J.P. Morgan and The Economist Impact have developed a whitepaper, complementary to this year’s EuroFinance International Treasury Management conference. Download ‘Leaning into the blur between business and finance: How payments drive new marketplace business models’ for a deeper dive into some of the core themes of the event.
The first sessions in this jam-packed agenda pulled no punches. Guy Verhofstadt, Member of the European Parliament, considered a true single market Europe, calling out ‘the lack of union in the European Union’. This fragmentation works against business and citizens, he said, calling for a European standard and internet model to allow for bigger competitors on the world stage.
Following this was a riveting insight into macroeconomic realities, with a keynote focusing on the economic outlook for Europe. Sona Muzikarova discussed the possibility of gas rationing and the knock-on impact on manufacturing towards the end of the year. Some sobering topics but a necessary grounding for context for the rest of the day.
Switching to the ‘Changing Face of Treasury’ stream, J.P. Morgan’s Tristan Attenborough rallied the troops with an enlightening session focusing on digitizing treasury. Joined by Matteo Concas from Enel X, Kim Dowling of MetLife, and Pecunia’s Patrick Kunz, this panel explored what is beyond the ecosystem, and the need to have an ever-evolving offering. Enel’s internal fintech model and its ‘open billing’ solution showed the same foresight as MetLife’s response to its customer demand, bringing in a global TMS and opening transparent discussion with the C-suite on business strategy and how treasury can lead. As direct-to-consumer models continue to proliferate, Tristan posited that digitization is differentiation. And so say all of us.
It may be the most transformative financial trend we will see in our lifetimes. It could change the way financial services are accessed and distributed. It is embedded finance, and the panel explained how the demand for consumer grade experience is impacting our business lives. Helena Forest from J.P. Morgan highlighted the crucial role that treasurers play in that advisory. “There are lots of complexities and new expertise that needs to be built up on the corporate side, but the key benefit is that when its designed well, it becomes invisible to the end consumer. It comes to you when you need it, it’s the definitive client experience. Embedded finance could be devices, your car, an app… and can be provided by your favourite brands. This will be the next big disruptor.”
There was standing room only at the ‘Digging deeper, forecasting better’ session. The esteemed panel highlighted how the pathway to better comes from cash forecasting for clients, reminding the audience that cash flow is an art, rather than a science. They also noted that cash flow forecasting isn’t an island, and is impacted by what’s happening in the wider world as well as within a business. While predictive analytics is available for consumer behavior, the industry isn’t yet ready for the same for cash. As developments continue, the panel shared the need for technologists to teach the treasurer, and vice versa. The robot may be able to do it, but who will fix the robot?
Ford explained to the crowd how they evolved from 20 banks with more than 100 different accounts to one single account with J.P. Morgan. Describing the process as mechanized and completely seamless, Clive Bailey from FCE Bank likened their earlier process as akin to putting money in jam jars in an attempt to manage payments. The new and more efficient process means less double handling and less moving cash around for the sake of it, and signaled a direct link between virtual account and real time treasury. Judging by the size of the audience in attendance, they’ll have plenty of followers.
Even the most cursory glance at today’s agenda laid bare the core themes: sustainability, diversity and the role of treasury for the future. In a captivating keynote speech, Goran Carstedt warned that companies and countries that don’t see sustainability as a business imperative may be left behind. Peeling back the layers of green and clean technology, he cited China as a driver of change with innovators in Silicon Valley building from the ground up. On the treasury side, he promoted a new world view – moving from mechanical thinking to create the social tipping point needed for change. Inspiring stuff, and an excellent start to the day.
To inspire others, you must be honest with yourself first. At the invite-only ‘Women in Treasury’ breakfast, attendees were treated to an enlightening and searingly candid conversation about the challenges women can face in career progression. Passionately moderated by J.P. Morgan’s Veronique Steiner, the session covered everything from imposter syndrome, unconscious bias and the need for reverse mentoring. The panel encouraged everyone to take opportunities, be authentic, and lean on men as allies. Overall, the message was clear: know your worth.
…so let’s look to the strategy. So said the panellists at the ‘Understanding the new dynamics of global treasury operations function’ session. However, for a seat at the table, you need to really understand the business - finding solutions and adding value helps treasurers to have the hard conversations with management and further elevate your role. They also agreed that anticipating risk is understanding the business dynamic; tweaking the old treasury model will no longer make the treasurer successful. Where success does lie is letting operational and tactical elements be managed by automation while you concentrate on the strategic. Sound advice indeed.
Treasury is the target of 42% of phishing emails, according to the ‘Resilience versus security’ panel – making it an especially pertinent subject. Despite this, the sophistication of fraudsters is increasing, requiring ever more focus from business. The contributors debated a rhetorical question: from a responsibility perspective, who takes the lead? Opinions differed but all agreed that treasury is at the center of any multi-layered approach, so understanding areas beyond your role is key. This focus on the importance of communication, education and training was clear, and with payment fraud being one of the biggest threat treasurers face, this is a strategy that needs to be embedded.
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