Q&A with Elena Han, EMEA Treasury Back Office, Eaton Manufacturing

Elena Han is the lead analyst, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) treasury back office at Eaton Manufacturing, a diversified power management company, in Morges, Switzerland. She is responsible for the global treasury back office set up and manages Eaton EMEA region trade finance programme. She joined Eaton as a treasury analyst in 2004, after graduating with a BSc in Business Administration from Ohio State University and a BSc from Tomsk State University. She progressed rapidly at the company, first as financial analyst Asia-Pacific and then as internal auditor, both based in Shanghai, China. She then moved to Switzerland as senior analyst, factoring and EMEA treasury. She speaks five languages.

Q (gtnews): What does your typical day as a lead analyst involve? Could you describe some of your key responsibilities?

A (Elena Han, lead analyst, EMEA treasury back office, Eaton Manufacturing): Prior to August 2009, I had treasury front office (TFO) responsibilities, such as cash management, lending/borrowing, foreign exchange (FX) for cash management, factoring support, FX hedging for operations, global netting, settlements with banks, funding operations, and intercompany current accounts reconciliations at month end (in-house banking). In addition, various project-related tasks, such as FX facilities set-up, money market fund (MMF) set up, Quantum automation projects, etc.

Now I am in charge of treasury back office (TBO) team, managing two people in Pune, India and one person in Morges, Switzerland. My primary responsibilities are to oversee settlements, reporting, netting, training and team management, reconciliations and investigations, approvals and confirmations, bank reconciliations, and monitor TFO risk exposure via limit controls (position, credit, portfolio, etc).

Q (gtnews): What are your main challenges? Are they industry/region specific?

A (Han): The main challenge is to manage the team across the globe (Europe and Asia). I have worked in Asia-Pacific and it’s not the easiest environment from which to manage treasury activities and a team. For example, we have Indian banks that manage TBO and usually those banks are the ones that have the biggest problems with settlements.

Today, risk management requires more attention, as we have to closely monitor our counterparties. We are cash-rich in EMEA but we have limits on where we can place investments.

Q (gtnews): What steps will you be taking to make your treasury and cash management operations more efficient in 2011? For example, what’s on your treasury wish list at the moment?

A (Han): In terms of TBO, we would like to work more on automating the TBO operations, outsourcing to a shared service centre (SSC), changing netting system from accounts payable (A/P) to accounts receivable (A/R), and standardising operations and processes at treasury centres across the globe.

In terms of TFO, we would like to reduce the number of FX deals, and therefore focus on medium-term cash flow forecasting and working closely with operations on their hedging needs, as well as providing training and advice.

Q (gtnews): What made you interested in making treasury a career?

A (Han): I started to work in the US headquarters treasury centre and it’s a dynamic, challenging and ever-changing environment. It was very stimulating to be part of the treasury team and I really enjoyed the complexity of the field. However, I had many more opportunities for professional growth outside the treasury. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get a fast-track career in treasury if you stay in the same organisation.

Q (gtnews): And finally, if you didn’t work in treasury, what would you choose to do?

A (Han): If I have a chance to change my career, I would like to be a professor teaching international finance, risk management or treasury, or work for a non-profit organisation, such as the UN, in a project management role.


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