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Improving Cross-Border Payments: 6 Questions Treasurers Should Ask

  • By Andrew Deichler
  • Published: 2/14/2019
Improving Cross-Border Payments

Improving cross-border payments is a priority for many treasurers. Here are six questions to ask to help you improve your cross-border payments.

The correspondent banking model is antiquated and inefficient, often resulting in high costs, payments not being delivered on time, and illicit activity. Unfortunately, anti-money laundering regulations have shrunk the correspondent banking network; many banks simply no longer take the risk of operating in certain jurisdictions. On top of this, attitudes toward international payments are changing. Expectations for faster or even real-time settlement are increasing as new players have entered the market.

To improve cross-border payments, here are six questions to ask:

How many international payments do we make on average? Fees and time delays are never convenient, however, if the overall process is relatively efficient, exploring new options may not be necessary at this time.

Are you getting full transparency into your transactions? If you find that you are not receiving detailed remittance information or are unable to track your (often high value) payments once they go out, then it may be time to upgrade your payment model.

How well does a new system integrate with your TMS or ERP? This is perhaps the most important question to ask. There are many cross-border service providers out there and if the service you are considering doesn’t work with the software that you’re using for your other tasks, then you may want to move on to something that does or wait until that service can offer you what you need.

How well do we know the countries where we are sending payments? Different countries have different requirements for their payments. Treasury practitioners should talk with their bank before sending payments into a new region to educate themselves on what may be required to complete a transaction. “Make sure you fill out all the fields those countries require,” said Magnus Carlsson, manager of payments for AFP. “If you miss even some obscure little detail that they require to process a payment, they’ll hold it. That creates an additional delay and potentially more fees.”

Which new cross-border platforms can you use now? It’s a good idea to talk with your banking partners about which cross-border payments services they may be able to offer you or may be adopting in the near future. And it’s also worth talking with your vendors to see if any of them are open to using one of those services for payment. Convincing all of your vendors to move to a service like SWIFT’s global payments innovation (gpi) service or Ripple may not be possible at this stage, but you might be able to sway some of them.

How well do you understand the technology? The recent rise in fintech companies has left corporate treasury professionals fascinated by technology like blockchain. But do you really understand the capabilities of these technologies, or are you simply relying on what a salesperson is telling you? Take some time to researching these new cross-border payments platforms and the technology behind them. That way you’ll know whether they’ll truly benefit you.

Lastly, three more cross-border payments factors to consider:

  • SWIFT’s gpi service runs on existing rails and offers corporates high-speed payments and extended remittance information that is transferred unaltered to recipients.
  • Corporates who adopt gpi shouldn’t need to make major changes to their existing infrastructure. But as the service expands to more banks, corporates will need to keep a close eye on how much banks will charge for the service.
  • Ripple’s cross-border payments service cuts out intermediaries, completes transactions in seconds, and relies on blockchain technology that allows different ledgers to communicate with one another.
Learn more about Cross-Border Payments in the AFP Payments Guide: The Advent of New Cross-Border Payments Systems, underwritten by MUFG Union Bank. Download it here
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