How a bank helps global companies manage their money

Bank of America Merrill Lynch's Global Transaction Services department works at the centre of clients' operations, discovers Kieran Corcoran

Here Suzanne Barry, Head of Liquidity and Investments for Global Transaction Services (GTS) at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, explains to The Gateway exactly what her department does, and why it's a great place for graduates to work.

What does the GTS department do?

We provide support and services to the treasuries of global companies and major financial institutions, the departments that manage their organisation's internal finances. We look after their day-to-day banking needs, whether that's payments and receipts, liquidity and investments, or their corporate card systems. We also design products that they can use internally to manage their own treasury functions with our support.

What we provide to our clients is comparable to what a high street bank provides to an individual - for example, we can give them statements that analyse their finances, we can hold their savings, and we can provide them with advice on where to invest their money. The difference is the extra complexity of our work due to the size of our clients' businesses and the fact that they're international or global organisations. We might help them move money between countries, or comply with the rules of the different financial regulatory regimes they're subject to across the world. As a result, we work a lot more closely with each individual client than a high street bank would with its customers to help make sure we meet all their needs in a timely and efficient way.

We might, for example, have a client that operates across 16 jurisdictions, uses 12 different currencies and has 30 separate legal entities in their corporate structure. We'll help them with all the financial challenges they face. For example, if their headquarters are in the US, they might want to be able to see the finances of all their operations in US dollars rather than local currencies. Or they might need help with a liquidity issue - that is, getting money where they want it when they need it. Perhaps they want all their money in one country so that they can invest it, or pay back local debts. Also, many companies are expanding to emerging markets nowadays, and they have specific financial requirements that we can help them with to support their growth strategies.

What do graduates and interns in GTS do?

Graduates and interns bring fresh minds and new insight into our business, so ensuring we bring in new talent is extremely important to us. We put a lot of effort into making sure our new joiners have fulfilling tasks to undertake that give them broad experience of the department. Before each intake arrives, we identify projects to which they can meaningfully contribute and deliver results.

In the case of interns, we give them a project with clear objectives that they can finish in the time they're with us. We also provide the opportunity to spend a few days in other teams within GTS and with senior managers so that they understand how our firm's leadership works. Interns and graduates that perform well have the opportunity to visit a client site and join client calls to get a first-hand sense of what our clients do, what they need from us, and how we support them.

Graduates joining us get responsibility very quickly. For example, one group of new joiners recently helped us launch a new investment service for our clients. They worked on how it would be set up, how it would work, what clients would see online, how they would be supported, and what the marketing material for the product would look like. They managed the entire project from beginning to end.

What are the big issues in GTS at the moment?

The eurozone crisis is a major concern for us and our clients. A lot of what we've been doing over the past 18 months is helping our clients prepare for the various eventualities that could unfold. For example, creating contingency plans should one of the peripheral countries exit the euro, if one of the larger economies leaves, or even if the whole currency collapses. We've worked out how our clients could cope with these extreme scenarios to ensure they're well-prepared.

Another key issue for us and our clients is the ongoing work on creating the Single Euro Payment Area (SEPA), an initiative designed to simplify bank transfers in euros in the EU and some other European countries.

We're also always thinking about creative ways to overcome the current worldwide problem of low interest rates, which means companies earn very little or even no return from their cash reserves.

Why is GTS a great place for graduates to work?

In GTS, we get to know our clients very well because we deal with their day-to-day requirements. So it's a very different relationship to one which, for example, a trader would have with clients, who would usually deal with one-off transactions for them. We get to really understand our clients' businesses and how they operate.

I also like the fact that you have a good work/life balance here - it's not exactly a 9am to 5pm job, but it's also not usually a 6am to midnight one either!

Another great thing about the GTS department at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in particular is that we've continued to invest in our people, services and processes, and in expanding our global footprint through tough times when other banks have perhaps cut back. We're committed to taking on a wide variety of people with a mixture of skills and experiences, which means the bank is a fun and interesting place to work.

Plus, we're a global bank, and our ability to operate across lots of regions is one of our main strengths. It means there's opportunity for people here to work abroad. One person I work with has recently transferred from London to Singapore, and I've hired someone from the US to replace him. You also get to travel a lot, visiting clients in different countries - something I thoroughly enjoy. I think the opportunity to get global experience is vital for anyone coming into the working world today.

Overall, I love the fact that we get to work with the biggest names in the business world, and get an in-depth insight into how they tick and how the current economic environment affects them. Being at the forefront of influencing the future of household name companies is really exciting.

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