The Association for Finance Professionals (AFP) conference is more than just a gathering of financial experts; it’s a convergence of minds navigating the complex currents of finance, treasury, and banking. Over three days of sessions and exhibits, last week’s attendees gained valuable insights into how to strategically approach their payments, banking, and treasury operations, amid today’s fast-evolving economic and technological landscape.

With finance leaders from industry giants like Under Armour, U-Haul, Microsoft, American Airlines, and AT&T at the helm of several key discussions, here are three major takeaways from this year’s AFP conference:

1. The Power to Transform the Financial Landscape Lies Within the Data

Under the guidance of Redbridge’s Head of Strategic Partnerships, Bridget Meyer, treasury leaders from American Airlines, Under Armour, and AT&T underscored the role of data in transforming treasury operations. The resounding lesson learned is that data accessibility and analytics lie at the heart of optimizing bank fee analysis and achieving cost efficiencies. Digitizing bank statements and using data analysis software are just two ways that organizations can begin to foster accessibility within their databases.

The most crucial element in making data transformative though, is turning the insights into action. “It’s not just about securing electronic fee statements; it’s about having dedicated systems that can dissect that complicated data and spit out a clean analysis for the Treasury team, thus turning it into actionable intelligence,” said Ryan Millard, Senior Manager of Treasury at American Airlines. “I agree,” said Stacey Roth, AVP Global Cash Management at AT&T. “Having that robust system makes all of the varied data a little more apples to apples, so that ultimately, there’s greater clarity across the treasury organization,” she added.

2. As Payments Costs Continue to Increase, Remaining Vigilant Is Key

Payment costs are primarily composed of interchange fees, making it critical for businesses to closely monitor and assess their payment processing strategies. From interchange rate increases to shifting consumer card preferences, businesses today are faced with a complex landscape of cost drivers. Dealing with these cost dynamics demands vigilance, continuous monitoring, and proactive adjustments, according to Andrew Cain, U-Haul International’s Director of Payment Operations.

Implementing and leveraging data-driven insights is one way that payments teams can enhance their vigilance in the cost management process. Additionally, using available resources to understand the why behind cost increases is equally as important in the quest for effective cost management. “Most people are afraid when they’re tasked with having to search for errors, and request any changes associated with these types of costs,” said Joey Dembek, Head of Solution Delivery, Optimized Payments. “Everyone generally accepts that credit card costs are up, but no one really asks why, and if they do, there’s typically no response… If you don’t have someone in the organization that can tell you “why,” it’s wise to start looking for someone that can; your solutions start there,” he added.

3. Automation Technology Is a Key Driver of B2B Payments and Process Improvement

As we enter an era of rapid technological advancement, many businesses are finding themselves at a critical crossroads where reevaluating B2B operational strategies is key. From identifying pain points in manual processes and payments, to efficiently managing insurance and tax complexities, organizations must forge ahead with comprehensive process optimizations.

One optimization path focuses on implementing automation software to reduce the costs of manual processes. “We’ve found that paper invoices were typically processed in 10 days at a cost of $10.90,” said John Paris, Sr. Treasury Manager at Gilbane Building Company. “In manual scenarios, processing time and costs were found to be 3 times higher when compared to an automated invoice, which was typically processed in 3.1 days at a cost of $2.60,” he added.

Many organizations face difficulty in changing current internal processes, still, “payment teams should be proactive in urging their companies to adapt these new technologies,” said Greg Toussaint, Director at Edgar, Dunn & Company. Otherwise, the added risks of slowed growth and lack of organizational visibility grow.

Connect with Redbridge Debt & Treasury Advisory

AFP’s 2023 Conference unveiled a wealth of insights and strategies for finance, treasury, and banking professionals. From tackling inflation and cutting bank fees to harnessing AI and automation, attendees gained actionable wisdom to elevate their financial operations.

Redbridge Debt & Treasury Advisory is a leading financial management partner to global corporations seeking cash management, payments, and financing solutions. Through the expertise of our global advisory teams, and the reliability of our industry-leading software, we are committed to providing every client with proper strategic guidance to optimize cash flow and reduce transaction costs.

For more information about our bespoke solutions, Contact us today.

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