Nordics: In Tech We Trust

More platforms and more interfaces yield more complexity for Scandanavian treasury officers.

The velocity with which digital cash-management services are developing could be the biggest concern for Nordic treasurers. Facing a daunting array of payment channels and other innovations requires them to get their own digital strategies and infrastructures up to speed. Nordea’s Future of Payments 2017 survey reports, “60% of respondents said that lack of [standardized] formats across banks was a top-three challenge[; while] 57% of respondents expect to access new solutions via existing banks and vendors, rather than working with emerging start-up fintechs directly.”

“Treasurers focus on a wider responsibility” than ever before, according to Leena Vainiomäki, head of transaction banking sales at Danske Bank. It “includes the client’s and the supplier’s financial journey, the technical payment interface, [personal software processes], et cetera—especially for those selling to consumers.”

Centralization, robotic process automation, compliance issues, cybersecurity and fraud prevention continue to be relevant, according to Vainiomäki.

“Open-banking ideas are starting to interest treasuries more,” she says. “However, large corporates are seriously considering how trustworthy are the new third-party providers. They must earn trust and establish credibility before large corporations start using them widely.”

With the release of its open-banking portal, Nordea hopes to become the trusted partner of its customers in the corporate segment and beyond. Having built a platform with both external and internal developers in mind, Nordea intends to foster innovation within the organization as well as through collaboration with third parties, thus becoming the go-to hub for banking application-programming interfaces in the Nordics, for household customers as well as corporations.

To help navigate the future payment ecosystem, Nordea formed an innovation lab to collaborate with fintechs and develop initiatives around the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) and other areas of open banking. One such initiative uses the GV—formerly Google Ventures—one-week prototyping methodology to address real customer challenges in a cooperative environment. After two years of proven success, this design-sprint working method has been adopted into the Nordea organization, leading to the planning and execution of a custom payment solution in collaboration with a large Nordic customer.

Also, in partnership with Spotify, Nordea developed AutoFX—a new solution that monitors and manages foreign exchange in real time and automatically follows a customer’s hedging or cash-flow policy, executing deals according to predefined rules.

Danske Bank, meanwhile, has developed a new digital platform, FinDash, in close cooperation with selected corporate customers. The ambitious objective is to provide a full financial overview across banks and service providers. Customers can design their own financial dashboard by selecting information and services relevant to specific needs and receive data-driven recommendations.

“The platform is not important, but the features and the value that the platform makes possible are,” states Vainiomäki, citing decreased balance sheet, easier administration and innovations to support the streamlining of treasury. “Many types of innovations are welcome—also innovations helping to improve basic things, such as increasing the automation rate, straight-through processing in reconciling accounts receivable and incoming payments. This is still a challenge, especially for companies with a large geographic footprint.”

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