There is a pressing need for the role of the treasurer to be more strategic and adaptable in today’s economic climate. Liquidity management has become a key concern in Asia. As companies in Asia continue to grow rapidly and expand across the region, they will encounter a number of challenges, ranging from increased competition from local businesses also focused on growth to increased counterparty risk.
We will focus on the talent needed to fill positions within general risk management and treasury reporting – roles that have come to the fore particularly in such a testy economic climate where most organisations are proceeding with caution.
Today, treasury professionals are in good stead within the job market and many companies continue to struggle to find quality talent. While the traditional skill sets have remained similar over the years, organisations are now on the lookout for treasury professionals who are able to add value with ‘soft’ skills. These are skills that help a treasury professional to navigate the complex interpersonal relationships within a company.
What Skills Good Treasurers Should Have
Within the treasury risk arena, professionals need to possess knowledge in liquidity and balance sheet risk, as well as asset liability management (ALM). These are the professionals who ‘police’ the traders to ensure they stay within boundaries.
Treasury risk professionals need to have a good understanding of treasury products, particularly as banks expand their product ranges and there are more assets to manage. Treasury risk is an extremely niche area where both supply and demand are limited, even while hiring continues. Organisations are wary to expand within this area, particularly during an uncertain global economic climate. The key operative for organisations now is to go into ‘savings’ mode rather than increase trading activity. In fact, several trading desks were shut down recently amid the wary global economic sentiment.
For professionals specialising in treasury reporting, it’s all about numbers. Strong numeracy skills, attention to detail and good modelling skills are all crucial for those in treasury reporting. A sound understanding of international finance accounting standards is important, especially with a constantly evolving regulatory environment.
Soft Skills are Crucial
While technical skills are important for treasury professionals, employers look for professionals with soft skills too. Communication skills are extremely vital for treasurers, as they need to liaise with various departments across the bank. For those working in risk, it requires a deft balance between being communicative, yet firm at the same time to stand one’s ground amid the potentially ‘aggressive’ traders. Within the treasury reporting zone, good emotional intelligence becomes more important as you move up the ranks and have to deal with more stakeholders.
Managing the corporate balance sheet alone is not enough in today’s context. The drop in asset values and the prolonged freeze in the global credit and liquidity markets have left question marks hanging over the real trading value of numbers on the balance sheet. Treasurers therefore need to make critical judgements about matters that go beyond the latest accounting statements. They need to assess risk and make strategic assessments that call for a broader knowledge of current developments in the market.
Strong Communication Skills
Treasurers today need to participate in board meetings and translate financial findings to be presented to the board. The global economic downturn has put a premium on liquidity and some corporate boards have turned to their treasurers for fuller and more frequent briefings.
In light of today’s uncertainties over balance sheet valuations and short-term liquidity, most boards are looking for reassurance on the financial health of their companies. To prove this, treasurers will need communication skills that have not always been a priority in the past. They must have the self-confidence to communicate difficult and complex messages, and to work with board directors in ways that previously were more identified with the role of the chief financial officer (CFO).
Changes in the Regulatory Environment
There is a lack of professionals specialising in treasury reporting within Asia-Pacific. As Basel III becomes the new standard, several Asian countries are catching up and will require professionals with Basel III knowledge to help them achieve this new standard. The implications of Basel III will be felt in the near future as pressures from the market, general public and authorities grow in significance even before the actual implementation anticipated for 2015.
New Basel III liquidity regulations will compel many Asia-Pacific banks and regulators to make the necessary changes, and this is where treasury professionals come into the picture. Navigating increasingly complex regulatory environments, clearing systems and exchange controls, combined with the volatility expected to continue across financial markets, means that the role of a treasurer is set to become even more challenging.
As Asia’s financial markets evolve, they will provide significant new opportunities for companies to better manage risk and working capital. As such, the progressive, well-informed treasurer will play an ever more important role in determining the success of an organisation.
How to Find Treasury Professionals
With niche roles within treasury risk, gaining access to a wider database of quality talent whom otherwise may not be open to opportunities in your organisation can be beneficial.
Some roles, such as a treasury risk professional, can be very niche and a recruitment partner can provide crucial assistance in filling this position. Also, expand your database by networking or by joining specific groups on LinkedIn to search for key individuals who may be a potential fit for the role at hand.