Hiring and Retaining Treasury Talent

Retention and career advancement are so closely linked, it is worthwhile speaking about the topics in tandem. The obligation of organisations to develop staff has never been greater. In any economic climate – but particularly the one we find ourselves in today – it is imperative that companies provide ample upward mobility and career development opportunities. Without these, companies (including treasury departments) face the loss of key staff and a loss of their intellectual capital. The cost of replacing an employee is far greater than the cost of developing an existing one. This seems like a simple concept to put into practice but it isn’t always so.

Employee retention and development are essential to sustain businesses. Treasury departments are not unique to the challenges of retaining staff, but what is unique is that most people who work outside of treasury have no idea of the scope of what happens in a treasury department, and as a result don’t have any appreciation for the skill sets of treasury personnel. If this is the case, which we think it is, it seems that companies are missing out on a great pool of talent. It also seems that treasury personnel are missing out on an opportunity to educate their fellow colleagues.

Skill Set

Developing and enhancing skill sets affords both employer and employee tremendous value. Let’s look at a broad sample of skill sets for treasury professionals. While professional qualifications are an increasingly mandatory (and attractive) skill set, there are a host of other skills that are equally important. They include:

  • Keen risk management and stress-test analytical skills.
  • Business modelling skills and the ability to forecast.
  • Excellent communications skills.
  • Being numerate with attention to detail.
  • Relationship building skills.
  • Influencing skills.
  • Knowing how to embrace technology for the benefit of an organisation (relating to operational effectiveness, process reengineering, etc).

This isn’t an exhaustive list but as you can see these treasury-specific skills are transferrable to a myriad of other roles.

By focusing on skill sets and offering employees a chance to use these skills elsewhere (even a different location) you retain so much more than an employee – you retain their expertise, influence on the organisation, intellectual capital and contribution as a satisfied (and hopefully long-term) employee. Overlooking talented employees and hiring externally is risky. And, today everyone is focused on risk management. It was reported in the July and August issue of The Treasurer that “variety and autonomy are the keys to job satisfaction”. We agree with this statement and contend that it is more important that money.

Money is a motivator but rarely is it a primary push factor for individuals leaving their employers. The same article also comments on how greater quality and frequency of communication in organisations boosts performance, engagement and accountability – and therefore retention.

Let’s return our focus to treasury skills, and consider internal mobility which for any organisation is becoming increasingly important. Treasury employees may have already interacted with many, if not all, of the different areas of the business and will have an overview of the operations and pressures of each, at least from a treasury perspective. The good news is that treasury staff should have confidence in how adaptable their skills are. Some companies are already harnessing this, and to great advantage. To illustrate, The Treasurer reports in August and September 2011 that an individual from a global bank has moved from a business solutions role to an insurance company as head of treasury, while a European treasury manager at a global consumer company has moved to an investment bank to focus on liquidity and investments. If employees can make these moves externally, we see no reason why these moves couldn’t have been made internally.

Be Assertive and Network

The ability to be creative and open minded about a skill set, and the development of that skill set, is an answer to all parts of the question posed. It is time for organisations to provide genuine long-term solutions for the issues they may face around hiring and retention. Managers need to be aware that the landscape is changing both internally and externally, and that talent should be defined by skill set and not by current role or job title.

Treasury professionals need to be assertive and thorough in understanding how to approach management about what will motivate them to stay within the business. The responsibility to change this paradigm can’t rest solely on organisations – individuals also have to take responsibility for raising their profiles within an organisation and for educating others about the treasury department. Sadly, there is “no great track record of moving treasury staff outside of finance,” says one of the deputy treasurers of a large multinational firm. It would appear to be an internal vicious circle that could be broken with relative ease.

We have talked about the obligation of treasury organisations to provide ample professional development opportunities. It is also incumbent on employees to do their part and networking is an excellent way to help advance a career. Increasing your presence and ‘getting noticed’ are important vehicles for putting yourself in the path of opportunity. Employees are equally guilty of focusing too heavily on job titles rather than focusing on the unique skills that they can offer. By concentrating on skill sets employees should be able to open doors to new opportunities thus affording them upward mobility. Employees of all levels need to consider themselves as members of a micro-society. It is your organisation’s network and your network within that, which is going to be vital for you.

The Role of a Mentor

The Treasurer this month comments how “colleagues may have better connections to a key client or prospect than those individuals with designated coverage for the relationship”. Don’t be afraid to seek out these individuals and ask for their help; collaborating and working with colleagues empowers employees to leverage their connections and increase their network with confidence.

To provide more growth opportunities for treasury staff, we recommend the use of a mentoring programme. Statistics show us that mentoring is an important part of career development. Each organisation would benefit by providing access to mentors, however formal or informal this may be. Staff of all levels would benefit from a non-treasury mentor, which would aid enabling people to have genuine business perspective rather than team or divisional opinions. Mentoring can also provide missing engagement and support, which is vital for retention. In addition, it helps to create a level of motivated, effective role models for junior members of staff who in turn feel secure.

Conclusion

There are opportunities highlighted here that all institutions and treasury departments could benefit from. Being creative, responsive and adaptable are key for keeping an organisation in business, particularly in today’s economic conditions. Make sure you don’t forget to do with same with other assets – your treasury team.

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