Even in an economic slowdown, the show must go on—especially in treasury services. Bank of America (Charlotte) is moving full steam ahead with its plans in the wholesale banking space as its clients have shown little evidence of pulling back.
Aileen Gleason, SVP, senior product management executive with Bank of America, says that her group will continue along with its plans for the treasury services unit. After all, if history has any lessons for the industry, says Gleason, it's that the treasury business tends to fair a bit better than other areas of banking during tough economic times. "When there have been other economic downturns, the treasury business, which is transaction-based, tends to ride it well because business still takes place. There are payments to be made and that's the business we're in. Treasury tends to be a consistently positive business," she notes.
The goals are the same, however, regardless of the state of the economy—create opportunities for clients around efficiency. That, says Gleason, is what Bank of America will continue doing. "This is about providing an efficiency play for clients, eliminating or automating processes," she relates.
To this end, much of what the bank's treasury services division is doing revolves around removing paper from the system for clients of all sizes. "We're working on programs to help our clients transform their businesses from paper-based to electronic," she says.
Much of the interest Gleason has seen from commercial customers has been around image cash letter and combining this with ACH capabilities. "This also dovetails with remote deposit capture. This is becoming mainstream for our clients. It's a good alternative to going to the branch every day to make deposits," she explains. "Clients in all segments are seeing this as a great value add."
She also continues to see a hunger for more data and information around transactions. Gleason notes that it's not only the data that is valuable, but also the manner in which it is delivered to clients. The bank takes a multichannel approach to this and much of its other initiatives in terms of how clients are given this information. "You can deliver this via your front-end portal capabilities, file capabilities, e-mail alerts for certain transactions. This is a trend that is increasing year after year. We're delivering this through multiple channels. You want this to be as seamless as possible for clients," she explains.
A key part of offering such services is being able to integrate all the necessary components in a flexible manner. "You want the flexibility to take in files and data and take it in multiple formats and deliver that data to clients in the way they want to see it," Gleason says. "Also, translation of the data is another important area here. The data must be consistent."
As a whole, Gleason hasn't seen any significant changes in what her clients are asking of Bank of America as a result of the economic situation. Although they may be retrenching a little on some of their initiative, she says for the most part that momentum is good. "Reprioritization may occur but if a client has a 'top three' list, they will usually follow through with it," she relates. "They are asking us for guidance. It's an opportunity for us to provide counsel and revisit ways to optimize the way they their treasury business operates."
"Our customers still need to pay their clients and pay their vendors and control and run their information," Gleason says. "This isn't going away. [Treasury] is a transaction-based business that is core to day-to-day operations."