|Prabhat Vira, head of Global Transaction Services Americas at Citizens Financial Group|
Can your CFO work from the road…or his child’s soccer game?
February 28, 2011
By Davia Temin and John Ginovsky
A corporate treasurer complains about missing his eight-year-old daughter’s soccer match because he had to transfer funds between two subsidiaries and could only complete the transaction from his computer. Sound familiar?
“Corporate treasurers have long been tethered to their office computers when making financial transactions, but we are fortunately seeing the beginning of the end of this leash,” says Prabhat Vira, head of Global Transaction Services Americas at Citizens Financial Group.
In November, the bank debuted a mobile phone application called accessMOBILE aimed specifically at corporate executives to allow them to authorize payments any time, any where.
“After years of reluctance,” says Vira, “companies are now adopting the same kind of mobile technology that individuals have long been using in their personal accounts. The tide is turning toward an embrace of these enhanced platforms—corporate mobile banking is a revolution in the making.”
“In fact,” says Vira, “we will see a transformation in how corporations make purchases and bill for their products and services throughout the economy.” He adds: “The level to which it goes depends on how we as a bank can innovate in terms of what we can put on the mobile channel. We will take these things in mind: Easy access, reliable access, and robust access.”
When preparing to launch its own mobile banking product, Citizens, the Providence, R.I.-based bank owned by Royal Bank of Scotland Group, set out to discover just what the reluctance was among businesses when it came to using mobile platforms. The GTS team interviewed companies across a range of sizes and sectors to probe: What did they want and not want from mobile banking? What were they afraid of? What would make their banking lives easier?
“We discovered some clear trends in how companies think about mobile banking and what it can do for their business,” says Vira.
Security remains a primary concern. “Not surprisingly,” he says, “the safety and security of sensitive financial information is uppermost in their minds. Fortunately, those who have adopted this technology are feeling confident, as the levels of security in corporate mobile technology have been drastically improved over the past year.”
At the same time, CFOs/treasurers want the same conveniences they have in their personal lives.
“Nowadays corporate treasurers and CFOs are more likely to use mobile tech in their personal lives, and have a greater expectation of being able to use it in their jobs,” says Vira. “These executives conduct the rest of their business—communicating with fellow employees, clients, and vendors—on mobile devices and other portable devices, and they want to be able to close the loop when it comes to moving funds without having to be tied to their computer. This ease allows them to stay nimble and work from anywhere,” Vira continues, “greatly expanding their bandwidth and efficiency and allowing them to function more fully outside the office environment.”
He tells of one client who, while on a long drive, realized he needed to make a payment by the end of the day but didn’t want to have to go back to the office. “So he pulled into a gas station, logged on and, boom, the payment was made,” Vira says.
Small and mid-sized businesses are early adopters. “Executives in small and mid-sized businesses have been much earlier adopters of mobile banking technology than their counterparts in bigger companies, and have been eager to implement it,” Vira says. “Within six weeks of the launch of our corporate mobile banking application, more than 35% of the potential market had downloaded the app. Our research showed that owners of smaller, entrepreneurial companies are looking to manage their financial services in the simplest possible way so that they can spend more time focusing on actually building their businesses. Similar to the CFO group,” Vira continues, “they’re looking for accessibility and anytime/anyplace flexibility. As one business owner told us, ‘With this banking application, I can log in at any time from any location in the world and make instant approval and release decisions.’ This ability helps to add competitive advantage and creates better relationships with clients and vendors.
“However, at the same time, as more companies adopt this technology, there will be a shift in how businesses think about funds and how long it takes these transactions to occur, which will shift the thinking about best financial practices,” says Vira. “This is a terrific example of how technology is changing the way people conduct business.”
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