Increase Security and Simplify Treasury Management by Migrating to the Cloud
Interview with Gunnar Pape, Manager Group Treasury at Sartorius AG, about ditching the on-site installation
They were the pioneers of yesteryear – treasurers who made the decision many years ago to opt for a web-based treasury management system to set up treasury processes as efficiently and securely as possible. The standard at that time was on-site installation. By contrast, today the cloud is the most modern and secure means of operating a treasury system. We asked our client Sartorius why the company chose to migrate to the cloud and how the migration was achieved.
Sartorius has been a BELLIN customer since 2012. Why did you initially choose an on-site installation?
We are an extremely fast-growing company. Our sales figures give you an idea of the pace of growth of the business: Sartorius turned over 500 million euros in 2005; we forecast a turnover of 2 billion euros for 2020; and we are targeting turnover of 4 billion euros in 2025. This constant, rapid growth was the main reason for implementing a treasury management system. However, the mindset at the time and compliance considerations meant it was not possible for our legal department and IT team to put the finance department’s data into a cloud.
Then, in 2018, you took the plunge into the cloud after all. What led you to migrate to the cloud?
There were two key reasons for questioning the on-site installation and looking for improvements: one was automation to reduce workload and the other was fraud prevention and protection against cyber crime. Moving to the cloud allowed us to reduce our workload by 80% by automating many of the steps in our cash management and payment processes. Automating where possible and moving our treasury to the cloud also enabled us to drastically reduce the opportunities for fraud.
An 80% reduction in the work involved in central cash management by switching to the cloud is huge. Where were these savings found?
The advantage of the cloud is that we work in a single environment. Regarding the scale of the savings, it is important to note that when we implemented the BELLIN solution in 2012, we also tackled the task of centralizing global cash management by harmonizing our existing banking structure. This enabled us to reduce the number of accounts we had from 600 to 60 across the group. Although this 90% reduction in accounts brought with it substantial savings in terms of time and money at local level, central treasury’s workload increased markedly as it took on all cash management activities. On top of that, Sartorius was experiencing significant sales growth, as I mentioned earlier. We were faced with a choice: hire more staff or move to the cloud.
From a purely technical perspective, process automation does not in itself require BELLIN’s treasury management system to be run in the cloud. So why was migration to the cloud worthwhile for Sartorius?
Sartorius is a global company. The issue of time zones has become a real challenge for us: at the times when our Asian entities have to make payments, it’s still the middle of the night with us. And when we start our day, we used to have to wait for the data from America. In the cloud, we don’t need to transfer data files; everyone works together on one platform in a single environment. We could of course have implemented the automated processes on site instead. However, we would then still have needed to find mutually convenient time slots when each local entity and BELLIN were available for implementation and we would have had to check and track the automated process each time at central treasury. That requires significant time and IT resources.
We consider the biggest advantage of the cloud solution to be that we no longer have to provide our own IT resources for system updates, which we have to carry out regularly for security reasons alone. BELLIN takes care of this in the background.
Specifically which cash management and payment processes has Sartorius’s treasury automated?
Sartorius has fully automated the sending of payments worldwide. We use the SAP ERP system across the group and generate payments with it. We therefore create each payment run in SAP. This is followed by an automatic download to a secure network drive accessible by only a few specified individuals. From there, the file is automatically forwarded to the BELLIN Cloud in under two seconds and the payments are sent. This enabled us to ensure that the payment file is no longer stored temporarily anywhere. The risk of manipulation or inadvertent duplication is eliminated.
For the retrieval of worldwide account statements, we have created a virtual user that retrieves and imports nothing but account statements, in accordance with a predefined schedule. We also use a virtual user for currency deals: we trade on 360T, the deal is automatically uploaded to the BELLIN system, and the matching process is fully digitalized and automated, right through to payment processing on maturity. We have set account statements and FX deals to be retrieved at intervals of 25 minutes.
What security precautions did you take with these automated processes? What are the benefits of the cloud migration and cloud installation?
BELLIN’s system offers a built-in user permissions and roles model, independent of the cloud, that enables the functional separation of duties and multi-level approval to be incorporated into the process. Before moving our treasury to the cloud, we had the following payment process: payments were entered in the BELLIN system, signed in the system and checked again before being sent by central treasury. After moving to the cloud, we were able to dispense with the final visual check by adding intraday limits on our accounts. If the decimal point accidentally slips on a payment and thousands suddenly become millions, an alert pops up at central treasury flagging the transaction.
The BELLIN Connect app notifies our central treasury anywhere in the world if an attempt is made to exceed a limit and we can respond immediately. In this respect, too, we see great advantages of using the cloud: together with the app, we are able to keep on top of essential treasury tasks at all times, no matter where we are. Mobile applications have enabled our treasury to make huge strides forward.
How secure is the cloud in which BELLIN’s system operates? How much work do you have to do to protect your system from cyber attacks?
The BELLIN Cloud is a private cloud, developed by BELLIN itself and operated independently. BELLIN also ensures 24/7/365 protection against hackers and other attacks. Being able to put responsibility for the security of our treasury management system in the hands of BELLIN has meant the IT work we are required to do in this respect has been reduced to almost zero. BELLIN makes all security-related adjustments in the background with its system releases.
Before we moved our treasury system to the cloud, we had to check whether the cloud solution was a good fit with our security requirements. The process of checking the certification held by BELLIN against our security needs went smoothly and is repeated yearly.
How did the migration of BELLIN’s treasury management system from the on-site installation to the cloud go?
When we first considered moving the treasury system to the cloud, both our own IT team and the experts from SAP had significant reservations. But it turned out to be incredibly easy. Connectivity to BELLIN was already established via the BELLIN Payment Gateway. We conducted parallel tests and went live with the system in the BELLIN Cloud after four weeks. To be on the safe side, we had provided two internal SAP specialists for two days in case issues arose but there wasn’t a single problem.
Sartorius Group is a leading international pharmaceutical and laboratory equipment supplier. The company has two main divisions: “Bioprocess Solutions” accounts for about three quarters of the revenue. As a biopharmaceutical supplier, this division makes an important contribution to help ensure that biopharmaceutical drugs and vaccines are safe and efficiently produced. The second division “Lab Product & Services” offers premium products and services to research and quality assurance laboratories (in particular in the pharmaceutical industry and academic research facilities), such as laboratory balances, pipettes or bioanalytical instruments. Sartorius is a business steeped in tradition: 150 years old, they’ve been growing steadily, particularly in the last decade. Today, Sartorius operates globally and is listed on the German TecDax index. In the fiscal year of 2018, Sartorius had around 8,125 employees worldwide and achieved a turnover of around EUR 1.57 billion.