The European Treasurers Council (ETC), sponsored by Deutsche Bank, held its inaugural meeting in Zurich with discussions around the evolution of the corporate treasurer’s role and the methodology behind benchmarking.
The ETC is a high-level group of corporate treasurers that will meet four times a year in different cities to discuss issues of mutual concern under the Chatham House Rule, influencing editorial policy and setting the agenda at gtnews, as well as suggesting new research and reports intended to benefit European treasury as a whole. ETC membership will be restricted to senior treasurers and will be expanded by referral to around 200: new members must be proposed by a member or invited by gtnews.
Members said they looked forward to achieving an international flavour for the ETC, which would bring a variety of treasurers from around Europe, depending on the city where it was held – in 2011, sessions will take place in London, Frankfurt, Brussels and Zurich.
Consistency in fee structures and billing was a key discussion topic, with many members expressing frustration over a lack of transparency and querying whether fee levels were in line with the level of service provided. Members were therefore keen that a key feature of the organisation would be lobbying banks. Those present agreed that standardisation must happen across the board, rather than being restricted to the largest companies. Inconsistent electronic billing (e-billing) roll-out was also seen as a problem.
Know your customer (KYC) regulations were seen as one of the biggest pain points for treasurers, with some banks apparently taking these to extreme lengths that could impede the day-to-day working of a business.
One highly topical issue raised was the threat of a two-tier euro caused by sovereign failures within the EU. ETC members suggested bringing in an economist to examine the potential ramifications for corporate treasurers.
The mobility and prospects of treasury staff were also discussed in the session, with members exploring the different attitudes to working in treasury among the senior staff versus the more junior, operational levels. Several members agreed that working in treasury was not seen as a ‘job for life’ as it was in other professions. The role of the treasurer was a matter of some debate, with some present arguing that the role had developed to become more strategic and highly-valued, while others believed that a vacuum had been left by the automation of many functions that had not yet been fully resolved.
Attitudes to benchmarking also varied. Several of those present believed it had value, although more to generate ideas than as a best practice blueprint, while others said that the range of treasury experience negated its usefulness.
The meeting was followed by an informal lunch for the treasurers to discuss what they had gained from the session and what they hoped would emerge from future ETC meetings.
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