Asanka Ranhotty, Vice President SME and Transaction Banking at Union Bank, discusses the bank’s award-winning cash management solution
Union Bank was recently recognised by the Asian Banker Transaction Finance Awards 2020 as the ‘Best Cash Management Bank of Sri Lanka’ for its cash management solution Union Bank BizDirect. The interview sheds light on what this achievement signifies for the product and its users, and the prospects for this proposition in a rapidly digitalizing banking milieu.
Can you give a brief introduction to this award and what it signifies for the product and customers?
The Asian Banker Transaction Finance Awards is the most rigorous, prestigious, and transparent annual awards programme recognising leadership in cash management, trade finance, supply chain finance and payments amongst domestic and international financial institutions in Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.
Therefore, this award is a strong reaffirmation of the steady progress made by Union Bank in the payment and cash management landscape of the country. Union Bank BizDirect was the first of its type to be launched in Sri Lanka by a local commercial bank back in 2016 and has made great strides in being established as an efficient and convenient cash management tool that aids large corporates as well as SMEs to manage their liquidity more prudently. The proposition was further enhanced in January 2020 to better meet the emerging needs of its customers. The recognition strengthens our plans to continue to innovate in the expanse of cash management automation, as the versatility of this technology is more significant than ever in the new normal.
Can you elaborate further on the cash management system, BizDirect?
The revolutionary cash management tool named Union Bank BizDirect, is a comprehensive solution that provides global access and usage capabilities for the Bank’s corporate and SME clients – enabling local and cross-border trading at the click of a button. This is a user-friendly, customisable solution designed to meet the specific banking requirements of businesses, giving them better control of their payment management process.
What are the main features of this solution and how do these relate to the enterprise-level customers?
The automated BizDirect cash management system covers the full working cash cycle of collections, payments, liquidity management, reporting and reconciliation. At every stage real time-data is made available, enabling users to collect cash on-time and maximise the investment opportunities for their fund balances. The automation, online documentation and real-time data reporting ensure that possibilities for fraud are minimised. The system includes the latest security enhancements, including biometric verification for an added layer of safety.
It’s web-based and integrates with existing accounting platforms on a host-to-host (H2H) basis. There is no hardware to install nor a lengthy set-up process making it simple and fast to adopt.
BizDirect enables on-line approvals even on the mobile, whereby the manual process of cheque signing is eliminated. Through extensive automation, documents required for processing can be uploaded online instantly, removing the need to send them separately which is a time-consuming task that causes unnecessary delays. Cheques can be printed automatically by the Bank and delivered either to the BizDirect user or to their customer. Through collections service providers approved by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, cash and cheques can be collected directly from the business, and cash delivered back to the business as required. Reconciliations are also automated enabling the users to know their company’s cash position at any given time.
What are the specific advantages a business could enjoy by automation of payments and cash management?
Good cash management is at the heart of a successful business. Having access to a technologically advanced, automated cash management system enables businesses to see and manage their liquidity position with clarity. This is equally important for any business be it an SME or a large corporate.
In Sri Lanka where cash remains king, effective cash management is underutilized. BizDirect aims to change this by providing total control of liquidity management to businesses through automation and customisations that help the users to make timely management decisions based on their cash flows.
With the use of Union Bank’s BizDirect’s fund transfer options, businesses can experience reduced processing costs with improved workflow efficiencies whilst initiating transactions through a highly secure environment.
The customised, automated cash management solution enables corporates to further enhance their working capital cycle management capabilities. Clear visibility on liquidity management provides a holistic view of the business’s cash position so that overnight investment opportunities can be maximised. In the case of SMEs, BizDirect will help them to grow and evolve into larger companies of the future.
Are there any specific advantages of BizDirect for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)?
Many small businesses in Sri Lanka still lack proper record keeping and this is unfavourable to their success and growth. With BizDirect, SMEs will be able to systematically track what happens on both sides of their operations -that is collections and payments and automate many routine transactions to enjoy greater freedom to focus on their businesses. In fact, all these value additions from BizDirect aim to free-up precious management time that can be focused on the growth of the business – which is especially critical for SMEs with the limitations in resources and other challenges faced by them. These wide-ranging functionalities of an international-standard system are also offered at an affordable rate to make it accessible to businesses of any size and scale.
How will this type of system correspond with an existing ERP system of a company?
Union Bank BizDirect can be easily combined with high-end ERP systems such as SAP and Oracle Financials. The H2H supports ISO XML 20022 and multiple other file formats. The system allows businesses comprehensive, real-time control over their day to day management of collections, payments and liquidity investments while also supporting in-depth performance capabilities that can easily be integrated into any ERP system to deliver a total banking solution to our customers.
How does Union Bank BizDirect differentiate from alternatives available in the market?
BizDirect is designed with a deep understanding of the specific business dynamics of our enterprise-level clients and is customisable to meet the specific payment requirements of each industry. It has a payment management feature that is adaptable to the client’s specific requirements, industry type, cash flow dynamics etc. The BizDirect automation is set up according to the existing payment profile of the client while incorporating improvements to achieve greater efficiencies. This is one of the key highlights of our proposition which has earned market leadership amongst domestic banks offering cash management solutions.
The BizDirect team also adds great value to the proposition. Training and ongoing support are provided by Union Bank’s dedicated team who are passionate about sharing their expertise of the system with its users and get them accustomed to the system within the shortest possible time.
BizDirect provides wide-ranging functionality comparable to internationally available solutions at an affordable rate. Giving heed to the cash management needs of smaller players in the economy, we have introduced this technology as an inexpensive solution to emerging businesses and SMEs, empowering them with the efficiencies of an automated cash management process-a luxury that was earlier available to only a few top corporates in the country.
Security is also a key differentiator. Secure control is deeply entrenched in the system so that businesses could even customise the level of employee access to company accounts.
How does this facility compare with the new technology in the industry and what are your thoughts on the future of tech-led financial facilities?
BizDirect is positioned as one of the leading tech-based payment and cash management systems available in the industry due to its comprehensive and integrated approach to transaction management. The recent award from The Asian Banker further affirms this leadership in terms of technical superiority, efficiency, and user-friendliness.
The system especially proved to be a great enabler during the pandemic-stricken year 2020, which tested businesses’ ability to operate remotely with minimum involvement of human resources. We saw a surge of new registrations last year for BizDirect by companies that saw the potential and benefits of automated cash management especially within a post-pandemic new normal.
Technology is rapidly shaping the financial service sector both locally as well as around the world. The Covid-19 pandemic further accelerated this transformation where all industries including the Banking industry started to adopt technology-based solutions more progressively to handle the rising complexities of doing business while curtailing costs and satisfying customer needs for safety and convenience. The use of the latest technologies, more efficient banking systems, digital banking solutions etc. will be central to the bottom lines of Banks going forward and Union Bank will continue to invest in this sphere to continuously improve the banking experience of our customers.
How could clients enrol for Union Bank Biz Direct?
More information on Union Bank BizDirect could be obtained by calling the Bank via 0112 448 047 or referring to our website via https://www.unionb.com/corporate-banking/transaction-banking/. Existing Corporate and SME banking customers of the Bank could contact their Relationship Manager to avail of this facility.