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New ways to transact in the digital age

New technologies and digital tools are providing finance leaders with simpler, faster and safer ways to work. In an ever-changing business environment, innovative transaction banking solutions help institutions seamlessly connect with their network or better access and optimise working capital. Senior leaders from Zuellig Pharma, Amcor and HSBC discuss viable solutions in the HSBC Smarter Business Series, a content partnership with CorporateTreasurer, a sister title of FA.

For financial decision-makers across corporates and financial institutions in Asia Pacific, it is increasingly urgent to embrace digitisation into business processes.

Their focus needs to be on integrating new solutions, along with technologies such as application programming interfaces (APIs), blockchain and ‘Banking as a Service’, to achieve:

  • Seamless connectivity with key banking services that help to enhance the customer experience
  • Simpler access to optimise working capital by modernising interactions with buyers and suppliers, to shorten cost cycles and better capture new business opportunities

For insights into how to meet these objectives, four experienced market practitioners explore solutions as part of the HSBC Smarter Business Series.

Click on the below videos for the following topics and speakers:

Seamlessly connect: new ways to transact in the digital age

  • Daniel Laverick, Vice President and Head of Digital & Data Solutions, Zuellig Pharma
  • Zohair Ahmed, Director, Global Liquidity and Cash Management, HSBC Singapore

Access and optimise working capital: innovative financing solutions

  • Jeffrey Yang, Vice President Finance & IT, Amcor China
  • Florence Tan, Head of Global Trade and Receivables Finance, HSBC China


Seamlessly connect

In response to the shift in consumer and business behaviour due to Covid-19, more corporates now see the value of banking integration in helping to close transactions and access information more quickly. “The single-most common question from treasurers is how to make their treasury function more efficient, to enable growth,” said Ahmed at HSBC Singapore. “The answer, increasingly, is via APIs.”

Zuellig Pharma has reaped such benefits. In the wake of the pandemic, the company leveraged new digital solutions to make communications simpler and faster. “Covid-19 and its lockdowns forced us to pivot quickly to ramp up our ecommerce platform to fulfil orders to get life-saving drugs out the door,” explained Laverick.

In short, this revolutionised the firm’s processes overnight – from a manual effort with collectors knocking on doors for cash and cheques to deposit in the bank – to offering online capabilities that gave customers a new way to pay, quickly and easily.

More broadly, APIs and platform-based sales can enable companies to tap into a larger customer base than previously possible; the next step is embedding ‘Banking as a Service’ to facilitate financing through an ecommerce platform.

Blockchain, meanwhile, is also able to transform the role of treasury, enabling a wide variety of information to be exchanged among several parties with better visibility than before.

HSBC has already seen treasuries evolve from being focused on operational efficiency to become more customer-centric and growth oriented. This manifests itself in greater synergy between treasury and the business, enabling companies to capture new technology-led opportunities.

While the finance function and IT have historically been aligned, the new digital teams allow treasury to bridge the commercial gap. “It has to evolve in line with the objective of delivering a better customer experience,” added Ahmed. “Customers now want things quicker, which drives more collaboration internally.”

Click here for more insights from HSBC.

Access and optimise working capital

The process of scaling up digital capabilities is also helping a growing number of corporates to optimise working capital and improve efficiencies. In line with this, the role of technology generally in Asia Pacific has moved from being a “nice to have” to it offering a differentiator for treasury functions.

For a consumer goods packaging firm like Amcor, for example, the fast-paced and competitive nature of its business makes finding efficiency essential, as is improving its financial ratios. “We have had to focus on making our data integration faster and smoother, requiring innovation and digital tools,” explained Yang.

These types of needs have demanded a new approach from banking providers. “Covid-19 has been responsible for us accelerating our innovation, by identifying our customers’ needs and responding to them,” said Tan at HSBC China.

Inevitably, next-gen tech will form part of the toolkit for the treasurers of tomorrow. This is needed as finance teams look to mitigate risks and make the best use of their cash, based on three key areas in which Tan said treasurers typically look for support from their banks:

  1. To correctly predict cash positions – to shorten or optimise the cycle
  2. To enhance tech efficiency – not just in terms of solutions at the front end, but also connecting and providing support for transactions in a digitised and automated way
  3. To provide security – given that every new digitised solution with a customer involves a governance process to protect the customer against cybersecurity or fraud

“Efficiency and security are key areas for us to consider,” confirmed Yang. “Tech can really help us with cash flow forecasting accuracy and visibility.”

This reflects a broader theme among corporates – that ‘Banking as a Service’ is on an upward trend. “By leveraging APIs and through ‘embedded finance’, an organisation can offer valuable banking services to its ecosystem of buyers, customers and suppliers through existing digital channels,” added Tan.

Click here for more insights from HSBC.

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