by Vincent Monier, Group Treasurer, Tokheim Group S.A.S.
Tokheim has a group treasury department near Paris and local finance teams for each subsidiary which are responsible for local cash management. Until this year, the company operated two euro cash pools: the first was specific to France, through Société Générale, and the second centralised cash flow across Tokheim subsidiaries in other parts of Europe, with a master account in France. In June 2008, we decided to revisit this arrangement and looked at ways to increase the efficiency of our pan-European cash management with reduced costs, and the electronic banking systems that we used. There were various drivers for doing so:
- Firstly, the financial crisis accentuated the need to integrate counterparty risk considerations into our cash management structures;
- Secondly, we were in the process of an acquisition in Germany, and we wanted to integrate the new subsidiary’s cash flow into a pan-European structure;
- Thirdly, as a company formed through a leveraged buyout, optimising cash flow remains a critical element of the business.
We conducted a small but disciplined tender process, inviting three banks to outline their solutions for our cash centralisation requirements. We outlined exactly what our needs were, and encouraged tender banks to submit pricing, functionality etc. in a standard format so that we were able to compare responses on an equivalent basis.
At the end of September 2008, as a result of this tender process, we selected Société Générale as our pan-European cash management bank. It was not an easy decision to opt for a single bank at a time when the financial crisis was at its most severe. We took care to outline the project in detail, and the advantages and disadvantages of working with a single bank to senior management before appointing a banking partner. We were already familiar with Société Générale as the bank managed our cash pool in France. As well as having the strongest solution for our needs, we were confident in their ability to deliver, and in the quality of our working relationship. The bank’s pricing was competitive, both for managing the pooling structure and day-to-day transaction costs.
We started the project with a kick off meeting in January 2009 involving the team from both Tokheim and Société Générale, and divided it into separate phases. The first phase was to open new accounts for our subsidiaries across Europe. In fact, this was a very rapid process, and completed within a month, so we were able to move into the testing phase. The cash pool structure was in place by end February 2009, including all of our subsidiaries. We then started using the new accounts for operational purposes, gradually building up our volumes over the next two to three months.