Fides Treasury Services is the global leader in multi-bank connectivity and transaction communications. Originally founded in 1910, Fides is an independently operated subsidiary of Credit Suisse. With the industry’s largest bank connectivity network, Fides helps over 3,000 active clients communicate with more than 10,000 banks globally. Committed to helping corporations optimally connect and interact with their banks for over a century, Fides’ connectivity solutions delivers critical multi-bank account statement, payment workflow, and reporting capabilities. This allows treasury and finance teams to easily, accurately and securely communicate with their banks through any possible channel such as SWIFT, EBICS or any alternative network.
The European caught up with Fides CEO, Andreas Lutz, to find out how it all comes together and to discover more about the benefits of working with Fides.
Established for over a century, Fides is well known for its commitment to innovation. What is the company’s focus today?
Andreas Lutz: At Fides, we are focused on the same thing that we have been focused on for over 100 years. We are focused on making things easier for corporate clients by helping them to connect with, and communicate information faster and further.
Since 1910, our founding goal has been to connect people to the information that allowed them to do business, most recently in the areas of multi-bank connectivity and transaction communications. Today we are directing our efforts on simplifying the user experience of banking communication and connectivity for corporations. We are also broadening the bi-directional intelligence that our clients and their counterparts can derive from our solutions. This makes it easy for clients to securely execute and manage transactions regardless of their banking portfolio or geographic location.
Your tailored service ensures that solutions are flexible for both SMEs and international corporations. Please outline how this works.
AL: Our unique Lifecycle Innovation approach to product strategy puts the client at the centre of development. We plan, develop and deliver solutions based on direct client feedback. The continuous loop of learning and listening keeps our solutions relevant and our clients happy.
To ensure that we deliver solutions that scale to all spectrums of the market, we offer multiple delivery models. For instance, larger enterprises may have more sophisticated technology infrastructures. In such cases, we are able to easily integrate with any enterprise resource planning (ERP) and any treasury management system (TMS) in order to achieve comprehensive bank connectivity for their clients.
For smaller organisations, with less sophisticated technology landscapes, we are their all-in-one partner. We help them connect to their banks and consolidate their overall bank account management through our web portal. Our web portal also allows clients to execute and manage their transactions easily, quickly and securely over the web.
How do your proprietary solutions support those who don’t have access through their own systems?
AL: Any multinational enterprise can share stories of lengthy ERP or TMS implementations because of the volume and geographic breadth of some of their subsidiaries. For those companies, we can offer a hybrid web-solution approach. For the centralised treasury groups we can integrate with their enterprise solutions and then allow their remote subsidiaries to handle their statement aggregation, transaction reconciliation and payment processing all from our web portal.
With trends in the business environment evolving so rapidly, there is constant pressure and expectation that payments are moved quickly and securely. How has Fides responded to this?
AL: Today, banking and regulatory requirements are battling with the need for speed. Business transactions are expected to be conducted in real-time, while the ability to connect to the banks has become more difficult for corporations.
Fides has invested heavily in its infrastructure and is enhancing processes that allow us to move single and batch payments within seconds. However, there are several challenges that still need to be overcome. Firstly, there is a degree of resistance from traditional banks to make it happen. This is partly due to the corporate inertia often suffered by large, multinational institutions in the face of change. There is a huge amount of work to be done on their part in order to make faster payments happen, which is why some are stalling. There is also the fact that banks like to maximise their settlement float.
These two issues aside, there are other challenges of a more technical nature. The legacy infrastructure was not built to be scalable for such an innovation. Real-time settlement would imply that any payment processing system would have to be changed, so that any global payment innovation initiative would finally lead to greater speed and transparency. A solution we support at Fides as well. Our infrastructure is built to address any changes that arise so that we can proactively approach regulatory and market developments.
How do you take this into account when dealing with issues such as fraud, efficiency gain and cost?
AL: One of the biggest challenges faced by treasurers is their ability to manage fraud and implement protection protocols and their inability to achieve cash visibility and predictability. To alleviate these challenges, it is crucial to implement centralised decision making to improve cash visibility and efficiency.
By reducing the number of touchpoints between the corporation and the bank, Fides makes it easier and more secure for clients to execute transactions. Clients of Fides can see all their bank transaction data at the touch of a button so they can take the most effective action on their payment process. The user experience we provide for our clients – by being a single resource for all their transactions and payments – inherently supports greater security and fraud protection.
We are constantly implementing new features that further reduce fraud. Recently, we released an advanced sanction filtering feature. This allows treasurers to identify and comply with any global sanction filter policy, such as OFAC checks etc, in advance of their payments. Furthermore, Fides can provide additional sanction lists upon request to support additional prevention needs a client may have. This creates an added level of security and it also economises the treasurer’s time because we are helping them to avoid sanction blocking by the bank before the payment is ever executed.
What’s in store for Fides in 2017?
AL: As CEO, it is my vision to create the best possible user experience for our clients when it comes to connectivity and transaction communication and management. Our solutions are uniquely comprised of purposeful, hands-on services for our clients along with versatile technology solutions that allow companies to connect to their banks and counterparts easily and quickly. The experience we provide our clients with this unique blend of services and software provides the added benefit of extended reach. As the provider of the largest bank connectivity network, clients of Fides can easily do business in any geographic market around the globe regardless of the size and location of the banks they are working with.
Over recent months, we have undergone a transformation in terms of our product strategy and adopted the Lifecycle Innovation approach I mentioned earlier. We have spent the last year fine-tuning our client feedback process, turning it into an actionable research and development programme. As a result, we will be coming to market very soon with a highly intelligent web platform that eliminates the guesswork from transaction management by streamlining all bank communications and payment workflow processes. Corporate treasurers need simplification in their everyday work.
The operating world is becoming smaller and smaller and companies are expected to do business in real-time regardless of geography, time zone, or regulation. Our new solutions focus on providing a user experience that eliminates friction from the bank connectivity and payment process. Our latest innovations, focused on real-time data transparency, are designed to make it easy for corporate treasurers to comprehensively connect with and execute on transaction information. It’s a very exciting time for the market and for Fides Treasury Services.