Managing a Treasury Career in a Recession

Over the past 18 months the role of the corporate treasurer has come to the fore and its profile within the business community has likewise been raised. This is because many companies have had to manage their working capital much more closely and funding has become a crucial part of the treasurer’s role. However, this hasn’t made treasurers immune to the difficulties of career management and progression facing all professionals in a post-recession climate.

Those with experience in corporate treasury in the UK have, historically, had the benefit of working in what was considered to be a growing profession with a relatively limited number of experienced practitioners. This has given career-minded individuals the opportunity to leverage their skill set. Understanding the war for talent in this sector, employers have traditionally been careful to look after their treasury function, offering strong remuneration packages compared to their peers in other corporate functions. However, as the economic climate shifted, business confidence has plummeted.

Because of this, business focus has switched to ‘fire-fighting’ and therefore less attention has been given to longer-term planning and staff development. Headcounts have been frozen across many companies and individuals pressured to deliver on day-to-day operations, leaving less time to be spent on larger projects. Promotional and pay freezes has also been implemented and bonuses with a ‘company performance’ element have been reduced. This has led to a number of people looking for external job opportunities in order to drive their own career progression. It is worth noting, however, that redundancies within treasury teams (other than for reasons of offshoring) have remained low.

For those looking to take the next step on the career ladder by moving on it is worth noting that employers are being much more specific about the skills they require. They want to get more value from their spend and are far more conscious of non-essential spend. This naturally translates to the recruitment process. Employers want to attract candidates that are able to ‘hit the ground running’ as there is less time available for training; times of economic uncertainty are not favourable for those looking to dramatically change their scope of responsibilities or use their transferable skills to move into a different field. Requests for knowledge of specific systems have increased and technical accounting experience is more highly sought after than it was a year ago.

Professional qualifications, typically in accounting or treasury, are still required. Gaining your Associate Membership of the Association of Corporate Treasurers (AMCT) diploma in treasury is beneficial, and the Membership of the Association of Corporate Treasurers (MCT) advanced diploma is increasingly seen as highly advantageous. Accounting qualifications are highly sought after and for some professionals, broader commercial awareness can be developed upon through an MBA. Increasingly, those with knowledge of specific systems, particularly treasury management systems (TMS), e.g. IT2, eTC, are being sought for roles. Candidates that have experience in implementing systems are also in demand.

More and more employers are requesting candidates that have very specific competencies. There is more frequently a request for influencing skills and a bachelor’s or postgraduate degree, indicating that companies are seeking to attract a higher-calibre individual. Key reasons behind these changes are that employers are aware that there is a broad pool of potential candidates with the relevant experience and are therefore looking to drill down further in their specifications and be much more rigorous about their shortlist.

For those that have decided that career progression will mean moving jobs, it is no longer enough to send out your CV and hope for the best. Every skill and example of experience given will be scrutinised against the job competencies. In order to secure your next role, it is crucial to demonstrate exactly why this company needs you above anyone else. Ensure that the CV and cover letter are as appropriate as possible. This means that you will often benefit from not initially sending your CV but contacting the recruiter and either requesting a fuller job description or having a conversation about the role in more detail. This initial conversation may also highlight that you are not the right person for the job but gives you an opportunity to introduce yourself to the recruiter and, in the case of third party recruitment consultants or internal recruiters that look after large treasury teams, to explore the possibility of other opportunities either now or in the future that could be a better fit.

Treasury professionals looking to progress within the same company need to be seen to be taking on extra responsibilities wherever possible. It is also crucial to add new skills where relevant. Often a secondment to another department will help you to do this. Continuing to develop your professional network will also stand you in good stead.

Summary

  • Career management has increasingly become about what you can do to excel yourself.
  • There are still interesting opportunities for those looking to develop their career in treasury.
  • Candidates need to be a closer fit to the roles than previously.
  • Spend more time on your job application, specially highlighting relevant experience on your CV.
  • Take on extra responsibilities and ‘upskill’ within your job.
  • Update your CV regularly. It is impossible to remember all of the successes you have had within a role. Keeping a record of them will ensure that you can easily refer back to relevant examples when the time comes to find a new role.

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