Le chantier d’édification d’une norme internationale pour la facturation des services bancaires ne doit pas négliger les processus qui garantiront que cette norme et ses mises à jours régulières seront correctement appliquées par les établissements bancaires.

Aux Etats-Unis, où la communauté financière n’a pas pris en compte cet aspect suffisamment tôt, la codification des services bancaires ne permet pas aux trésoriers d’avoir une vision claire de ce qu’ils paient à chaque banque pour leurs services de cash management, et encore moins d’établir aisément des comparaisons entre leurs différentes banques. Selon Bridget Meyer, responsable conseil en trésorerie – Amérique du Nord chez Redbridge, seuls 40 % des services bancaires facturés sont désignés avec le bon code sur le récapitulatif envoyé chaque mois aux entreprises américaines.

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What will the world learn from US bank billing? by Bridget Meyer, CTA, Senior Director of North American Treasury Advisory

When electronic account analysis statements (EDI 822) were first created in the US, the large corporations leading the charge approached the AFP (then known as the Treasury Management Association) for a standard unified billing code to facilitate automated reporting. To ensure adoption of the new standard code, ANSI required a “TMA code” to be assigned for each bank service included on the electronic statement.

Flash forward 30 years. Banks are still providing EDI 822s but the “TMA codes” (renamed to “AFP codes”) have not changed much since their original mapping years ago. AFP has traditionally updated the standard every 3-5 years but many of the banks are still using the 2004 or 2007 versions of the codes. The outdated code lists are further complicated by bank acquisitions, reduced budgets and resources, and the constant shift in a bank’s priorities due to ever evolving regulations. What we have left is a mess. Banks are turning to more and more fee income as interest rates stay low, the number of line items and average dollar amount being billed to corporations is larger than ever, and billing transparency is even more difficult to manage. Not only are the line item descriptions confusing and different per bank, the AFP codes assigned (if assigned at all) are mapped at a 40% accuracy rate.

The AFP attempted to solve the problem by creating the AFP Service Code Accredited Provider program in 2002. Banks who sign up to be “Accredited” have their billing systems audited and service codes mapped by a single source to the latest AFP code standard. Accredited banks are audited annually to maintain their status. Bank adoption of the program has been slow and steady but lacks the participation and support of the nation’s largest banks. Their absence in the program does not mean that the money center banks are better at mapping. In fact, at Redbridge, we spend considerable time correcting code assignments in order to launch an RFP and analyze bank offers. The inaccuracy not only frustrates the corporate end user who wants to be able to perform an apples-apples comparison of fees, it creates problems for the bank’s relationship managers who try in vain to use their incorrect codes to help them respond to RFP pricing schedules.

How can we prevent history from repeating itself? We are at the exact point in time where the world’s global banks will either learn from the US and solidify their commitment to a standard (and the accuracy of their mapping), or they will fall into the same trap. The BSB format does not require a standard code nor does it specify which standard should be used. The CGI-MP bank participants have mutually agreed to adopt the AFP Global Codes as the unified standard used in the BSB, but there are still some who are not satisfied.
No matter which standard is adopted, banks must establish a clear process for ensuring consistency in their assignment of the AFP Global codes at the stage of adoption across all billing platforms. Just as important, however, is to ensure on an annual basis that the mapping is still relevant and that new services are mapped with the same care. Whether the process is outsourced or internalized through consistent training and internal efforts, the policies and procedures for the future need to be made now. A swimming pool is transparent when clean, but muddies quickly when not maintained.

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