Concern Worldwide - Business Payments Case Study

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An Irish aid agency with global reach

Since its foundation over 45 years ago, Concern has been fighting hunger and poverty and working in long term development programmes worldwide. Committed to transforming the lives of some of the world’s poorest people, Concern now operates in over 28 countries with 3,500 staff of 50 nationalities. In 2015, Concern Worldwide directly impacted the lives of 22.5 million people (7.6 million directly) through its programmes on education, emergencies, health and livelihoods. In order to improve the effectiveness of each programme, Concern Worldwide works in partnership with governments, communities and other organisations in the world’s most deprived regions from Afghanistan to Zambia.

Concern Worldwide raises money from individuals, communities, sponsored events and companies and receives financial support from the Irish government, European Union, the United Nations, the British government and other government agencies, private donors, and major trusts.

In 2015, Concern responded to 42 emergencies in 24 countries, distributing food, cash and relief materials whilst also carrying out water sanitation projects.  In Syria, 200,000 desperate people benefited from improved access to food, clean water and materials for shelter construction. As part of its livelihoods programme, Concern has helped farmers and 1050 households across 35 villages in Chad to adapt sustainable agricultural practices, including pest control. In South Sudan , over 693 children received vaccines for whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus as part of the Group’s  Health and Nutrition strategy. Increasing access to quality primary education for some of the world’s poorest children is one of the main objectives of Concern’s education strategy and in Liberia, the Group enrolled 5,475 children in 100 schools & trained over 400 teachers.

Concern Worldwide has broad ambitions for the future, and in its strategic plan for 2016-2020 ‘Leaving no one behind’, the Group aims to benefit 25 million people annually by 2020 through the management of larger, faster and better humanitarian responses. It plans to do so by building a global Concern to meet growing challenges, adding to its international staff numbers and securing increased financial resources to implement the plan.

International payments solutions for a global NGO

90% of the funds raised by Concern Worldwide are spent on Relief and Development programmes throughout the world.  Smooth transition of funds to the destinations where it is most urgently needed is critical so the Finance team at Concern Worldwide needs to ensure that the payments system in place operates as efficiently as possible.

Naturally a significant part of the group’s payment requirement involves foreign currency . In particular, it requires an array of exotic currencies such as Ugandan and Kenyan Shillings to pay local agencies in those regions. As overseas costs are also denominated in US dollars, foreign exchange risk is also closely monitored as a strengthening of the dollar can adversely affect the group’s ability to carry out its planned programme of work. The Finance Division of Concern Worldwide has partnered with Fexco, Ireland’s leading independent provider of financial services to get the best value for its foreign currency payments and an integrated solution for its general payment processes. Cutting costs on payment procedures has been the key driver in the group’s decision to partner with Fexco but having access to a dedicated payments team who can deliver a quality service was equally important in the decision making process.

Key services provided by Fexco include the use of validation tools to ensure the timely delivery of payments to beneficiary accounts.  Financial Controller at Concern, Aoife Gleeson, commented; “we need to be certain that our international payments arrive to beneficiary accounts on time every time. Fexco’s validation tool spots incorrect bank details, alerting our staff to any issue before a payment is sent through the banking system. Not only do we save time processing payments, we have also made significant annual savings on bank transfer fees. Fexco works with our Finance team to ensure our exposure to exchange rate fluctuation is minimal and any payment queries we have are addressed promptly by an efficient customer support team”.

Fexco FileDirect integration with Concern’s accounts payable system makes payment runs transparent and hassle free. Manual data entry is no longer necessary which enables Concern’s Finance team to focus its available resources on other key priorities. “Our experience with Fexco has been of an efficient payment service willing to go the extra mile for its customers.  Its understanding of the NGO sector and its payment needs are crucial to providing a great service. As we continue to expand our aid programs globally, having a partner like Fexco gives us assurance that our payments and FX requirements are executed in a timely and professional manner” said Aoife Gleeson.

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