Pushing the boundaries of treasury technology, Cashforce is launching a brand-new cash flow forecasting platform, set to be released by end of Q1 2021. Nicolas Christiaen, the company’s CEO and Co-Founder, explains to TMI how this next generation solution will enable real-time data processing, interconnectivity with best-of-breed treasury technology providers, and lower the barriers to entry for corporates wanting to leverage forecasting software.
Eleanor Hill, Editor, TMI (EH): Why is now the right time to be launching a new platform? What’s driving this change?
Nicolas Christiaen (NC): First, let’s take a little step back. As a company, we have been active in the cash flow forecasting space for five years now. When we started out, we noticed a blind spot in the treasury technology industry – and wanted to create a targeted solution to help treasurers address that specific need.
We began this journey from a working capital analysis point of view and built our cash forecasting capabilities on top by linking to corporate enterprise resource planning systems [ERPs]. In fact, one of our main differentiators has always been our ready-built ERP connectors which ensure a seamless flow of granular data into the platform in order to build a more accurate forecast.
Our current platform works very well, but the market around us is constantly evolving and we want to be one step ahead. Over the years, we have accumulated expertise around different approaches to short- mid- and long-term forecasting, connectivity with different ERP’s and treasury management systems [TMSs], designing sustainable workflows and integrating technologies such as artificial intelligence [AI] and machine learning [ML]. We wanted to leverage this knowledge alongside future-facing technologies such as application programming interfaces [APIs], to create a new platform that is state-of-the-art and capable of consuming billions of transactions in real-time.
We call this platform Cashforce NextGen. It will be launched by end of Q1 2021 and we are currently recruiting early adopters.
EH: What new functionality can treasurers expect with Cashforce NextGen?
NC: There are many great new features,but before we dive into those, it’s important to note that Cashforce’s vision remains the same. We still want to save time and money for finance and treasury departments through automation and improvement of the accuracy of their cash flow forecasting process. Many of the core functions that clients already value from us such as ERP connectivity, the ability to drill down into forecasts, actuals versus forecast analysis, and AI-powered algorithms will remain in Cashforce NextGen. The plan is to double down on those and add in even smarter capability leveraging emerging technologies and the real-time environment.
Take the actuals versus forecast functionality, for example. Currently, we are working on generating custom visualisations for certain customers such as accuracy heat maps. With the NextGen platform, we will be launching additional analytics tools that enable users to really pinpoint what is driving the difference between the forecast and the actuals.
We will also be rolling out enhanced scenario and simulation building capabilities. Today’s world is full of uncertainty and we are keen to leverage human and technological expertise to enable our clients to easily build tailored algorithms, perform scenario planning and run sensitivity analyses. The marketplace and its needs are progressing, and the NextGen functionality reflects this shift.
Another innovation is smart cash forecasting aids and alerting, whereby we proactively alert the user if certain limits go out of bounds – this could be cash pool limits or even the basics such as transaction limits. We’ll also calculate if certain transactions are out of sync with typical behavioural trends leveraging ML technology.
These are just a few examples of what’s new. But there are many more.
EH: What about the user experience with Cashforce NextGen? How will this be improved? And will the new platform be more ‘friendly’ for less mature corporates too?
NC: User-centricity is key and with Cashforce NextGen we have aimed to create an even more intuitive user experience. Often, when corporates move away from using Excel and start using a forecasting system, they find that the flexibility of the spreadsheet environment is taken away – and they are confined to the limits of the system where it can be tough to manipulate data.
With the NextGen platform, we have re-invented the user experience to allow for much greater flexibility, while enabling new workflow capabilities to centralise data. What does this mean in practice? Clients will be able to upload spreadsheets with transactions and even enter or amend specific transactions, all directly in the platform.
This also greatly lowers the barrier to entry for corporates wanting to use Cashforce. Previously, it was best suited to those with mature forecasting processes with ERP data integration. With the new platform, it can be scaled to suit the needs of any corporate – and no ERP is required. To further lower the barrier, we are also introducing industry-specific cash flow forecasting templates. These will enable corporates of any size to self-start their cash forecasting journey.
EH: Let’s talk about the evolving treasury solutions ecosystem. One of the areas you’ve focused on with Cashforce NextGen is building connectivity with other providers of niche treasury technologies. Why is this important?
NC: Interconnectivity with other platforms is a growing need among many of our corporate clients as they look to use specialist treasury technology solutions – rather than just the treasury module of an ERP or a TMS. The NextGen platform will be fully API-enabled to facilitate real-time connectivity with other execution platforms, such as TIS for example, to create a best-of-breed ecosystem.
The ultimate goal is to create a seamless experience similar to a one-size-fits-all solution, but with better functionality that comes with the best-of-breed systems. Of course, this requires investment in terms of security and interconnectivity, but the benefits of using several specialist solutions rather than a generalist one are clear.
Connectivity with the banks is another important piece of the puzzle. We already have integration with Citi, BNP Paribas and KBC and this creates another touchpoint for adding value to treasury – linking up the forecast with needs for factoring or supply chain financing, for example. We see this interconnectedness as a cornerstone for success in the post-pandemic world.
EH: What are your parting words of advice for any treasurer still hesitant about using a platform like Cashforce NextGen?
NC: I’d like to dispel a couple of misconceptions. First, that these kind of solutions are only available for mature corporates. As we have discussed, this is no longer the case – with Cashforce NextGen any treasurer can use the platform and there is no need to have an ERP or complex data lake in place.
I’d also encourage treasurers not to put their plans on hold simply because their data is not up-to-scratch. This can lead to a state of paralysis. In reality, no-one has perfect data. It is better to get started, enter data into the platform and clean it during the process, than to never get started at all. Carpe diem!
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