Expanding role of treasury creates staffing black hole, says AFP

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Corporate treasurers are increasingly expected to deal with everything from credit and insurance to business development, human resources and information technology, making it hard to find and keep qualified staff, the Association for Financial Professionals has claimed.

The role of treasury is expanding, which puts more pressure on treasurers to find great people,” said Nilly Essaides, an AFP Director and session moderator at the recent CTC Corporate Treasurers Forum in Chicago. Forum panellist Elizabeth Ewing, a Partner at Executive Search firm Heidrick & Struggles, shares this view. Organisations are increasing seeking those who have experience outside of treasury or even finance, “who bring a broader toolbox, and have the ability to move elsewhere in the organization or within the finance organisation,” she said.

There are a lot of mundane tasks that happen in a treasury world, and it’s not hard to find people who are capable of executing those tasks,” agreed Cris Barros, Treasurer at The Mosaic Company. “I think the challenge is finding people who can not only execute those tasks well, but also prepare themselves and others to take additional roles.”

As well as putting the right people and processes in place to cover treasury duties, says Barros, partnerships across the organisation are increasingly important, as treasurers take on a more strategic role within their organisations. Sean Bagan, Treasurer at Polaris, also feels that treasurers must position themselves as “outward facing” team members that can engage with those outside of their department or company on development projects, and must push back against the attitude that they simply fulfil a supporting role. “We can create a sustainable competitive advantage,” he said. “If we can do things better in the treasury group than our competitors, that adds strategic value and ultimately drives shareholder value.”

But the biggest problem, says Craig Duff, Treasurer at Sherritt International, is not finding the talent, but keeping it. “Part of retaining people is keeping them engaged and having discussions with them about how to develop their career,” he said. “Developing your career might not just be progressing up the ladder in treasury. It may force you to actually let somebody go to another area of the company and get some experience in investor relations or business development.”

Often this is the fault of rotational programmes, says Corporate Treasurers Council Director Craig Martin. “They’re stars as far as you’re concerned—and then your company has a rotational program,” he said. Tom Morrison, Director of Treasury Operations at Suncor Energy, agrees. “When you try and rotate them into accounting or somewhere else, they feel like they’re being punished,” he said.

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