Four Tips for Deepening Bank Partnerships with Corporate Treasurers

By Tom Hunt

I speak with corporate treasury practitioners every day in my role with the Association for Financial Professionals—treasurers, assistant treasurers, cash managers, you name it. It’s a part of my job that I particularly enjoy since I used to be a corporate treasury professional myself—first with Medtronic and later with 3M.

I sometimes miss the camaraderie of working side by side with other treasury professionals. What I don’t miss about my past life as a treasury professional—even after seven years—is the sometimes challenging task of working with banks.

And it’s on this particular issue that my former peers have plenty to say.

When it comes to corporate treasury management, the only constant is change. From the rise of fintech, blockchain technology and mobile banking, many of the challenges corporate treasury professionals face when working with banks continue to develop as regulations evolve.

In a series of recent conversations, I asked treasury professionals across the country what they most wanted their bankers to know. So what advice do corporate treasurers have for their counterparts in the banking industry? Here are four.

1 Don’t make regulatory problems treasury problems

Don’t rely on corporate treasurers to help solve a regulatory challenge for the bank.

We realize that banks face a thicket of regulatory, geopolitical and technological challenges. It’s tough for everybody out there. But my treasury peers told me loud and clear that they don’t appreciate it when banks come to them looking for what they deem assistance to an issue that is bank-specific.

Case in point: One Fortune 50 corporate treasurer said that his bank proposed arranging accounts in a way that would make it easier for the bank to comply with Basel III—but in a way that would have created more operational headaches for the treasurer.

But corporate treasurers need those precious dollars. They need them to fund critical projects, working capital, or to return to investors in the form of dividends and buybacks. On top of that, corporate treasurers work tirelessly to optimize their number of bank accounts—separate from regulatory requirements—so they can better track and manage their cash.

2 Know me before you pitch me

One state treasurer told me that he gets pitched on new banking services 10 times a day on average. That’s 10 times a bank comes to him asking for more business instead of asking, “How can we help you?”

Treasurers understand that banks are always looking to increase their share of the wallet. The best way to do that is to provide excellent service. Even if treasurers are unhappy with a certain banking service provider they may not have the time or resources to switch because the opportunity cost is too high.

I remember when I visited a corporate treasurer of a large nonprofit a few years back. He let me sit in on a revolver negotiation with a bank, introducing me as a consultant. The bank representatives offered great terms on a new line of credit—in exchange for making the bank his organization’s primary financial institution. “Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t,” said the treasurer, clearly annoyed. “That’s a major discussion I need to have with my chief financial officer.”

3 Stay customer-focused

The third piece of advice has to do with fintech and the new technology that is disrupting every organization in every industry. The fact remains, though, that banks must adapt more quickly to new technologies that make sense for corporate treasurers.

Take electronic payments, for example. Everybody knows that the number of ways corporates can pay beyond traditional paper checks seems to be growing at a faster pace. With new payment forms to choose from, and with corporate treasurers barely having enough time to do their jobs—let alone research new products—they need new offerings that will really improve their payments process while being cost-effective.

The faster payments initiative is one such product; 62 percent of treasury professionals believe it will have a positive or very positive impact, according to the 2016 AFP Electronic Payments Survey. Meanwhile, corporate treasurers keep reading about blockchain technology payments initiatives and they see little to no impact from them any time soon.

4 Send the right person

When corporate treasurers have an issue or a concern, they want their bank to dispatch the right person to address the situation. If it’s the global corporate treasurer asking for assistance, then send in a senior banking professional. If someone in treasury operations has a situation to resolve, then it’s okay to send in a more junior representative.

This isn’t just an issue of respect. It’s about customer service. One corporate treasurer of a Fortune 1,000 firm gave a real-life example: “If there’s no remittance information attached to our trade finance activity, then that’s a challenge. So don’t send in a corporate treasury sales manager to sell me a new solution. Solve the issue.”

A good relationship—with the right person—often can solve 80 percent of the issues. A great relationship can solve even more than that.

Banks and corporate treasurers are all in this together. Treasurers know very well that they can’t do their jobs without their banking partners. Addressing these four concerns will greatly improve matters for everyone and build long-lasting satisfied relationships through any business or economic cycle.

Tom Hunt is director of treasury services at the Association for Financial Professionals. He was previously in corporate treasury at Medtronic and 3M.