How COVID Has Impacted International Transactions
This week, we sit down with Janet Reynolds, FVP & International Services Manager at CenterState to discuss the ways COVID has impacted international transactions. We also discuss the most common mistakes made when processing international transactions and how to avoid them. Janet has been in the banking industry for over 20 years, primarily focused on developing international and foreign exchange solutions for community bankers.
To get in touch with Janet, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Caleb Stevens: Hey, everybody, and welcome to Episode 16 of the community bank podcast where our goal is to help you grow yourself, your team, and your profits. I’m Caleb Stevens, the producer of this show, as well as your host for today’s episode. Our usual hosts, Eric and Tom are both out of the office this week, but they will be returning next episode. And I’m super excited for today’s show, because it’s specifically tailored for deposit operations leaders, and staff members, a group of folks inside of the world of banking that honestly, we haven’t done a lot of content for in terms of this podcast. And so, if you’re a CEO listening in, or your lender, or your CFO, we would love for you to stick around. But more importantly, we would ask that you share this episode with your operations team because there’s some content here that I don’t think they’re going to want to miss. Today I’ll be speaking with Janet Reynolds, she’s our Director of International Services here at CenterState. Or, I guess I should say SouthState following our merger earlier this year. And this is a great conversation all about the impact that COVID has had on international transactions a staggering impact I’m sure you can imagine. And we also talked about some of the common mistakes that she sees deposit operations leaders make when it comes to international transactions, and more importantly, how to avoid those mistakes.
Janet is an industry veteran; she’s been on the international side of banking for over two decades. And we are so excited to play that interview for you today. Before we dive in, I want to quickly say thank you to all who attended our capital markets forum we held last week, man, what an awesome time we had, sharing with you our thoughts on the economy, what’s next for interest rates, what the impact of the election might have, and ultimately strategies to defend your balance sheet. As you look at your 20/21 budget, as well as your three-year strategic plan. We had a great turnout of bankers from I think 19 different states. And so, if you were not able to join us, we would love for you to be part of our next live stream event, soon. As always, if you like what you hear today on the podcast, we would be honored if you gave us a five-star review on iTunes. This helps get the show out to some more community bankers like yourself. And with that, here is my conversation with Janet Reynolds.
Caleb Stevens: Janet, thanks so much for joining us this morning. How are you doing?
Janet Reynolds: Good morning. I’m great. Thanks. How are you?
Caleb Stevens: Doing well, it’s good to see you, and thank you for hopping on the podcast today, your first appearance on the community bank podcast, and our first episode geared towards deposit operations, wires, international services, that whole gamut. So, we’re just really excited for you to share your wisdom with us this morning.
Janet Reynolds: Fantastic glad to be here.
Caleb Stevens: So, let’s start a little bit with just your background, how you got into the international space. You’ve been doing this for quite a while with us at CenterState but your experience goes back to walk Cobia. So, talk a little bit about how you got involved in the international world of banking.
Janet Reynolds: Internationalism unique animal within the banking industry. It has a global reach, and you learn a lot outside of the traditional banking channels by being international. It has all kinds of elements and learning about the globe and it’s just so intriguing. It’s always been very exciting to me and 20 some years into this, I’m always learning something new and it’s exciting and interesting and it’s just a great place to be.
Caleb Stevens: Well, COVID has turned the international travel scene upon its head these past few months. Talk about how has COVID impacted what you do here at CenterState serving customers on the international side of things and how is it impacted community banks just in general with their international services from foreign wires to currency. What are some of the areas that have been impacted? And maybe what are the areas that hadn’t been as impacted?
Janet Reynolds: That’s a great question because being a global provider, it’s one of the things that COVID is not just in the US, of course, it’s around the globe. So, we’re feeling that effect all around the world. It’s not just community banks, the challenges that you’re having right in your community you’re seeing over in China and Italy, and all the other countries as well. So, if your bank struggling to get all of the wires transferred and the work are done each day, they’re seeing the very same things in other countries. Just as we see it as a crisis around the world, the globe track, the travel around the globe has ceased, and then again, you used to very comfortably travel to other countries and enjoy those vacations and all of that has been reduced and eliminated. So there very little that is going on between countries. And that’s eliminated the foreign currency requests many times in branches, you would receive requests for euros to travel for that exciting vacation, all of that business has been eliminated, we do still have a few transactions flowing through.
But it’s primarily folks who were anticipating travel who were now turning in their currency. Maybe they’ve eliminated their trip, maybe they’ve, you know, changed things. So, they’re no longer offering that service just to reduce a risk that they may have. But ultimately, that travel will come back, it’s just a matter of things improving on the virus front. And hopefully, we will see that in months to come. We’ve also seen community banks and banks around the world look at wire transfers, and a little bit different manner. They may never have accepted them by fax or email in the past, and now they’re receiving them in that manner because they eliminate that touch one on one with that consumer. So, banks have changed their processes, they’ve gotten a little more flexible, with good controls in place to assure that there are no issues. And it’s been exciting to see the industry change so quickly. But it was a little bit of a slow grind at the beginning, the month of March through May were really slow. In June, it started to pick up a bit, and the third quarter for us has shown that the industry’s come back and that we’ve all figured out how to make this work from home. So, it’s a great process and I’m glad to see the resiliency around the world.
Caleb Stevens: And I would imagine to certainly the travel aspect of international transactions has gone down you right, you and I were talking to a bank just recently that is in a college town, and they get a lot of requests for foreign currency because of study abroad and that sort of thing. And that has come way down. But I would imagine for business owners who do business, overseas or in Canada, those wires still need to be processed. And so that’s still probably something that is taking place, I would imagine Is that right?
Janet Reynolds: Once again, it slowed tremendously in March and April, May, it started to improve. And now today, it’s higher volumes than normal. And I believe that’s where the industry is picking up again. And we are starting to see those increases all across. And maybe before where you would have gone to family members and visited and taken them cash or funds to help them. Maybe today you’re sending a wire transfer. So, it has improved and grown a bit.
Caleb Stevens: Well, you recently wrote an e-book for us that I found very beneficial just reading it myself. And it’s called the seven most common mistakes made when processing international transactions and how to avoid them. And so, I wanted to go through just a few of them this morning with you. And I hope this would be helpful for our deposit operations, friends, listening to some of the common mistakes that we see our customers make, and some tips that may be helpful to them when these things come up. So, one of the ones that you mentioned in the E-book that I think is fascinating because I don’t know a whole lot about it. But you say one of the common mistakes made is a misunderstanding of the requirements of the destination country that you are sending a wire to. So, if there’s a destination country, you’re sending a wire overseas, that country has specific requirements that are unique to them. So, talk about that for a minute. And what are some ways that we can be aware of that?
Janet Reynolds: That’s a great question because really, the complexity of international wires has grown over the years. And many years ago, you could place any information on a wire, and once they got to that bank, they would take the time to figure it out and determine the account that is applied to. Today things are more automated, more streamlined. And understanding the destination country requirements is critically important. A perfect example is Germany, if you were sending a wire to Germany, they require an advance that’s a mandatory feature now on an international wire. And a lot of times we ask what is an Abbe and it’s just an international bank account number. And when thinking about that, here in the United States, we look at our checks. And we see an ABA and a maker and we see an account number. And if you push those altogether, that would be an AB band that another country would be using. So, it’s a series of numbers that identifies your particular account. It identifies the branch location you may maintain your account at. It identifies the institution that you’re banking with. So, if another person saw your IBM, they may recognize the institution that you hold your account at. So, these numbers are critically important as it passes through the banking system. So, if you were passing a wire transfer to a country that does require Albion’s now, they’re typically going to kick it back if it’s not got the proper formatting.
Other countries require IFSC codes, they may require claw bays and Mexico. Also, Canada requires transit numbers. So, there are lots of formats all around the world. And while we do not expect community banks to be experts in the US This is what international services offer is, we’re monitoring every wire that comes through our group. And when we see that wire, we look to assure that it has those characteristics on it as best we can tail to assure that format is going to match the destination institution, so far see that something’s missing, or we see that there’s a problem, we’ll certainly reach out to that institution and help them to become compliant. We’d love for that wire to go one time to post immediately they have a happy customer. And so, do we.
Caleb Stevens: I remember when we were editing the E-book, our editor, she, we thought club a minute cable, we thought it was a typo, some kind of, I think wrote back, say no, no, that’s actually how you spell it. And this is what it means. And so, you know, Case in point, right of misunderstanding the requirements of the different countries that you have to send wires to.
Janet Reynolds: Each is unique and unusual. But we can appreciate their differences. And we just like to streamline that process.
Caleb Stevens: So, the second thing you mentioned, is a lack of attention to detail. I think that sounds pretty straightforward to our listeners, but give us a little more color on what do you mean by not paying attention to detail when King in wires?
Janet Reynolds: We are all busy in the world of banking today. And it’s interesting that our wire rooms just have an unusual volume that continues to increase as days go on. And while we may Hurry and keyword transfer, or a customer may key wire transfer in a hurry, or when they’re not as focused as possible, they should be, they may transpose a number a one or an ale or a four or six something to that nature. And as we find our automated systems around the world these days, keep in mind, many banks post automatically. So, if it comes in it, they see that account number, it’s an active account number on their books, if it has a four instead of a al, they may post that if it’s a lab account, they may get those funds where it was intended for someone else. So, making those mistakes can be vital and critical to the consumer who’s anticipating that to land in a specific spot. And now all of a sudden, it’s missing because that beneficiary did not receive the funds.
So, we encourage folks in their wirings to be critically keen on those details, making sure they double-check what’s key, is it a four? Or is it a six, double-check. And if you’re not sure, and you can’t read something that could a consumer wrote, reach out to them and ask them, it’s better to double-check, it’s better to ask those additional questions than just to guess and keep it moving. The other part of that is a lot of times in the wire room, we’re so busy just to get the process moved from point A to point B, many times we fail to stop and breathe and look at any red flags that may be on that wire. So, if there’s something of concern, that could be fraudulent, it could be directed to various countries or just have unique characteristics on there. That’s out of the norm for your customer. It’s better to reach out, ask the right questions. Share your concerns with the customer that did you get your instructions by email? Did you get your instructions through a different source? Have they changed since the last time you sent this wire, anything like that you can ask? The customer helps to avoid risks that maybe there. And a lot of times in our busy world, we just fail to slow down and take a look and take a deep breath and digest what’s there. But it’s critically important in that international wire process.
Caleb Stevens: It’s kind of like growing up in math class, you may know the answer to this long equation that you’re working out. But you make one tiny careless mental error and the whole thing’s wrong. And it’s like man, I had I knew what I was doing. I had the whole thing correct. I just made that one little mental error and the whole thing comes down. So, it sounds like it’s kind of the same thing here.
Janet Reynolds: Absolutely. And having a keen eye for detail is critically important in that wire area or deposit operations area that may be pushing those wires from point A to point B. Just assuring that a keen level of detail is reviewed and everyone’s focused.
Caleb Stevens: Well, the next thing you mentioned is missing opportunities to send wires in foreign currency rather than US dollars. Talk about that for a minute. Why would someone want to send a wire and outgoing wire and foreign currency as opposed to US dollars? I mean isn’t US dollars our currency why not send it in US dollars talk about that.
Janet Reynolds: We are very comfortable talking about US dollars because that is our native currency. It’s what we use every day when we go purchase things locally. We use our US dollars and we just don’t think anything about it. It’s very common. In other countries that I would let’s just take Germany for example. They use euros as we talk about US dollars, they very comfortably talk about euros because that’s their native currency. So, let’s think of what battle wire transfer that’s going from the United States into Germany. And when it arrives there if it is not in euros, it’s going to have to stop be reviewed converted into euros and you’re going to get the rate for whatever they may charge. Maybe a premium right may not be a premium, right. And typically, that’s just going to post right through to the client. And you don’t have an opportunity to review the rate in advance.
And so, with that being the case, if the person receiving the wire, the business receiving the wire, has that in a foreign currency and their count is maintained in a currency, you’re always better to look at that right up front, is that a rate that’s beneficial to you? Is it something where it may be more beneficial to send it, you know, in a group, maybe group some wires together three or four invoices together, rather than sending four different wires to send one larger wire obviously obtain a better rate in the market typically? And it’s just a lot smoother to be able to apply that to a customer’s account in another country. So, as we talked about euros, obviously, that used in multiple countries, and sending those in euros, let you know upfront, what the radius, many times it saves funds, as any fees that are deducted along the way by any intermediary banks. If it’s already in the native currency, its usually fewer fees deducted, so it’s a little bit smoother, obviously better for the client who’s receiving the funds. And it’s just a great opportunity for you to serve your customer whale, and asking them that question, would you like to convert to euros? Or would you like to convert to that local currency? And you’d be amazed when you ask them that? They’d say, Oh, I didn’t have any idea that that was available. So, serving your customer? Well, and asking that question. It lets them know how robust your international knowledge is, and how you’re willing to help them.
Caleb Stevens: Yes, it sounds like it’s informative, as well as cost-effective. So, you hit you killed two birds with one stone, kind of keeping them in the loop of how all these things work. And the opportunities to have you have more control over the exchange rate on the front end, and let you know, as opposed to being at the mercy of the foreign country on the back end, as well as hopefully saving some money along the way. So, the last thing I’d love to cover, one of the seven things you cover in our e-book that you wrote is foreign cheque clearing risks. So, what are some of those that we need to be aware of?
Janet Reynolds: Foreign checks obviously have different clearing rules that in the United States, and what we find with most institutions, they fail to realize that the clearing rules in other countries are different. In the United States, you may have a three-day rule or 10-day rule or something that applies. But in other countries, they may have a 10 day or a 30-day rule. And they may have a six-month rule that applies that you’re not even aware of. So, every country has a different process. Obviously, foreign checks, the volume of checks in general that are cleared around the world is greatly diminished compared to 10 years ago. And as we look at that these are still high-risk items, because you don’t know if there are funds behind that, check to assure that it’s good. And when once it’s placed into the clearing method, we may know something in three or four days. But we may not know anything until 10 days have passed, or 30 days have passed. So I always recommend that anyone that’s accepting of the born check, regardless of the method that you’re clearing at all, whether it’s provisional credit or final credit, I really encourage you to assure that your client does not wire out those funds, or draw them down in some way that would put your institution at risk.
It’s basically a credit decision, are you willing to expose your customer or provide your customer credit for something that’s being deposited that you’re not sure if it’s going to clear born checks can come back months later. And if that’s the case, just making sure that those funds are good funds. One of the ways to do that is to clear it on a claim collection basis, it is a final basis does take a little longer, it’s 30 to 45 days, usually, sometimes six weeks. So, it does take a little longer to get that done. But if that’s the case, you may be safer, depending on the size of the check. So, we really do recommend that everyone be very careful in looking at foreign checks being deposited ensuring those funds are not wired out. And then just simply customers that are higher risk attorneys, obviously they’re trying to deliver something for a client, they may accept a check thinking on it’s good. I’ve got a great relationship with this client, and then not realizing that the client is depositing a check expecting that attorney to wear those funds out promptly for delivery. And with that being the case many times they’re caught up in some type of exposure there. So, we really recommend porn checks be looked at with an Akina to assure that those are handled appropriately.
Caleb Stevens: That’s really helpful. Well, folks to get the full e-book we are offering it for free. All you have to do is go to www.getmyinternationalbook.com/centerstatebank. To read the full e-book and get all seven mistakes that we see many folks make and how to avoid them. Well, Janet, to wrap up, tell us what are some of the changes that you see on the horizon? And in terms of international services, obviously, technology is changing. So quickly by the hour, it seems to talk about what are some changes you see coming in the next few years.
Janet Reynolds: International obviously is trending to speed and accuracy. That’s one of the key factors. Obviously, you can do a lot of things on your cell phone today that you couldn’t do 10 years ago. So those are factors that we do see in the industry that technology continues to improve. The formats of wires, of course, continue to get tweaked around the globe to be more efficient to ask more questions, things that require things like the purpose of payment, any information that can be shared, related to that particular transaction to help all institutions that may touch it to better understand what the purpose of funds is. Is it closing on a home? Or is it actually purchasing goods? It may have a different level of scrutiny applied to it depending on the purpose? Is it for an individual? Or is it for business? Those kinds of things that really help you to identify? Is it paying an invoice or is it to support a family member, those things are scrutinized differently, and in some countries taxed differently? So, it’s important to identify the purpose of payment as often as you can. And those things are starting to come into play more and more often, with international wires.
So, I really do feel like anything that’s risk mitigator will be a key for in the future. Anything you can do to continue to understand your client better. understand those purpose of funds, ask great questions, just don’t assume that you’re trusting every client that walks in with an international wire, ask those questions and ask the tough questions to make sure that you’re helping to protect them and their money. That increased scrutiny, the monitoring for destination countries, they’ll always be high-risk countries out there and understanding which ones they are understanding what your client may be, how your client might be involved with those particular countries. It’s just critically important.
Caleb Stevens: That’s great. Well, final question, Janet, if folks are listening to this, and they’re saying, I want to continue this conversation, or you’re really bringing up some more questions that I have, how can they get in touch with you and talk a little bit about what you do at center state to serve community banks around the country?
Janet Reynolds: Feel free to drop me an email, and I’m sure you’ll be providing that through this. So, drop me an email or give me a call, we always welcome the opportunity to help we tend to partner with our clients. We don’t expect our clients to be experts in the international arena, that’s what we do. We want to be a great partner, whether it comes to foreign checks or foreign currency, wire transfers, whatever the case may be, we want to be the go-to that you have in your back pocket to help you serve your client. Well, we are members of Swift, so it does allow us to communicate with foreign banks globally, very easily, our clients are able to use our swift code just as it is theirs. So, wires come through the central state and pass those funds right over to the client. So, it just we try and keep the process simple. And the more that we can help and the more that we can help to answer your questions helps you to serve your client better.
Caleb Stevens: We appreciate your time today, Janet, and we look forward to having you back on the podcast real soon.
Janet Reynolds: Have a great day.
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