fully integrated through corporate banking APIs for multi-bank aggregation, cash visibility, analysis, forecasting and payments.
As well as the US, Trovata has opened offices in London and Amsterdam to support its European expansion. Two thirds of customers are involved in treasury and the other third are in accounting teams, says Turner.
NAB Transaction Banking Executive Johan Westh says having REA Group work with solutions like these through NAB, is a great example of strategic partnerships at work to help modernise cash and liquidity management processes.
Westh says combining the latest AI and machine learning with enriched transaction data can add greater levels of automation and business intelligence to daily cash reporting in a rapidly changing environment.
“Having up-to-date and real-time cash flow forecasts across a range of durations will be a game changer for balancing liquidity risk and capital efficiency,” he says. “These are real, tangible opportunities to transform the corporate treasury landscape.”
The Deloitte Treasury Survey is run every two years and aims to provide insights and objective data to organisations so they can enhance their treasury functions. The latest 2022 release surveyed 245 respondents across a full range of industries globally.
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