LOADING

Type to search

Front Page Treasury & Tax Management

Global Leaders in Treasury Management

Share

Founder of BELLIN, the company that bears his name, Martin Bellin is widely held to be a treasury management visionary. Here he talks of building upon all that has been achieved over the last two decades and of how BELLIN remains well placed to provide customers with pioneering models to reduce cost, increase efficiency and reinvigorate treasury in the years to come.

 Dominic Hale: Which current and forthcoming technologies at BELLIN are you most excited about and why?

Martin Bellin: Firstly, we are taking tm5 to the next level. Looking at the software industry, every now and then there comes a point when the entire technology has to be changed, and we’ve reached this point with tm5. We are replacing any outdated technology to make the system sustainable – a move not everyone in the industry has undertaken yet.

Secondly, we have created the GTB Hub app, a global transaction banking app which allows us to target a completely new audience outside of our core market. In fact, everyone with a banking relationship is a potential user of this application. Its “Find-Your-Bank”, “Rate-Your-Bank”, “Follow-Your-Bank” and “Verify-Your-Supplier” features represent a comprehensive and ground-breaking approach to global transaction banking.

Thirdly, we are working on a whitelisting/sanction screening product, and we have just kicked off another project that will be looking into ways of applying blockchain technology to increase the efficiency of the administrative aspects of the corporate-bank relationship, including as part of the time-consuming and costly paper-based KYC work.

DH: Has BELLIN achieved its vision of a global treasury network built on collaboration, connection and shared data?

MB: We come from a B2B background, and in the past we have sold powerful applications to companies of a certain size. We have been hugely successful in providing them with a system in an environment that champions collaboration and data visibility, benefitting the entire corporate group and ensuring data quality. However, if you compare our 500 customers with the amount of corporates out there, we can still build on this number. The next step then, is to develop and build the social networks to connect the treasuries and various treasury departments beyond their respective companies.

DH: Today, BELLIN is a mixture of proactive and reactive; pioneering new technologies and ways of working, while also reacting to an ever-evolving landscape. To what extent does this reflect your vision for the company when you established it two decades ago?

MB: Today, the word for such companies is ‘agile’. If we see things are panning out differently, we react by reshaping our offering, redesigning our product. However, when I started, the main thing I was focused on was keeping the company afloat to feed my family. I wasn’t sitting at my desk designing business plans for the next 20 years. However, I did have a clear vision, and it is this vision that has driven me forward all these years – both proactive and reactive.

Also, the software industry is so dynamic that everything designed now would be worthless and obsolete in twenty years’ time. Right now, industries like software and fintech are changing dramatically and we have the ability and one-time opportunity to put things together in such a way that it helps to change the financial markets and reshape the world.

DH: How do you measure success at BELLIN?

MB: It is the smiling faces of our customers and users. If they are excited about our solutions, that is success. If our team members can’t wait to get to work in the morning, that is success, and for me personally, success is having the freedom to build that environment and being able to help. What we don’t favour is measuring success in monetary terms. Even knowing that money is a prerequisite, we look beyond money and profit only. Success is where our products are applied in a way that represents a step forward for the company, that helps them be successful. Success for us is when we make others successful, when we’re able to make a difference and to help them. This is also the idea behind our comprehensive NGO offering which provides free-of-charge or reduced licenses to NGOs and higher education establishments. Donating money is easy, donating knowledge and tools is much more sustainable.

DH: Having courted MNCs initially, have you been surprised at the take up from SMEs for BELLIN’s products and services?

MB: Since the development of B2B software is pretty expensive, historically you could only target those of a certain size and complexity who were able to afford or generate the value which justifies the cost of such an investment. However, nowadays requirements when it comes to managing currency risk, interest risk, liquidity and everything else that relates to treasury are much more demanding. This is no longer limited to MNCs, and because most CEOs have never learned the skills of the treasurer, there is a huge market out there. Treasury is still not recognised by the majority of corporations in the way it can add value to a company.

DH: How does BELLIN ensure it remains agile and innovative now that it is an established organisation?

MB: I think we are an exotic hybrid – a perfect fusion of two different types of company. In terms of IT, at 20 years old, we are a dinosaur, yet, this carries values like stability, solidity, health and trustworthiness. Equally, in receiving fintech awards, we are considered disruptive, innovative and agile. So, in having established trust in the market in respect of execution and delivery, we can focus on selling completely new products based on a vision to a broad audience, which allows us to stay unique and exciting.

DH: Is the message around BELLIN’s Load Balanced Treasury concept and its capacity to help with liquidity planning getting through?

MB: We have to think why we do liquidity planning at all, for it has a volatility that is tremendous. However, expecting predictions to exactly come true means to misunderstand the reason for liquidity planning. We do it in order to make decisions right now. I am the treasurer and need to know what the expectations are for the next 6 or 12 months. Based on that information, I’m going to hedge my position right now. If next month, I’m in the same range, that’s fine, if not, I’ll adjust my hedging strategy. I’m trying to get an idea of how I’m going to apply hedging instruments today. That is the complete focus when setting up a liquidity plan.

Business administration is the science to make decisions on uncertainties. The fewer uncertainties, the better the decisions will be, so we have to increase knowledge. Load Balanced Treasury is a concept which allows exactly this, where an organisation is given the tools to provide accurate data that can then be used to make the right decisions – to decrease uncertainty and increase value.

DH: What can you tell us of social treasury?

MB: Today’s young generation use social media tools in all the aspects of their lives and assume business instruments will work in the same way. We are living in a connected world and if we don’t apply the experience and expectations from B2C software to B2B, I suspect we will fail in our delivery. This is clearly what we’re expected to do and I think it will increase the value of B2B software dramatically. So, social treasury and social applications are fundamental to any future B2B platform.

DH: Are treasury and cyber security inextricably linked?

MB: The more we rely on technology and the less we understand it, the more important it is to ensure no one breaks in without us realising it. If someone breaks into your house, you recognise it immediately, but if someone breaks into your computer, you might not realise it without expert knowledge and support. So, you need someone you can rely on.

Security is not merely a topical issue, it is the foundation of everything we do. However, we have to raise awareness, because the highest risk is not the application or the computer, but the person sitting in front of the computer. So, we help set up processes to decrease that risk. Security becomes increasingly important the more connected we are, as the bigger the network, the more access points need to be secured. The more windows you have in your house, the more alarm settings you need, because every window can be an entry point.

DH: Has BELLIN successfully galvanised support from the business community to ensure there is full cooperation and subscription to the same objective?

MB: We have so many customers that are affected by Fake President attacks, they are extremely grateful when we help them implement solutions and processes to dramatically reduce the risk. They are also keen to receive system support in increasing security and decreasing risk, this being one of the reasons we have developed our BELLIN Connect app, used in conjunction with tm5. Its development is based on our experience with countless projects and it both helps you to make accurate decisions in a very convenient way and to make system access more secure.

DH: What about BELLIN’s GTB Hub app?

MB: While the BELLIN Connect app targets our existing tm5 client base, including in the area of fraud protection, the GTB Hub app can also be used by non-tm5 users. It can simply be downloaded from any kind of app store and you can just start using it. GTB Hub has various features, including straightforward ways of finding, following and even rating banks. It also tackles fraud prevention by promoting a “security in numbers” approach that encourages all suppliers to make their account details available in the app for users to be verified. Companies are able to verify supplier account details, for example when you receive an invoice announcing changed bank details. By working together in such a way, we can make a concerted effort to weed out fraudsters – a very compelling and also free approach to fraud prevention.

DH: What does BELLIN mean by ‘professionalised project management‘?

MB: Some companies might simply want to get something implemented that allows them to get an overview of their balances. This can be executed swiftly and cheaply. Others, however, might have 500 companies they want to involve, with 150 bank connections, which requires more planning and thorough investigation.

It is down to managing expectations. To provide our customers with the best possible service, starting with the system implementation, we need to really understand upfront what they expect us to deliver, the level to which they want us to support them, the extent to which the solution should be implemented globally, what budget they have available etc. All of this is reflected in our project management offering that combines approaches of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management and offers several service levels to best meet each company’s requirements.

DH: What can you tell us of BELLIN’s Elemental, Standard and Enhanced service levels?

MB: Elemental, standard and enhanced are our different project management service levels that we offer in connection with system implementations. We use project management as a tool to ensure the scope and objective of the project are defined, the project momentum is maintained, the steps to complete the project are clear and any issues that arise are resolved with a high level of care.

The Elemental service level is the minimum amount of project management included in all BELLIN consulting projects to ensure a minimum level of project control. The Standard service level is an add-on service that includes the following: full project plan, project timeline, communication plan, project documentation, meeting minutes including action and issues log, usage report, status reports, scope change management. And last but not least, the Enhanced service level is another add-on service and includes all services in the Standard service level as well as additional requested project management services and/or special project reporting based on a customer’s individual requirements.

DH: BELLIN is now expanding beyond its core European and US markets. How do you ensure control over identity and direction is retained and that you don’t spread yourselves too thinly?

MB: We have covered Europe for 20 years and been operational in the US for 15 years and know these markets very well. In addition, we have established fruitful partnerships in the Netherlands, the Nordics, Japan and South Africa.

Whenever we take on board a new partner, we take a very close look at whether this will benefit or distract us. While other companies are obsessed with acquisition and growth, regardless of the cost, I look back at the last 20 years of BELLIN’s financial statements and not one shows a loss. Our growth plan is healthy and solid and customers recognise this. They want someone at their side, they can trust and rely on, they expect a long-term, rock-solid partnership.

DH: What is BELLIN’s position on Brexit?

MB: Treasury’s business is to predict the future and the more volatile that is, the more you need the right tools to make the right decisions. Brexit adds complexity and uncertainty to the treasury environment, increasing demand on the very type of support BELLIN is able to deliver.

DH: Looking to the future, to what extent is BELLIN reliant on Martin Bellin?

MB: BELLIN is currently in a transitional phase. Previously, people thought that if Martin dies, the company will be dead as well, but such a scenario is off the table, as I’ve found partners and people who can deliver the right reliable solutions to corporations better than I could’ve done. My responsibility in the years to come is to create the vision, to understand what happens tomorrow and to ensure that BELLIN stays BELLIN – the sustainable and self-sufficient company they have benefitted from in the past.

DH: What is the secret of BELLIN’s success?

MB: I think we have never been driven by financial goals, rather by passion, dedication and a duty to serve. We want to delight our customers and users. Without venture capital or private equity interests wanting to have their return, we have been able to focus on customer satisfaction. This distinguishes us from most others in the market and generates very substantial sustainable value.

 

BELLIN was founded in 1998 by Martin Bellin, a corporate treasurer, in Ettenheim, Germany, and today consists of over 150 employees focused on creating solutions that reflect the pragmatic, efficient nature of German engineering.

Pictured: Martin Bellin

BELLIN was founded in 1998 by Martin Bellin, a corporate treasurer, in Ettenheim, Germany, and today consists of over 150 employees focused on creating solutions that reflect the pragmatic, efficient nature of German engineering. 

For more information: www.bellin.com

Germany

Tullastr. 19
77955 Ettenheim ,
Germany
+49 7822 4460-0
welcome@bellin.com

 

Leave a Comment