A Matching Tale

The Story of a SWIFT printer

A Matching Tale_HEADER
Author: Katja Franz

Here’s a quiz question for you: “which year are we describing?” Setting: a large German custodian. Center stage: a large printer with an even larger pile of paper – the custodian’s designated “SWIFT”  printer, coughing up endless statements and trade confirmations. Enter: the cash management employee who spends all day removing messages from the printer, sorting them, manually checking bookings and sending out confirmations. What do you think? 1962? 1975? 1980?

One printer and a lot of manual work!

It may feel like a different lifetime but you’re pretty far of if this is your guess. We’re actually looking at a process that was standard procedure for the vast majority of custodians and banks up until the mid-2000s, that printer the office “SWIFT” printer, those statements printouts of MT940s and MT320s. When automation finally arrived around 2005, it turned the matching world upside down. Gone were the days of the SWIFT printer and its piles of messages and matching documents. Instead, all of this was possible with the touch of a button.

With treasury management systems rapidly conquering corporate treasury, it’s difficult to imagine that some people used to spend all day laboriously comparing pieces of paper in order to send out trade confirmations. And while it seems obvious that matching has become far more efficient and comfortable and far less error-prone, one may wonder if all the “matchers” from the old days have been replaced by machines and fallen victim to technology. The answer is no: they might no longer be needed for this particular task but there’s plenty more to treasury. You need only look at my colleague Rüdiger Schlecht’s recent post “the Strategic Role of a Treasurer” to find out just how valuable any time freed up for strategic decision-making is.

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This printer really is only slightly more archaic than the scenario we’re talking about…

The future is now… sometimes.

So are we looking at leagues of happy customers without a matching care in the world? Matching at the touch of a button certainly seems hard to beat. But while pretty much all back and middle offices of any medium-sized and large companies have welcomed the change and embraced the new technological possibilities, some small companies were slightly less eager. To them, matching never really had priority and was sometimes neglected – something which is no longer possible with modern systems and regulations. However, once systems are properly implemented and used, benefits are so obvious that basically everyone comes on board.

So let’s end with another quiz question: “how many trees could be saved by introducing automated matching services?” Your guess is as good as ours – what is clear is that no treasurer would want to miss modern matching efficiency and comfort.

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