Leveraging new technologies and digital disruption to support growth and emerging ecosystems

Michael Guralnick

Michael Guralnick,
Global Head, Corporate & Public Sector Sales and Global Marketing,
Citi Treasury and Trade Solutions

Swati Mitra

Swati Mitra,
Global Sales Leader, Digital Client Advisory
and Emerging Market Corporate Clients at Citi

New 5G networks and other emerging innovations are transforming businesses around the world. Banks must work to harness their power to help clients overcome their treasury challenges and support sales growth, write Michael Guralnick, Global Head, Corporate & Public Sector Sales and Global Marketing, Citi Treasury and Trade Solutions and Swati Mitra, Global Sales Leader, Digital Client Advisory and Emerging Market Corporate Clients at Citi.


Mobile technology has only been part of most of our lives for a couple of decades but for many people it is already irreplaceable. More than two-thirds of the 7.6 billion people in the world have a mobile phone and over 4 billion use the internet, an increasing number via mobile. We now rely on our mobile devices for the wealth of knowledge accessible in real time, as well as social media, access to banking, retail, navigation – and almost every other conceivable need.

This revolution – and the broader digital disruption it is part of – has transformed the competitive landscape for companies in every business sector (see box). It has created enormous opportunities for new entrants and those able to think outside the box: some firms with rigid mindsets have floundered – or even disappeared. The next wave of technological disruption looks set to be even more profound: companies will need to redouble their commitment to innovation.

A number of emerging technologies are expected to dramatically change how we use and interact with mobile. Chief among these is 5G, or fifth generation wireless. The current standard, 4G, increased data transfer rates and gave rise to many of today’s connected devices and services. 5G devices are expected to be 100 times faster than 4G, have 10 times longer battery life, facilitate 1,000 times larger data volumes, and be 10 times more reliable.

By eliminating today's constraints, machines will be able to interact with each other, and us, in a more sophisticated way. 5G is critical for anticipated trends such as the Internet of Things, which will power smart homes and cities. It will also help enable autonomous vehicles, and faster, more secure financial services apps that can help banks better authenticate consumers and enable ‘remote tellers’. 5G will power augmented and mixed reality technologies that fuse the digital and physical worlds.

For mobile, and new technology more broadly, the future is likely to be defined by instant interaction that takes advantage of vast processing power (eventually including quantum computing), cloud storage and artificial intelligence (AI). Next generation AI, known as intelligent augmentation, will help everyone work smarter and faster, and instantly make sense of information to provide valuable insights and facilitate real-time transactions. It has much to offer businesses and treasury.

The impact of digital disruption on industries and treasury

As industries are upended by technological change, treasury faces new pressures. For example, the automotive sector, which has historically been manufacturing-focused, is becoming a hotbed of innovation centered on electric and autonomous vehicles, and shifting to an emerging mobility ecosystem that includes ride sharing. Auto firms’ treasury not only have to free up resources for investment but grapple with supporting new payment flows associated with in-car consumption of connected services.

Meanwhile, fast moving consumer goods companies (FMCG) face the unbundling of the consumer basket as new more nimble players enter the market and reshape the consumer proposition for specific products. To respond to competitors offering razor club subscriptions or coffee pod delivery requires a change in mindset among FMCG companies and the adoption of scalable low value payments and collections models that differ markedly from past treasury activity.

The energy industry is also in the throes of change as new technologies extend exploration environments. Indeed, technological advances have driven the US oil shale boom and made the country the world’s number one producer of shale oil; within three years, the US has the potential to be among the world’s largest liquefied natural gas exporting countries. Digitization and data can be used by energy firms to make better and faster decisions, potentially using technologies such AI and robotics.

What this means for bank services

To make 5G and other innovations work for clients – and help them leverage the power of new technology – banks need to partner with treasury, ERP/TMS providers and third parties such as fintechs to drive change. The pace of technological innovation also means that banks need to evolve how they design, develop and deliver products to ensure they focus on the right solutions at the right time.

In the past, organizations followed a design and development model based primarily on delivering new features, with limited focus on how end users interact with those features. With digital devices now a key part of our lives, interactive design must now be at the forefront of product delivery. User-centered design – focused on understanding user behavior and working with them to solve their problems – should be the basis of the solutions a bank creates, from mobile banking apps to payment approvals processes and security parameters.

Citi’s Treasury and Trade Solutions’ emphasis on an intuitive user experience has informed many of its recent innovations, including Citi® Payment Insights. This solution is now available in more than 70 markets and provides real-time payments visibility, including processing status, processing timelines, charges deducted across correspondent banks, the amount credited to the beneficiary, and the ability to action payments on-demand via the CitiDirect BE® electronic banking platform.

Banks are well placed to help companies with another crucial element in their digital transformation – harnessing the power of data. According to a recent Forrester report, 98% of organizations say that analytics are important to driving business priorities. Yet fewer than 40% of workloads are using advanced analytics or AI. Banks have access to vital data that can facilitate advances in analytics such as machine learning. Such technologies can give companies a significant advantage through data-driven decision making, targeted marketing, cost management and working capital initiatives that addresses the biggest challenges and opportunities businesses and treasury teams face.

By forming partnerships with fintechs and others, banks can also introduce new solutions to address perennial problems such as receivables reconciliation for corporate treasuries. For example, Citi has partnered with HighRadius Corporation to launch Citi® Smart Match, which uses AI and machine learning technology to dramatically increase the efficiency and automation of the cash application process of matching open invoices to payments received. Similarly, Citi has deployed mobile innovations such as fingerprint and facial recognition to facilitate access to both mobile apps and desktop applications.

Conclusion

5G and other technologies on the horizon will have major implications for many industries. But while innovation undoubtedly creates disruption, it also offers new opportunities. Corporates need to ensure they work with banks that have innovation front of mind and have invested accordingly. By working in partnership with banks, companies can effectively leverage the power of mobile to gain the instant insights, visibility and control – via real-time treasury and banking solutions – they need to prosper in this new environment.