Lots Of Talk Ahead To Develop International Standards For Financial And Fintech

Tom Groenfeldt

Two Geneva-based organizations have announced plans to talk about developing standards for financial services. Maybe it’s something about the air in Geneva, but both announcements involve a lot of talking and are short on specifics. Standards are important in finance and let participants communicate with each other and provide assurance on data security. It’s also useful to develop them, as technologies such as electronic payments are evolving, rather than trying to integrate entrenched systems with middleware after banks have adopted them.

Both the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a UN agency, and the International Standards Organization (ISO) Financial Services Committee (TC/68) have announced initiatives to develop standards for finance to promote innovation and improve reporting.

“Governments around the world face many similar challenges in their efforts to deliver fully integrated digital financial services,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “Until now, solutions have largely been developed in isolation. This is the first time an organization has sought to develop a comprehensive set of practical and integrated guidelines drawing on expertise from across the financial service and telecommunication/ICT sectors.”

It has developed 85 policy recommendations for digital financial services.

It recommended that regulators support an open ecosystem for finance that promotes innovation and ensures robust competition. It also advocates standard definitions of fraud types and requires standardized fraud reporting. It urges policymakers to promote acceptance of electronic payments by merchants, utilities, and government bodies. The ITU added, “Regulators should standardize digital identity registration and ensure interoperability between DFS operators and service providers relying on digital identity.”

“The work we have done has resulted in a set of very operational policy recommendations,” said Sacha Polverini, chairman of the Focus Group. “Their value will be dependent on their systematic application in markets that need guidance and support. We are now reviewing the opportunity to progress a new global initiative which we hope to announce in April 2017.”

ITU and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are organizing a workshop on digital financial services and financial inclusion in Washington, DC, on April 19, hosted by the World Bank. The workshop will highlight the key findings of the focus group and provide an overview of the group’s future initiatives to support implementation of its recommendations.

Meanwhile the International Standards Organization said it is “establishing a proactive dialogue with financial institutions, their regulators, supply chain, and fintech companies.”

More talk about talk:

“The group will act as an advisory sounding board providing a platform for a dialogue on the growing need for data and technology standards required for secure global commerce.”

Its stated objectives are to:

  • Work with FinTech communities, including public sector bodies, and ISO to fill gaps and educate
  • Promote the adoption and implementation of consistent standards, where possible
  • Effectively address common issues collectively and consistently
  • Encourage strong and open communication and the sharing of information concerning financial services standards

Committee members include Stephan Wolf, CEO of the Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation, Nick Cliff, co-chair head of emerging technology of the Australian Payments Clearing Association, and PJ Di Giammarino, CEO of the think tank JWG-IT Group. The group is looking for more members.

Wolf and Cliff said the group will “provide the platform for the collaboration of internationally renowned experts in innovative areas such as identity solutions and exchange of regulatory data.”

The committee’s priorities and plans will be discussed at the  ISO’s Financial Services Committee TC/68 Plenary meeting, which will take place in May in Rio.

Protect yourself: Learn How to Avoid the Most Dangerous Barrier to Good Decision Making.

Photo by Tom Groenfeldt


About Tom Groenfeldt

Tom Groenfeldt is a freelance reporter who focuses largely on finance and technology including trading, risk, back-office systems, big data, analytics, retail banking, international banking, and e-commerce. His work appears in several publications, including in the U.S. and Banking Technology in London. In 2015, he was named to the "FinServ 25," the top 25 top global influencers in banking, by The Financial Brand.

The Insider’s Guide To Improving Payments And Cash Flow, Part 1

Alan Cohen and Scott Pezza

Part 1 of a 12-part series. Read our introductory blog.

The first topic we will address in this 12-part series is the importance of organizational will and alignment. Whether you are just starting a payment or cash-flow improvement initiative, in the middle of deployment, or scaling an existing program, organizational will and alignment are vital to success.

Organizational will can be summed up in three parts:

Commitment to success. Your leadership must never accept the status quo and must always be willing to collaborate with stakeholders from various lines of business to transform “old school” processes and thinking to promote better business outcomes. Effective collaboration requires enterprise-wide commitment across procurement, treasury, and shared services.

Defined goals. There needs to be a clear mandate of how success is measured over a specific period. This could mean an increase in the number of payments automated, suppliers participating, cash flow gained, discounts earned, or other quantitative metrics.

Clear prioritization. Your payments or cash flow initiative must rise above the fray as an umbrella priority that is not limited by competing objectives or hampered by disparate key performance indicators (KPIs).

Organizational alignment requires procurement, treasury, and shared services to break out of their silos. To be truly successful, you must:

Secure a CFO mandate.
In most cases, the corporate functions mentioned above report to the CFO. While the best-case scenario is to have these leaders align, it may be necessary for the CFO to set and communicate clear business objectives for the company, and align leadership stakeholders when determining how objectives will be achieved.

Align KPIs across groups.
If procurement is measured on price reduction, shared services are measured on efficiency, and treasury is measured on discounts earned, your organization is not working toward a cohesive payments and cash flow strategy. Moving these groups to common, shared metrics like economic value added (with price reductions and discounts earned given equal credit) will ensure that teams are aligned and your initiative is set up for success.

Identify a strong project lead. Your project can succeed or fail based on the person leading it. With that in mind, your project lead should have credibility within the organization, institutional knowledge of company operations, existing internal cross-functional relationships, and the ability to build relationships and trust.

Put it in writing

No matter where you are in your payment processing and cash-flow management journey, leaders in procurement, treasury, and shared services must write down their goals and timelines and compare them to the goals set out by your CFO. If they are aligned (or even close to it), you are on the right track. If not, everyone must immediately come to the table to understand where the groups differ and how they can support a common goal.

How we can help

To help you get started, we offer a meeting agenda and template that highlights the advantages of better payment processing and cash flow management for your company and each of its stakeholders. It also offers recommendations on how to get aligned. To request these resources, send an email to

Click here for more information about payments and cash flow solutions from SAP Ariba.

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter)  | LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube


Alan Cohen

About Alan Cohen

Alan Cohen is VP Payments & Financing Strategy, SAP Ariba. Alan has over 20 years of payments and working capital experience as a practitioner, consultant, and banker. In his current role, he leads the payments and financing strategy for SAP Ariba to help clients achieve improved business outcomes. Previously, at Coca-Cola Enterprises, Alan led the procure-to-pay transformation that encompassed sourcing, procurement, and payables automation, and the company became one of the first to benefit from dynamic discounting. Alan holds a supply chain management degree from Arizona State University. In 2015, he was part of a team that won SAP’s Hasso Plattner Founders Award for an innovative approach to B2B payments. Alan lives in Atlanta with his wife and 2 daughters. He has served on the board of the Weinstein School since 2007 and actively participates in 2nd Helpings, a nonprofit to rescue and deliver surplus food.

Scott Pezza

About Scott Pezza

As part of SAP Ariba's Nework Value Organization Center of Excellence, Scott researches, compiles, and shares best-practice information to help customers get the most out of their investments. With a focus on the financial supply chain (invoice management, payments, discounting, and supply chain finance), his research helps inform strategic planning, performance measurement, and program execution. He has spent the past 15 years in the B2B technology space, in roles ranging from software development and support to research and consulting. Scott earned his BA in English and Philosophy from Clark University, his MBA from Boston University Graduate School of Management, and his JD from Boston University School of Law, where he served on the Executive Board of the Annual Review of Banking and Financial Law.

Optimizing Disclosure Management For Capital Markets: Part 2

Christian Brandl and Stefan Paetzold

Part 2 in a 2-part series. Read Part 1.

In our last blog, we outlined the importance of effective and efficient capital market communication for company growth, for convincing potential investors about the soundness of the company’s current and future financial situation. We also described the shortfalls inherent in most companies’ processes, and the tools now available to guide corporate accountants and analysts in a well-structured approach to optimize their closing and reporting cycle.

Here are a few key benefits of these solutions:

  • Management and structuring of the production, filing, and publication of (external and internal) financial and regulatory disclosures
  • Automation of workflows to assign responsibilities across teams and units, share information, and reduce risk
  • Foster collaboration by giving users more autonomy and accountability
  • Publish financial statements in a variety of formats, including Microsoft Word, PDF, and XBRL
  • Ensure compliance with IFRS, multiple GAAPs, and other industry-specific accounting standards

Result: Faster financial close

A specialized solution will allow users to automate all the process steps related to the “last mile of finance.” The full digital integration of data from many sources and the dynamic storage of data in a single source of truth supports a swift regulatory reporting and disclosure. A central cache stores data from multiple systems and keeps the data up-to-date. Last-minute changes need to be reflected in all the documents connected to the single source of truth. This can be achieved by creating multiple dynamic connections to various systems that will update data (and other related information) automatically in case of changes without manual interference.

Once the process of putting a report together is started, access to relevant data is given by creating chapters of reports (data, narratives, charts) in common and widely used file formats such as Microsoft Excel and Word. Users are very experienced with Microsoft Office and will find it much easier to use a new software solution when it is accompanied by certain familiar components.

When data is stored in “chapters,” the disclosure management solution will automatically store multiple versions of documents with change-tracking abilities on a dedicated server. When users want to continue working on a chapter, the solution will always provide the latest version automatically.

Collaboration, compliance, and control

Another main key in an improvement of the overall close process is efficient and effective collaboration among team members. A disclosure management solution needs to facilitate communication among team members and management, and support workflows and approvals across organizational hierarchies, geographies, and business units. This can be done by individually assigning access rights to the various “chapters” in the reports on a “need-to-know” basis to individual users with potentially individual workflow steps.

In the last steps, compliance and control is another key element. The solution will support the process to publish auditable financial and regulatory statements in multiple formats (including XBRL). It will also ensure compliance with various accounting standards such as IFRS, multiple GAAPs, and other industry-specific regulations.

Based on our experience, many companies are surprised by the gain in speed, quality, and confidence they can achieve by using a dedicated disclosure management solution instead of relying on manual validations and last-minute copy-and-paste activities. We encourage you to find out more about the latest developments and features to optimize your capital market communication with the use of SAP Disclosure Management.

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter)  | LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube


Christian Brandl

About Christian Brandl

Christian Brandl is a business enterprise principal consultant and has worked for SAP Consulting for more than 5 years. He has been supporting companies as a solution architect and functional consultant in the areas of financial planning, controlling, and consolidation. Christian received his M.B.A. (Master of Business Administration) with a focus on corporate finance and controlling from Purdue University (USA).

Stefan Paetzold

About Stefan Paetzold

Stefan Pätzold is a global business transformation manager, PMP, and has worked for SAP Business Transformation Services for more than 6 years. He has been supporting companies as a program manager and trusted advisor in the areas of finance, controlling, and consolidation. Stefan received his diploma in business administration and engineering with a focus on finance and controlling from the University of Applied Sciences, Giessen.

Running Future Cities on Blockchain

Dan Wellers , Raimund Gross and Ulrich Scholl

Building on the Blockchain Framework

Some experts say these seemingly far-future speculations about the possibilities of combining technologies using blockchain are actually both inevitable and imminent:

Democratizing design and manufacturing by enabling individuals and small businesses to buy, sell, share, and digitally remix products affordably while protecting intellectual property rights.
Decentralizing warehousing and logistics by combining autonomous vehicles, 3D printers, and smart contracts to optimize delivery of products and materials, and even to create them on site as needed.
Distributing commerce by mixing virtual reality, 3D scanning and printing, self-driving vehicles, and artificial intelligence into immersive, personalized, on-demand shopping experiences that still protect buyers’ personal and proprietary data.

The City of the Future

Imagine that every agency, building, office, residence, and piece of infrastructure has an entry on a blockchain used as a city’s digital ledger. This “digital twin” could transform the delivery of city services.

For example:

  • Property owners could easily monetize assets by renting rooms, selling solar power back to the grid, and more.
  • Utilities could use customer data and AIs to make energy-saving recommendations, and smart contracts to automatically adjust power usage for greater efficiency.
  • Embedded sensors could sense problems (like a water main break) and alert an AI to send a technician with the right parts, tools, and training.
  • Autonomous vehicles could route themselves to open parking spaces or charging stations, and pay for services safely and automatically.
  • Cities could improve traffic monitoring and routing, saving commuters’ time and fuel while increasing productivity.

Every interaction would be transparent and verifiable, providing more data to analyze for future improvements.

Welcome to the Next Industrial Revolution

When exponential technologies intersect and combine, transformation happens on a massive scale. It’s time to start thinking through outcomes in a disciplined, proactive way to prepare for a future we’re only just beginning to imagine.

Download the executive brief Running Future Cities on Blockchain.

Read the full article Pulling Cities Into The Future With Blockchain


About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Raimund Gross

About Raimund Gross

Raimund Gross is a solution architect and futurist at SAP Innovation Center Network, where he evaluates emerging technologies and trends to address the challenges of businesses arising from digitization. He is currently evaluating the impact of blockchain for SAP and our enterprise customers.

Ulrich Scholl

About Ulrich Scholl

Ulrich Scholl is Vice President of Industry Cloud and Custom Development at SAP. In this role, Ulrich discovers and implements best practices to help further the understanding and adoption of the SAP portfolio of industry cloud innovations.


4 Traits Set Digital Leaders Apart From 97% Of The Competition

Vivek Bapat

Like the classic parable of the blind man and the elephant, it seems everyone has a unique take on digital transformation. Some equate digital transformation with emerging technologies, placing their bets on as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Others see it as a way to increase efficiencies and change business processes to accelerate product to market. Some others think of it is a means of strategic differentiation, innovating new business models for serving and engaging their customers. Despite the range of viewpoints, many businesses are still challenged with pragmatically evolving digital in ways that are meaningful, industry-disruptive, and market-leading.

According to a recent study of more than 3,000 senior executives across 17 countries and regions, only a paltry three percent of businesses worldwide have successfully completed enterprise-wide digital transformation initiatives, even though 84% of C-level executives ranks such efforts as “critically important” to the fundamental sustenance of their business.

The most comprehensive global study of its kind, the SAP Center for Business Insight report “SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart,” in collaboration with Oxford Economics, identified the challenges, opportunities, value, and key technologies driving digital transformation. The findings specifically analyzed the performance of “digital leaders” – those who are connecting people, things, and businesses more intelligently, more effectively, and creating punctuated change faster than their less advanced rivals.

After analyzing the data, it was eye-opening to see that only three percent of companies (top 100) are successfully realizing their full potential through digital transformation. However, even more remarkable was that these leaders have four fundamental traits in common, regardless of their region of operation, their size, their organizational structure, or their industry.

We distilled these traits in the hope that others in the early stages of transformation or that are still struggling to find their bearings can embrace these principles in order to succeed. Ultimately I see these leaders as true ambidextrous organizations, managing evolutionary and revolutionary change simultaneously, willing to embrace innovation – not just on the edges of their business, but firmly into their core.

Here are the four traits that set these leaders apart from the rest:

Trait #1: They see digital transformation as truly transformational

An overwhelming majority (96%) of digital leaders view digital transformation as a core business goal that requires a unified digital mindset across the entire enterprise. But instead of allowing individual functions to change at their own pace, digital leaders prefer to evolve the organization to help ensure the success of their digital strategies.

The study found that 56% of these businesses regularly shift their organizational structure, which includes processes, partners, suppliers, and customers, compared to 10% of remaining companies. Plus, 70% actively bring lines of business together through cross-functional processes and technologies.

By creating a firm foundation for transformation, digital leaders are further widening the gap between themselves and their less advanced competitors as they innovate business models that can mitigate emerging risks and seize new opportunities quickly.

Trait #2: They focus on transforming customer-facing functions first

Although most companies believe technology, the pace of change, and growing global competition are the key global trends that will affect everything for years to come, digital leaders are expanding their frame of mind to consider the influence of customer empowerment. Executives who build a momentum of breakthrough innovation and industry transformation are the ones that are moving beyond the high stakes of the market to the activation of complete, end-to-end customer experiences.

In fact, 92% of digital leaders have established sophisticated digital transformation strategies and processes to drive transformational change in customer satisfaction and engagement, compared to 22% of their less mature counterparts. As a result, 70% have realized significant or transformational value from these efforts.

Trait #3: They create a virtuous cycle of digital talent

There’s little doubt that the competition for qualified talent is fierce. But for nearly three-quarters of companies that demonstrate digital-transformation leadership, it is easier to attract and retain talent because they are five times more likely to leverage digitization to change their talent management efforts.

The impact of their efforts goes beyond empowering recruiters to identify best-fit candidates, highlight risk factors and hiring errors, and predict long-term talent needs. Nearly half (48%) of digital leaders understand that they must invest heavily in the development of digital skills and technology to drive revenue, retain productive employees, and create new roles to keep up with their digital maturity over the next two years, compared to 30% of all surveyed executives.

Trait #4: They invest in next-generation technology using a bimodal architecture

A couple years ago, Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president at Gartner and global head of research, observed that “CIOs can’t transform their old IT organization into a digital startup, but they can turn it into a bi-modal IT organization. Forty-five percent of CIOs state they currently have a fast mode of operation, and we predict that 75% of IT organizations will be bimodal in some way by 2017.”

Based on the results of the SAP Center for Business Insight study, Sondergaard’s prediction was spot on. As digital leaders dive into advanced technologies, 72% are using a digital twin of the conventional IT organization to operate efficiently without disruption while refining innovative scenarios to resolve business challenges and integrate them to stay ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, only 30% of less advanced businesses embrace this view.

Working within this bimodal architecture is emboldening digital leaders to take on incredibly progressive technology. For example, the study found that 50% of these firms are using artificial intelligence and machine learning, compared to seven percent of all respondents. They are also leading the adoption curve of Big Data solutions and analytics (94% vs. 60%) and the Internet of Things (76% vs. 52%).

Digital leadership is a practice of balance, not pure digitization

Most executives understand that digital transformation is a critical driver of revenue growth, profitability, and business expansion. However, as digital leaders are proving, digital strategies must deliver a balance of organizational flexibility, forward-looking technology adoption, and bold change. And clearly, this approach is paying dividends for them. They are growing market share, increasing customer satisfaction, improving employee engagement, and, perhaps more important, achieving more profitability than ever before.

For any company looking to catch up to digital leaders, the conversation around digital transformation needs to change immediately to combat three deadly sins: Stop investing in one-off, isolated projects hidden in a single organization. Stop viewing IT as an enabler instead of a strategic partner. Stop walling off the rest of the business from siloed digital successes.

As our study shows, companies that treat their digital transformation as an all-encompassing, all-sharing, and all-knowing business imperative will be the ones that disrupt the competitive landscape and stay ahead of a constantly evolving economy.

Follow me on twitter @vivek_bapat 

For more insight on digital leaders, check out the SAP Center for Business Insight report, conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics,SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart.”


About Vivek Bapat

Vivek Bapat is the Senior Vice President, Global Head of Marketing Strategy and Thought Leadership, at SAP. He leads SAP's Global Marketing Strategy, Messaging, Positioning and related Thought Leadership initiatives.