Treasury in 2030: how to prepare for a more automated, open, sustainable, digital future

Treasury in 2030 will need to be more adaptable, scalable, and sustainable than ever before, make more time for strategic activities through automation and digitalisation, and help spin-up new services and capabilities by plugging into a broadening ecosystem of partners. 

Embrace automation of day-to-day processes to free up time for more strategic activities

From cash management to real-time FX trading and hedging, a wide range of day-to-day treasury activities in 2030 will be automated and rely on artificial intelligence (AI) for tailored execution, allowing treasurers to spend more time contributing to strategic decision-making and getting ahead of future trends, and less time filling out spreadsheets or wading through reams of documents.

In 2021, we have already seen a number of leading treasury teams looking to embrace technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA) and AI in order to reduce their manual burden, only intervening when exceptions are needed.

Near total automation of day-to-day treasury activities isn’t a pipe dream – it will soon be reality, with a raft of technology providers and financial institutions lining up behind the cause. To achieve the level of treasury automation likely to be commonplace by 2030, treasurers’ attention will undoubtedly need to turn to systems set-ups and the availability of third-party solutions. After defining their goals and digital treasury vision, the next step is to understand and measure the capability of the treasury team – and assess the need to partner or outsource – in meeting those automation aims.

Highly automated systems thrive on real-time information, which will require treasuries to carefully look at the infrastructure used to deliver, manage, process, and analyse data. This means working closely with technology and financial partners to implement or augment a range of technologies and tools including application programming interfaces (APIs), AI and machine learning (ML), and distributed ledger technologies (DLT) to support more for more secure, interoperable, real-time services.

Get serious about open banking and take a best-of-breed approach to technology to enable greater interoperability and new services

Within the next decade, open banking – which leverages APIs to offer the potential for multi-bank cash, trade and FX visibility at the touch of a button – should have matured to the point where it is embedded within the treasury. As treasurers become more involved in corporate strategy, they will be enlisted to spin-up new value-adding financial services like banking-as-a-service (more on this later), requiring integration with a much wider range of internal and external platforms.

With the capabilities of APIs clear and the evolution towards an open, collaborative financial ecosystem, we may also see more of a best-of-breed approach to technology selection in 2030. This approach enables the use of multiple specialised systems, which of course, can provide organisations with specialised features – and may prove more satisfactory than an all-in-one solution (such as those traditionally found in the enterprise resource planning or ERP software space).

Corporates wanting to make progress on open banking and lay the foundation should start by challenging their banking partners to introduce relevant solutions sooner rather than later and work more closely together to address key pain points around areas like payments and cash management.

This goes hand-in-hand with challenging technology providers and banks to make best-of-breed a reality, which may also involve working with fintechs to help bridge legacy systems with newer (likely cloud-based) platforms built on open standards. As best-of-breed evolves, treasurers will need to focus on managing vendors and service-level agreements (SLAs) on a scale not seen before. Investing in those capabilities and processes now will almost certainly help lay the foundation for treasury to succeed in the decade ahead.

Stay on top of new business models enabled by banking-as-a-service

APIs, open banking and fintechs are also fuelling the emergence of ‘embedded finance’ – or ‘banking-as-a-service’ (BaaS) – a trend that is expected to change market structures and business models in the years to come. This is when a financial service, like payments or insurance, is embedded into a non-financial brand as a means to create a seamless customer experience, something we already see emerging among popular supermarket brands and transport firms. Thought nascent today, we see the market for these services swelling to $7 trillion by 2030, and we expect them to have a strong influence over treasurers’ areas of responsibility.

Treasurers in consumer-facing sectors and others may wish to engage early with their banking partners around this industry shift. There are also strategic conversations to be had with the board around the value of a seamless digital customer journey in terms of making cash flows more predictable and visible.

Push financial partners and suppliers to accelerate the race towards net-zero

As we head into the next decade, and board-level, customer, and investor focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks continues to intensify, treasurers will be under considerable pressure to prioritise sustainability in the run up to 2030 and beyond. Businesses will need to bring their suppliers along for the journey in order to succeed.

Financial markets are playing an important role here, and constantly innovating to help companies align their funding and sustainability objectives. Whether in the debt capital markets, loan markets, or through the use of derivatives, banks and businesses are partnering to directly link sustainability-related KPIs, like company-wide emissions targets, to the cost of borrowing. Supply chain finance has an important role to play here, with structures that offer suppliers financial advantages such as lower pricing, improved access to credit or reduced working capital needs in exchange for prioritising ESG.

Again, this is an area where treasurers can look to push their banking partners to be more creative with funding solutions and tools to help align their suppliers on sustainability, and at the same time work to overcome perceived hurdles such as lack of standardisation or data availability.

To speak with us about this article, get in touch with your NatWest Corporate & Institutional representative or contact us here.

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