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6 November 2014
I just arrived home from Washington, D.C., where the Association For Financial Professionals - a leading society for treasury and finance professionals in the US - held its annual conference. It was interesting that the AFP decided to hold its conference in Washington - the first time it has been held in AFP's hometown - during the run-up to the 2014 mid-term elections, and it was clear that the town was abuzz in activity as Election Day came near. I've been to many AFP conferences during my days at Metavante, but had taken a few years off, and so I was interested how AFP was doing as the economy continues its 5-year crawl out of recession. Was I surprised! I was amazed and encouraged how strongly the conference has bounced back since the dark days of the late 2000s, and the vibe reminded me of the recent SIBOS 2014 in Boston, where bankers and tech vendors competed for the attention of ... well, bankers. Perhaps reflecting the post-recession environment in which US corporates operate, I noticed little talk of traditional cash management topics like optimized sweeps or new investment vehicles. Rather, most of the buzz seemed to be around risk management, Big Data, and treasury dashboards. It was clear that treasurers are moving to embrace technology to automate routine operational tasks, provide analytics-driven insights that are hard to capture using Excel spreadsheets, and help treasurers see through the fog of data to prioritize their work. Should Excel spreadsheets be getting nervous? It's too early to tell, as they are still the dominant tool in use in treasury departments. However as treasury technology vendors continue to migrate their offerings from high-priced licensed solutions to flexibly-deployed SaaS offerings, many companies will find it harder and harder to justify holding off on treasury automation. We'll continue to study the situation and will hope to bring back some interesting examples and use cases of companies making the leap into full-scale treasury automation.