December 21, 2010
BMO launches integrated online business banking and cash management platform
By Robin Arnfield, Editor
Canada’s BMO Financial Group has launched a treasury management platform that helps corporate customers to manage their day-to-day banking needs online from a single point of contact.
The new BMO Online Banking for Business service provides business customers with a single screen or “personal dashboard” to manage all of their global cash management and foreign exchange services online.
“With the personalization that the Web platform offers, our clients will be able to easily define their own banking experience by selecting what they want to see and where they want to see it on their homepage,” BMO says in a statement. This personalisation includes the ability to display specific activities at pre-set times of day.
“The main advantage of the new Web platform is that it gives our treasury management clients the power to personalise how they connect to BMO,” Marnie Kinsley, Executive Vice-President, Global Treasury Management, BMO Financial Group, tells Canadian Treasurer. “We will add all the BMO treasury management products over time to the Web platform plus mobile alerts and also mobile secure device access.”
To provide an additional layer of security, BMO corporate online banking customers will be able to download a security application to their Blackberry or smartphone. Ms Kinsley says. The smartphone can then be used to provide a one-time transaction authentication passcode which users will need to enter on their PC. The same one-time passcode facility can also be provided by a token device, she notes.
Ms Kinsley tells Canadian Treasurer that the platform provides clients with access to all their deposit and operational bank accounts, as well as to foreign exchange and trade finance. “During 2011, we will add corporate lending data to the online channel along with data from our clients’ BMO corporate card accounts, with money market data being added in early 2012,” she says.
“The client gets a single view of everything,” Ms Kinsley says. “All their BMO accounts in Canada and the U.S. (BMO owns U.S.-based Harris Bank), as well as the accounts they hold in Europe. We arrange for Deutsche Bank to open accounts for our corporate clients in Europe, which they can view through our platform.”
Clients can download data from the BMO platform to their own enterprise systems or their treasury workstations, Ms Kinsley adds. “Information the client can download in real time includes images of cheques that have been cashed; information on balance changes during the day; and collection information, for example bill payments that have come into our offices in different locations such as Chicago, Toronto or Calgary. We enable clients to view activities in all their different accounts in different countries so they can decide whether to transfer funds from one currency to another, or to transfer money from a low-interest bearing account into an account paying better rates.”
“To assist our clients, we have to be a market maker in the major currencies that they deal with,” CJ Gavsie, a managing director in BMO’s foreign exchange group, tells Canadian Treasurer. “The US-Canada currency axis is the biggest one, representing 80 percent of the FX work that we do for our corporate clients. We offer on-the-spot FX as well as over-the-counter FX options and FX swaps.”
Intra-day volatility is a huge issue for corporate clients, Mr Gavsie says. “This is because they are dealing with so many different currencies,” he explains. “We integrate our cash management and our global treasury management systems with our FX operation, so that the client has visibility on what is happening to currencies he or she is exposed to, and can use our system to deal. This means that when they see a good rate that they like, they can execute the currency transaction from their account online.”
BMO’s treasury management group says it handles C$915 billion in wire payments, C$925 billion in other forms of electronic payments, and C$854 million in paper payments for its commercial clients.
In September 2010, Payments Business, Canadian Treasurer’s sister magazine, reported that BMO had partnered with IBM to enable T&E (travel and entertainment) expense data from BMO and Diners Club corporate cards to feed automatically into IBM’s Global Expense Reporting Solution (IBM GERS).
“BMO has a very large number of corporate cardholders,” Terry Wellesley, Executive Managing Director & Group Head of BMO Spend and Payment Solutions, said. “We offer both corporate MasterCards as well as Diners Club corporate cards.”
Kevin Tait, Senior Manager Business Development at BMO, said that it is important for the bank to be able to feed its customers’ corporate card data into any expense management or ERP (enterprise resource planning system) that they operate. “We did the deal with IBM, as it is a major player in the expense reporting systems market,” Tait said. “IBM GERS is deployed in 86 countries around the world, and it is used by four out of 10 major multinationals.”
BMO and Diners Club corporate cardholders are offered preferential rates on IBM GERS, as a result of the deal between the bank and IBM.
Data from corporate card accounts is fed in a standardized format into the web-based IBM reporting system, according to Wellesley. He said that both individual corporate cardholders and their employers benefit from the deal between IBM and BMO. “The BMO corporate card platform feeds rich data files about a transaction such as a hotel stay, including meals, phone calls and internet access, into IBM GERS,” he said. “This simplifies expense reporting for the employee, and also the firm’s accounting department has visibility of all the breakdown of discrete expenditure items on an employee account. Another benefit is that the firm can get an overall view of spending categories for all its cardholders. This means that the employer can negotiate better deals for its cardholders at specific hotel chains or airlines which are frequently used by them.”
BMO acquired the Diners Club North America franchise in December 2009 from Citigroup, in a move that doubled the Canadian bank’s corporate card business. “We process Diners Club card transactions over the MasterCard platform,” Wellesley said. “This means that even if a merchant does not actually accept Diners, provided that they accept MasterCard, a BMO Diners cardholder can use their card at that merchant.