Moulding Talent in Treasury

When treasury departments decide to bring on new staff members, it is crucial to first look at the initiatives they have in place and where they want to take their organisation. “You have to think about the skill sets of the people that you’re counting on to take you there,” said one TAG member. “Is there a deficit? How do you develop that group to close that gap? This is the team that you need to perform, whether it’s at a financial institution (FI) or in a corporate environment. How are you going to get them to have those core skills that you need?”

Another TAG member, who works for a major FI, said that his organisation spends a lot of time thinking about how to get entry-level talent to better understand the business. His organisation recruits about 75 entry-level individuals into its corporate banking training programme annually, with about one in three ending up in treasury management. “We hire people with good financial skills; we want them to be able to cut any part of corporate banking,” he said. “But they don’t know our business. The most they get in an undergrad curriculum is a couple of days on cash management or short-term investments.”

 

The member said that it would be beneficial for organisations like AFP to collaborate with certain schools and help them better prepare tomorrow’s financial professionals at the undergraduate level. “It would be good for the whole industry—some schools we could all rely on, where there is involvement of the professors with AFP. We have a few of them now, but it’s not deep enough,” he said.

Personality is Key

There is a significant benefit to hiring a younger person and moulding their professional development, noted one treasurer. The key is finding individuals who have the right characteristics, rather than people who already know how to do everything. “You should hire people with the right personality traits,” he said. “There has to be a foundation of personality there, and sometimes that’s hard to assess. But if you get a person who is smart and has a willingness to learn, you can mould them to do anything.”

Another member agreed. “If the person is smart, has a good attitude and they want to work hard, I think you can teach them,” she said.

One treasurer was even more direct in her approach to bringing in new talent. “I don’t actually care what they know, and don’t care what they’ve done before,” she said. “I care about their ability to learn, their energy and their motivation. I can teach them about finance. As we think about our business, we build in a lot of training time. We found it has worked.”

Another treasurer said she will actually ask potential staff members if they are willing to ‘feel really stupid for a prolonged period of time’? “‘If that’s not your personality; if that’s going to be utterly crushing and discouraging to you, this is not the right position for you,’” she said. “‘You’re not going to ‘get it’ for about two to three years. You’re not going to feel like you’re truly adding value for that time.’”

Branding Treasury

In the years since the 2008-09 financial crisis, the treasury function has gained wide recognition. Still, it is imperative for the department to remain part of the conversation. Treasury must continue to not only develop its staff, but also to further develop its own role in the organisation.

“How do you brand treasury? I think if you go back five or six years, the perspective of treasury was that it was a back office operation that supports the company,” said one treasurer. “We have branded ourselves; we have to be in the discussion, upfront. You have to push yourself out as a leading department.”

The concept of treasury getting out in front and becoming a change agent for the organisation is the theme of this June’s upcoming CTC Corporate Treasurers Forum in Chicago, noted Craig Martin, executive director of AFP’s CTC. “It’s making those changes, looking at the future and getting involved in different areas where treasury didn’t used to be,” he said.

Increasing the prominence of treasury in turn plays a key role in attracting talent. It can be difficult to find interest from people who are right out of school, noted one member.

However, there has never been a better time to get young people interested in treasury, said another member. All of the best business schools are expanding their technology programmes, he explained. “If there’s one space where finance and technology blend, treasury is it. We are in a good spot to cultivate people’s opportunities early on, so they’re not starting completely from scratch.”

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