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Treat with care: the AFP  ‘2011 Survey-Bank Relationship Management’ Benchmark Survey results

The AFP Survey of Bank Relationship Management, sponsored by IBM and PNC, is a serious and useful survey that has been running for four years. In the introduction to this year's report they claim: "Benchmarking the practices and performance of one organization against those of others can be one powerful tool. Its value lies in learning from the success of others and leveraging that knowledge in order to modify actions or behavior to improve organizational performance." Yes, but benchmarking can also be used to beat up corporate treasury departments when they don't meet these standards, even when there are real and important reasons why not. Surveys like this need to be treated with care.

Having said that, the 2011 survey results for the six months up to April 2011are interesting and sometimes rather funny. Some of the highlights results from the survey of 720 organisations include:

  • typical organization has 4.0 full-time equivalents (FTEs) in their treasury operations for every $1 billion in annual revenue while the benchmark organization has 1.4 FTEs. Privately held companies have a significantly greater number of FTEs on a normalized basis than do publicly traded ones. Companies in the services, information/communications, government and financial/insurance industries also tend to have a significantly greater number of FTEs.
  • typical treasury department manages and oversees relationships with five banks, but there is significant variation by organization size and industry.
  • typical organization develops a short-term cash flow forecast in 3.0 hours. By comparison, top performers accomplish this task in only 1.0 hour!!!
  • bank relationships: 25% of respondents increased the number of bank relationships during the six months to April 2011, the primary driver for this was 'access to credit'.
  • 13% of respondents decreased their number of banks, the main reason was the economies of scale make it easier to maintain fewer bank relationships.
  • the most valued aspect of a bank relationship was the 'bank's understanding of the organization's business and operations' (78%) - as always.
  • greatest source of dissatisfaction with a previous bank was customer service issues.

 Carefully applied these results can be a useful aid for corporate treasurers.

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