With costs varying greatly for different bank services, companies are seldom given insight into what drives their banks’ fee structures and often can feel held hostage to high bank fees with no mechanism to address it.
Particularly since the crisis began and liquidity became tight, companies have often focused more on simple liquidity availability than in bartering for the best fee structure for that access to capital.
As the liquidity picture changes somewhat, executives are left to wonder whether fees associated certain products-–take, for example, the high fees invariably connected to letters of credit (LC) or other trade finance products—are commensurate with the services provided.
By increasing transparency into bank capital requirements, some companies have hopes that it could push banks to provide greater clarity into how they structure fees on both the borrowing side and the account management side. One corporate advocacy group that just formed in Europe—the European Treasurers Council—has even posited that lobbying might be the way forward for increasing transparency into bank fees.
However, whether Basel III or corporate advocacy have an impact, the fact remains that at present there is a broad variance in terms of different banks’ fees for the same or similar services.
As companies begin to regain some leverage in their banking relationships, a review of fee structures, an in-depth discussion with banking partners over what makes up those fees, and perhaps a negotiation process around banking fees, might be in order.