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Talking treasury and finance at the ACT Annual Conference

Following the ACT 2019 Annual Conference, we caught up with Danny Doyle & Winston Pearson, Product Managers at AccessPay, to hear their views on the major trends in treasury, finance and tech adoption – as well as finding out how they found their first speaking engagement at an ACT event.

1. So, ACT’s 40th Annual Conference took place in Manchester, the Fintech Hub of the North. What did you make of the event?

Danny: The event was enjoyable, and the quality of presentations and speakers was of a very high standard. With it being my third ACT Annual Conference, it was interesting to see how the agenda and topics discussed have evolved over the years. With regards to the event being in Manchester, as a proud Mancunian, it was definitely a selling point. Having the event on home turf, especially as it was the first time speaking for both Winston and me, was an advantage.

Winston: I couldn’t agree with you more. It was a great event and we enjoyed every minute of it! From our speaking slot on the first day to the extensive networking opportunities on day two – I must say it was everything I thought it would be and more! It was also great to see so many treasury and finance professionals descending on Manchester. It allowed us to showcase what the region has to offer and the fact it was on our doorstep at Manchester Central made it all the better – sleeping in my own bed after a post-event gala dinner is always a bonus.

“Those early adopters; the ones that embrace new ideas such as Open Banking, are going to reap the rewards, by influencing the direction of the products they use.”

2. The ACT brought together over 1,100 treasury peers, +100 expert speakers and +80 exhibitors with a challenge to think differently and to have an open mindset for innovation and change in treasury and finance. Was the audience ready for this? What do you make of “Embracing Disruption”?

Winston: As with any profession, individuals and companies embrace technology and change in different ways. It was evident from some of the surveys during the various keynotes and track sessions that treasury and finance professionals are no different. But, the overall topic of “Embracing Disruption” was a good one – even though the term “disruption” has negative connotations. Change isn’t all bad.

Danny: I think it’s going to be a gradual process. Those early adopters, the ones that embrace new ideas such as Open Banking, are going to reap the rewards, by influencing the direction of the products they use. With BankSense, our cash management and analytics solution, we took the same approach – actively involving early adopters in shaping the solution. Some organisations are naturally more risk-averse, but those willing to embrace disruption are the ones that see a real benefit.

3. What interesting conversations did you have at ACT 2019? Any treasury and finance insights you’d like to share?

Danny: It was interesting to see the number of Treasurers putting “Payment Fraud“, as their top priority for 2019. The difficulty for most corporate treasurers is aligning controls and processes across disparate systems – often with differing levels of maturity. So, I understand why they’re concerned with this issue. For example, one of our customers is using a ten-year-old Oracle system alongside a brand-new cloud Payroll system. They need us to provide that systemic enforcement of processes in line with their internal governance before any payments hit the bank.

Winston: After our keynote, I spoke to a treasurer who explained that their existing treasury technology solutions provider met all their requirements. However, due to the changing nature of the industry, especially with the emergence of Open Banking, in six-months-time this may not be the case.  The treasurer went on to explain that only by speaking to industry and technology experts like AccessPay, would they ensure technology and operations remain fit for purpose within their organisation.

“Process excellence in treasury is not a destination, but a never-ending journey.”

4. How was your first speaking engagement at an ACT Conference? How did the audience respond to the information you shared?

Danny: I think we did well (at least, I hope we did)! Winston and I are no strangers to the stage – speaking regularly to audiences of finance professionals across the UK. However, the ACT Annual Conference is unique in that the level of knowledge and experience is much more “enterprise” than your typical payments audience. The key message we wanted to get across was that “process excellence in treasury is not a destination, but a never-ending journey”. There’s no reason why treasurers shouldn’t be relying on technology to automate processes which aren’t adding value – and I think we got this message across, to the audience.

Winston: To tell you the truth, it was “scary as hell!” Both Danny and I were conscious that we’d be sharing our opinions on treasury automation to an audience of seasoned experts. But we did it! The feedback and audience engagement was fantastic, with treasury and finance professionals commenting after the keynote that they enjoyed our fresh approach, where we put our opinions forward and stood by them.

5. From the post-event conversations, we’ve had, it sounds like you met some interesting treasury and finance professionals on the stand. How were you able to assist them at ACT 2019?

Winston: I found myself giving a lot of people information about Open Banking & PSD2 changes, and how corporates can reap the benefits.  Interestingly enough, it seems like banks have done a great job helping treasury and finance professionals recognise the terms, but not so well at explaining the tangible benefits that can be achieved by implementing solutions that take advantage of these regulations – this is what I intend to deliver.

Danny: The only constant I found is that every organisation is different! They all make payments and manage cash, but depending on their back-office complexity and structure it could be; automation of payments, payments security, reconciliation, reporting, auditing, collections, forecasting that they need assistance with. Naturally, not everyone has every problem, but everyone we spoke to did mention at least one pain point – something Winston and I, plus the team on stand were able easily to alleviate.

6. What do you think is the greatest challenge facing treasurers today?

Winston: Of course, this is different for every treasurer. However, the trend from the 2019 Business of Treasury report shows that; treasurers are becoming more strategic, at the same time as doing their day-to-day job.  Being able to automate monotonous processes is key if treasurers are to deliver value to the role in the future.

Danny: Keeping up with the pace of regulatory change – It’s something we know treasurers are keen to stay up to date with.

7. We asked treasury and finance professionals who attended the AccessPay panel discussions some interesting questions about treasury technology. What did you make of the answers?

Winston: It was evident from the answers that treasury transformation is a priority for most treasury professionals, however the technology landscape that enables this transformation is more complicated than it ought to be – something we at AccessPay, try to overcome with our consultative approach.

Danny: 64% of treasury professionals believe that the treasury technology landscape has changed, but there’s scope for further developments. What this tells me is that there is an appetite for treasury transformation, but the current technology landscape is a bit clunky. At AccessPay, we position ourselves in this space – a FinTech provider of payments and cash management automation software on a mission to empower treasury and finance professionals with the intelligent tools they need to become more efficient and secure.

8. What are your top tips for treasury and finance professionals to help them keep up to date with the changes in the industry?

Winston: Subscribe to a few treasury publications and seek the expertise of your technology partners and peers.  This is what I do in order to stay abreast of changes and the knowledge is all free of charge!  ALSO, set up Google Alerts for topics like “Cash Management” & “Business Payments”. Then Google will send you content to your email (near instantly or daily).

Danny: I tell my team here at AccessPay to spend 15 minutes of their commute reading industry news, blog posts and content, just like I do every morning. Checking in with industry publications like The Global Treasurer, Finextra and Bobsguide (to name a few) requires minimal effort but add a lot of value. Oh, and subscribe to our Knowledge Hub.

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