The pandemic has transformed the world immeasurably and have already made us nostalgic about our lives before COVID-19 became global.
I was at the fantastic setting of the Kempinski Palm Jumeirahin Dubai in January 2020 for the first gathering of iGTB Oxford School of Transaction Banking alumni. It was an interesting gathering where a group of highly qualified financial professionals across a wide spectrum of industries met and talked about the challenges in the banking and financial industry. They also spoke about the need to integrate Design Thinking and Contextual Banking for all their solutions.
They talked about how they struggled in securing fast decision-making, operating fabric of day-to-day business right, tackle risk management and achieving more permanency from the relationship management teams.
I also heard their high expectations of banks to provide more accessible real-time account information, better analytics, and to share learnings on how to leverage newer technologies in a relevant way so that the treasury function could support businesses better. We had a few rare use case insights of how robotic process automation and blockchain can actually improve business logistics and support core cross-border trade activity.
These insightful discussions gave a pragmatic picture of the industry and gave a hope to a progressive future.
How the landscape has changed today! We are in the A&E ward of hospital care – living off any spare equipment. Treasurers are suffering and going back to the fundamental basics of Treasury Management 1.0.
This is the time to understand and appreciate the value of the first principles of treasury management. How do we understand the real implication of working capital management, liquidity provisioning and the need for accurate data to assess the rhythm of collections and payments of the business, the hard way? It is imperative to have those credit facilities and back stop loan agreements, as well as, cash in the bank to meet unexpected payment obligations.
For many SME companies, growth was always the most crucial parameter. But now, locked in a huge economic tsunami, the panic buttons are being pressed. It is time to think on how to cut costs, delay payments, and explore force majeure contractual conditions to by-pass cash deployment. And yes, how to re-engage with critical banking partners and maintain the balanced argumentation around invoking contingency support, as well as, claiming a just place in the queue for governmental support schemes.
In these uncertain times where we cannot be sure about anything of the future, survival depends on speed and action. We can just pray that normality returns really quickly and that support schemes are fluid, generous and easy to mobilise. Banking institutions are clearly working hard to unlock all the lifelines they can, for the corporate community. Central banks are waiving off critical regulatory capital ratios and ensuring liquidity floods the market.
Preserving bank cash and liquidity levels is the number 1 priority. It is time to think about risk mitigation strategies. We must understand the challenges that the finance industry faces in an unprecedented point in history. If only we could turn back time…that elusive ingredient that is not unfortunately on the side of many treasurers.
Our best wishes are with colleagues and friends across the banking and corporate world as they navigate this pandemic.
As the wise bard said – ‘Defer no time, delays have dangerous ends.’