I am pleased to once again have managing director Tim O’Donnell’s unique perspective and experience for this blog series.

The squeeze on revenue to the consumerization of corporate services are rewriting the playbook for competitiveness in commercial payments. Payments executives surveyed in our 2019 Global Payments Survey cite customer experience as a top driver of customer disintermediation.¹ Competitiveness in corporate payments is now about moments of truth that make the bank a customer’s best friend—or worst enemy.

Corporate portals are digital doorways and workspace for all the company’s cash management activities.

Letting go of the status quo

Increasingly, corporate portals are the place where this make-or-break relationship dynamic plays out. Corporate portals are digital doorways and workspace for all the company’s cash management activities. But many corporate “portals” are clunky, non-intuitive applications built on aging technology. This design deficit is a liability and a top-of-mind concern for payments executives we surveyed. They believe that adapting new technologies is their top challenge in corporate payments.² And nearly 80 percent of bank operations leaders say their organization’s existence could be threatened without flexible technology for rapid innovation.³ Banks need a one-stop digital extension of the relationship manager and commercial client services to help customers manage their business. This requires three shifts:

  1. From uniform to unique
    Typical portals are out of step in a hyper-personalized digital world. Customers get the same options, screens and fields, which makes for minimal to no customization. Consider this: CFOs of a regional health system and a global retailer use the same tool, even though their cash management needs could not be more different. Often, a clerk entering wires experiences the bank’s services the same way as a controller reviewing monthly statements or a CFO performing cash flow forecasting. But uniformity is deadly in corporate banking. Personalization is no longer the purview of retail banking—or limited to the front office. Today, the back office is the new front office when it comes to digital innovation and customer-first mindsets.
  2. From passive to proactive
    One of the great ironies of today’s portals is that the customer works more than the portal. Reactive rather than proactive, portals are built on passive software that waits for users to make a functional request and then displays a two-dimensional answer in rows and columns. Instead, portals should follow the 4Rs of customer-centricity: Recognize, Remember, Recommend, and Reward. Next-generation corporate portals must be rigorously proactive, alerting commercial customers to large credits, overdraft risks or when repetitive payments are unusually large compared to previous months’ trends. It is about operating 24/7 to push relevant information in real time to business customers across their preferred digital channels—mobile, tablet, email or phone.
  3. From answers to advice
    Traditionally, financial information can be categorized into five different buckets, each with increasing value: accurate, timely, relevant, insightful, and foresight. Portals stop at the facts. Case in point: A portal may inform an analyst in the finance department that their company made twenty cross-border payments last week. But it would have been more valuable to know that buying a currency future contract a month ago would have reduced the costs of all twenty payments. More sophisticated analysis and proactive recommendations are essential to next generation portals and value-added advisory services. Analytics and consultative presentations based on inter- and intra-company data aggregation elevate the relationship that banks have with corporate customers. This pivot from old-school “transactional” to new-world “advisory” provides a critical competitive advantage.

The cost of doing nothing

The era of banking as a service is coming. Corporate clients may choose in the future to interact with their bank solely through APIs or fintech intermediaries and ignore online banking entirely. This scenario would diminish the bank’s ability to build deeper and more meaningful relationships, reducing customers’ perceived brand value and mindshare. To avoid disintermediation, banks need to provide more value and a reason for clients to engage with the bank. A true, trusted advisor relationship, revealed and deepened over time, is the perfect counterpunch to a fintech-mediated experience only.

Getting from now to next

Modern technology architectures are certainly critical to next-generation portals. But the keys to success go beyond technology. Banks need to avoid “paving the cow paths” and drive transformational change by “up-skilling” their resources, deepening their understanding of segment-specific expectations, and evolving their cultures to deliver a true virtual CFO experience. Pivoting the portal from a reactive service to a proactive marketing channel will not only support transaction execution but provide valuable insight and relevant and timely recommendations on the next best product.

My next blog will focus on insights from our 2019 Global Payments Survey.


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1 Accenture 2019 Global Payments Survey
2 Ibid
3 2018 North America Banking Operations Survey

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