Citicorp has unveiled a cash management service that lets multinational corporations outsource accounts-receivable functions.
Bank officials said the service, called Citibank Receivables Solution, has been pilot-tested with Heller Financial Inc. for the past year. They said several more corporate customers in the United States and Europe will soon adopt the service.
As more corporations expand overseas, the demand for cash management has risen, experts said. And an increasing number of commercial banks are designing new services to meet this demand.
Some functions are more ripe for outsourcing than others. Receivables management - a burdensome process of matching and reconciling payments made to a company - is considered a good candidate, said Christopher Robinson, a London-based vice president at Citicorp.
Receivables management is more complex than many accounts-payable services because the receivables function must handle a variety of methods used for making payments.
With Citicorp's new service, companies can "take out a large proportion of their local accounts-receivable structure and replace it with a centralized accounting function," Mr. Robinson said.
Citicorp's reach - it maintains a presence in 98 countries - means it is well positioned to offer such services to multinational companies, said Colin Klipin, managing director of Citibank's global cash management unit.
Citicorp can process a wide variety of payment instruments, including multiple currencies, U.S. checks, and European giros, which resemble checks.
"The key element here is globality," Mr. Klipin said. "We are the only bank that can deliver locally and can integrate globally."
Jeff Grigsby, senior vice president at Heller Financial, said the firm makes use of Citibank's image-enabled check processing system.
In the summer of 1993, Heller was in the midst of a major reengineering that sought to eliminate, among other things, the type of data entry involved in processing checks. It chose Citicorp to install the necessary linkages for imaged scanning of checks, remittance, and other electronic data interchange communications last year.
Mr. Grigsby said Heller Financial had the technology to do the reengineering entirely on its own, "but we chose not to because we felt it was a core competency that Citibank has."
Lawrence Forman, consultant at Ernst & Young, New York, said Citicorp's new service is largely a response to corporations' global expansion.
"It sounds like a fairly rich offering," he said, noting that other banks may have similar services, but few of these have Citicorp's global reach.
Chase Manhattan Corp. last year launched Insight, an integrated receivables service. It helps the bank's multinational clients speed up their collections in multiple currencies, and helps them manage liquidity on a global level.
Terri Turner Cahill, product line manager at Chase, said the bank is enhancing its offerings to let clients "update their receivables systems and close out on a same-day basis.
"Today that process at best takes on a next-day basis," she said. "And for many companies it takes longer than that."
Mark Taylor, a vice president at BankAmerica Corp., said the San Francisco-based bank has systems in place that do "what is being outlined by Citibank" and one or two other banks.
BankAmerica, with presence in 38 countries, he said, operates a single "global banking standard" across its whole network.