Not surprisingly, multinational corporations in Asia are the heaviest spenders in IT systems, says Laurens, but more local companies are also spending eagerly. Philippine real estate group Ayala Land, for example, has just implemented an SAP system last year, including treasury. “It’s a comprehensive implementation, not just the financial side but including project systems, asset management, customer relations management, treasury, human resources, materials management, strategic enterprise management and business warehousing,” says CFO Jaime Ysmael.
Lee Kum Kee, a Hong Kong-based private company that makes condiments, spent eight months of last year implementing an SAP in its domestic units, and CFO Mike Lim will oversee this year its rollout among overseas subsidiaries.
Laurens calls these companies the “post E-hype” generation of IT adopters. Then again, banks too have a post E-hype Internet strategy for cash management. Until now, banks have provided cash management solutions to their clients largely through proprietary workstations, where banks install a trademarked software on the company’s PCs, from which the clients interface with the banks to execute payments, check balances and the like. For larger clients such as multinational corporations, banks offer more expensive host-to-host channels, which are customized to accommodate the volume of transactions and geographic spread of the clients.
After some delays, large regional banks such as HSBC and Standard Chartered are expecting to roll out this year an Internet-based delivery platform for cash management, to E-enable processes such as managing accounts receivables, accounts payables and liquidity management. Both banks hope the product will appeal to treasurers of SMEs who might not be able to afford the proprietary workstations, much less customized cash management products. “We see an opportunity to market these services to smaller customers, but large customers may also find it better to use Internet technology rather than traditional electronic banking,” says Andy Dyer, head of channel management and solution delivery at Standard Chartered in Singapore.
The Internet delivery platform works very much like a proprietary workstation. Treasurers will able to upload their payment files into the bank’s Web site, and the bank then executes the payment in any form the treasurer desires, such as check or electronic transfer. The same goes for collections. As in proprietary workstations, sophisticated security is required to interface with the bank. But unlike workstations, banks are aware that the perceived lack of security for financial transactions over the Internet will be a concern. “We’ll be spending a lot of time this year educating customers to the advantages of using the Internet, while allaying their fears over security,” says Dyer. No doubt, he’s hoping that these security fears were also buried alongside the “E-hype.” —ADR