TMForum. Your trusted online source for Treasury Management news. In this issue: Summer 2014

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1 In this issue: Summer 2014 Cash-processing enhancements support reconciliation, remote-area deposits Receivables cash application automation: challenges and best practices

2 Cash-processing enhancements support reconciliation, remote-area deposits which simplifies follow-up research. Cash is still prevalent for retailers and other businesses that rely on smaller sales transactions, but accumulated cash presents challenges: The cost of armored car services and questions surrounding employee and vendor conduct is cash transported on time, is the count correct, and does any cash go missing? U.S. Bank tracking and reporting technology brings accuracy, security and accountability to cash transactions. The DTS Tracking System allows companies to monitor their deposits from the time of preparation at their place of business until the deposits are processed and verified at the bank. The system allows retailers and businesses with multiple locations to monitor deposits online. This makes it possible to identify missing or late deposits, enabling businesses to resolve discrepancies quickly and minimize loss. U.S. Bank accomplishes this traceability through the use of barcoded documents that travel with the deposit and are scanned en route and at the bank vault. Two recent enhancements to this core technology bring new benefits to U.S. Bank customers. Unique reference numbers The first enhancement adds an extra layer of tracking capability to the cash management process by creating a unique reference number for every deposit and change order. This reference number gives businesses the ability to positively identify both deposits and change orders in the reporting process, It s the ability to create unique reference numbers for change orders that s special, explains Jill Natrop, vice president in Global Treasury Management at U.S. Bank. Historically, it s been difficult to assign a unique number to these transactions, she says. It s easy for deposits because the customer creates a deposit ticket with a pre-printed serial number; but with a change order, the bank uses a generic ticket to debit the customer s account. In a normal cash vault situation, the customer can t assign a unique number. U.S. Bank s improved DTS Tracking System overcomes this obstacle. The system assigns a number that carries through with the transaction and is included on the customer s BAI reporting, Natrop says. Clients can easily reconcile change orders with the associated payment. 2

3 Natrop notes that larger retailers and big-box stores, in particular, value having a DTS reference number for their change orders because it simplifies the reconciliation process. We re able to do this at all of our vaults where we have electronic posting, she says. Additional benefits include the ability to group stores into different categories (e.g., low, medium or high volume) and set their change orders for different dollar amounts and combinations. Clients can also grant access rights to the managers of individual stores to modify their change orders. Plans call for all U.S. Bank vaults nationwide to be updated with electronic posting by the end of Something old and something new The second new cash-processing enhancement at U.S. Bank leverages the U.S. Postal Service. Plenty of retailers and businesses are located in rural or remote areas of the country. Their location, and often their smaller cash volume, makes armored car services impractical, but they still need to make deposits. Enter the union of mail and DTS. We are enabling our customers to use the U.S. Postal Service to mail cash and check deposits into select cash vault processing sites, Natrop says. Our tracking system interfaces with the Postal Service s tracking system so customers can monitor the movement of their mailed deposits. Businesses must decide if mailing cash deposits is viable from a risk perspective, given the volume of their deposits. They can elect to purchase their own insurance to help mitigate risk and realize the convenience and tracking benefits of this service. Deposit products offered by U.S. Bank National Association. Member FDIC. 3

4 Receivables cash application automation: challenges and best practices As a driver of efficiency and cost reduction, automated cash application is an important objective in receivables management. Yet there are many impediments to this goal. Treasury managers need to be mindful of the challenges and adhere to a number of best practices in its pursuit. The goal itself is simple: Automated cash application essentially means no human needs to touch the data in order to facilitate the receipt of the payment and the successful posting of the payment and depositing of the funds, explains Joe Schoder, senior vice president and National Technical Solutions team manager at U.S. Bank. It s ultra-efficient. But there are a few things that treasury managers need to accept before they go headlong after receivables automation. First, don t expect to achieve 100% straight-through processing of all receivables items. And, second, understand that electronic payments aren t the only answer. The customer s in control One reason companies can never achieve 100% automation for receivables is that their customers ultimately control how they make payments and what remittance detail they include. It would be nice to dictate payment terms, methods and formats to all customers, but in the real world that s not practical. Whereas you might have a goal of moving all of your customers to a particular method of payment, there will always be some that insist on paying you in other ways. And that can certainly hinder the effort to automate cash applications. It s the exceptions that hurt Another hurdle for treasury managers to overcome is the common belief that a payment must be electronic to be efficient. The fact is, under certain circumstances, paper payments are more efficient. What determines which form of payment is most efficient is usually how many exceptions the payment method generates and how much manual work it takes to resolve those exceptions. Regardless of whether a payment comes via check, ACH or wire, if it can be processed straight through and posted automatically, you achieve greater efficiencies, says Sam Robb, senior vice president, collections and receivables group manager, at U.S. Bank. Checks typically cost more to process than Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments, but heavy exceptions volume can change that calculation, Robb says. There is a higher rate of posting exceptions with ACH payments compared to paper-based payments, because often the electronic payment doesn t travel with the associated remittance information, leading to reconciliation challenges, he notes. 4

5 The bottom line: No matter what form of payment your company feels compelled to accept, having tools to efficiently manage or resolve exceptions is paramount. Establishing a collections strategy It s true that you can t always dictate payment methods and formats to your customers. But you can take a swing at achieving a greater rate of receivables automation, and the effort needs to begin with treasury establishing an accounts receivable collections strategy, Schoder says. The strategy can include a preferred payment method, a preferred format for customers to deliver remittance detail, and plans for clearly communicating these preferences to existing customers and new ones as they come aboard, and for selling the strategy and its benefits internally at your company. Someone in the company needs to take ownership and sponsor and communicate the strategy, Schoder adds. rates can require a variety of technology tools and knowledge of best practices. Traditionally, most banks are out there to sell you something, he says. But to increase receivables process automation, you need a bank partner that s willing to take the time to gain a holistic understanding of your business and make recommendations that don t always generate revenue for the bank. If you re looking to improve receivables process automation, ask your Treasury Management Consultant about our customized Working Capital DNA Receivables Analysis Engagement and customized strategy to optimize your working capital. Deposit products offered by U.S. Bank National Association. Member FDIC. Selling the strategy internally is the best way to put fuel in your rocket ship, says Jim Nelson, senior vice president, National Working Capital Solutions, Treasury Management, for U.S. Bank. He recommends communicating the rationale for any shift in strategy aimed at improving automated cash application rates. For instance, it helps if you can trumpet how the strategy can reduce days sales outstanding (DSO), and how many thousands of dollars that could equate to, Nelson says. Before a company tries to figure out how to achieve cash application automation, its people need to understand why that s important. A banking partner with a holistic perspective Another strategy vital to the pursuit of automation in receivables management is finding a reliable banking partner, Nelson says. Improving automated posting 5

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