When I started at the US Treasury department many years ago as a young analyst, I was given an assignment. I was asked to review the pricing from the different banks for all government agency lockboxes to determine which bank should receive the new business. Sounded simple. We utilized an account analysis software to manage our fees, so I pulled a report for each bank for the most recent month and prepared to dive in. And then I cried.
Okay – maybe not out of sadness but out of pure frustration. One bank had 300 service line items. The other had 90. Some charged per record; others per file. Trying to compare apples to apples across 5 different major money center banks proved impossible to my inexperienced eyes. When I asked if anyone had definitions of services for each of the banks, I was handed a TMA (Treasury Management Association) Code book. (Funny how you can never see how little events today will play into your future.) The Code book did not help me in my assignment because I did not have the base knowledge to understand how to apply each code properly. In defeat, I had to tell my manager that in order to complete the assignment, I would need to call in each banker and ask them to define each and every line item first; only then could I perform the exercise. With my current priorities, I needed his permission to switch gears. They ended up hiring a consultant, paid $25,000 (more than my entire year’s salary), and the consultant completed the project in two weeks. I was in awe. I was annoyed. When I asked him how he knew how to compare the different services, he said, quite frankly, that he mostly just guessed!
A spark turned into a flame. I volunteered on the AFP (Association for Financial Professionals) Code Revision Panel and learned how to use the codes. I started monitoring the bank fees for the IRS and I saw how banks agreed to 5 years of fixed pricing in our RFP, but renegotiated higher prices within a year. When I was given the opportunity to help AFP roll out the AFP Service Code Accredited Provider program and help banks fix their assignment of AFP codes –I took it. When I learned of and met the folks from Montauk, it was a match made in heaven. MY mission turned into OUR mission: 1) To help bring clarity to the cloudy world of account analysis, 2) To help corporate treasurers and their banks to understand the world of bank billing both domestically and internationally, and 3) To complete the assignment I was given many years ago for everyone who will let me.
Managing Partner, Bank Relationship Management Products & Services
The Montauk Group, LLC.