Sibos 2014: Microsoft Treasury uses business intelligence to analyse data

Sean Dudley
Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley on 30 September 2014
Sibos 2014: Microsoft Treasury uses business intelligence to analyse data

Staff at Microsoft Treasury are capitalising on a system that helps provide accurate insights from existing data stores.

Coinciding with Sibos getting underway in Boston, Colin Kerr, Microsoft’s director of business development for financial services, posted a blog on the company’s Virtual Industries site underlining the need to assess the risk and financial system instability of daily operations at a multinational treasury.

“For a treasury like Microsoft that supports the banking needs of global business operations in tens or hundreds of countries, the risk is considerable, particularly when the treasury is adopting just-in-time management of cash on a global basis,” said Kerr. “With all that in mind, insight into a treasury team’s bank balances from all their banks and accounts worldwide is critical. And, while it sounds simple, it is pretty complicated to produce.”

Microsoft has developed a system to help its treasury team gain accurate insights using a two-step process that improves the efficiency of work processes.

“Corporate treasury staff deal with many systems and applications: multiple bank cash management solutions, internal enterprise resource planning, and perhaps dedicated treasury management systems, as well,” explained Kerr. “The plumbing required to deliver corporate bank statements around the world in a timely manner is even more complex as many variances occur in the types of data needed (even within standards), country capabilities, and timing of statement delivery. Add in intra-day updates and the picture becomes increasingly complicated.”

Microsoft Treasury acts as an in-house bank to more than 250 country subsidiaries. SWIFT ISO-XML 20022 for bank statement reporting was implemented to help streamline reporting and covers more than 99% of global cash.

Using BizTalk Server, a standardised format was implemented which improved efficiency and delivered auto-reconciliation and auto-posting capabilities thanks to the standardised structure of data.

Electronic cash visibility and mobility were prioritised, as well as effectively managing the bank account infrastructure with the aim of reducing cash held in high-risk locations.

“‘Spreadsheet’ is an innocuous name for an extremely powerful finance tool,” said Kerr. “Despite the plethora of systems in treasuries, the reality today (and foreseeable future) is that Microsoft Excel remains the default go-to application for cash positioning and financial analysis. So at Microsoft Treasury, we turned Excel into our interactive business intelligence (BI) dashboard for a complete view of cash and bank operations.”

Microsoft BI tools were then implemented to analyse the data managed in a SQL Server database. It is easier to see and assess risk, as well as determine appropriate mitigating actions thanks to the real-time visualisations that show cash positions and risk profiles dynamically over time.

“The Power View visualisation capabilities of Excel in Office 365 allow for interactive graphs, charts and maps that allow the treasury team to summarise cash balances by counterparty, currency and geography,” said Kerr.

Among the benefits Microsoft Treasury has enjoyed thanks to the system is the ability to visualise data to help enable better decision-making. Thanks to the graphical representation of the dashboard, the treasury and CXO leadership can make strategic decisions, and self-service BI using the visualisation capabilities of Excel PowerView empowers decision makers and allows IT teams to focus on data management.

Also, thanks to real-time cash forecasting and position analysis, treasuries can improve the accuracy of forecasts, and have the ability to review cash balances and transfer cash in non-interest bearing accounts to investment portfolios. This allows for better risk-adjusted return on the cash.

This is just one of the topics Microsoft is focusing on at this year’s Sibos event, which is taking place from 29 September to 3 October in Boston, US.

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