The conversation in the HR and Recruitment workshop at Global Corporate Treasurers Forum Europe 2011 covered areas such as the role that head-hunters can play in attracting new talent to your treasury department, how treasury can promote itself more effectively internally, and which departments the treasurer may find themselves in competition with when aiming for senior management positions such as chief financial officer (CFO).
Kicking off the workshop, Genevieve Coco, associate principal from recruiters Hays Executive wanted to find out how group treasurers go about building up long-term relationships with recruiters.
To approach a head-hunter, treasurers are clearly looking for something else than they are not able to find themselves. Putting a positive spin on her profession, Coco pointed out that headhunters are paid upfront, and therefore have to finish the job. Addressing the point of how treasurers would approach a relationship with a head-hunter, one of the group treasurers in the room made the point that the recruiters need to do full research into the business and the industry it operates in before they can start talking about the treasury department and its needs.
A Career Within Treasury
Moving onto the main discussion, and a group treasurer based in France looked at some of the challenges treasury may have in attracting suitable staff to the department. This group treasurer described the function as being attractive, but that there is still a perception in some quarters of treasury being in an ‘ivory tower’. And if you are able to attract people to the department, it then takes time to learn the higher level skills required for the role. At the same time, candidates who would be very suitable for the treasury department could also be courted by the controllership function.
Throughout the workshop discussion, the slightly uneasy relationship between treasurers and controllers was apparent. A consultant in the meeting suggested that there are two types of treasury professionals – there are of course treasury specialists, but it is also possible to become a group treasurer if you have worked in the controllership function. The idea of a succession path within the treasury department was portrayed as being a real struggle by a number of treasurers in the room. On the human resources (HR) side, it was pointed out that if you think you only need someone in a certain position for a fixed period of time – for example, for three years on a specific project – you need to tell this to prospective candidates as early in the hiring process as possible, along with salary expectations, turn-over and organisational responsibilities.
Pursuing the succession path idea, a group treasurer in the workshop suggested that the fast track to go to a senior management position is to be a controller: “the bag carrier for the CFO” as one treasurer described the role. A US treasury professional pointed out that, while accounting looks backwards, treasury looks forwards – recognising areas such as the supply chain and cash flows, for example – and that this is something that treasurers need to find a way of promoting within the organisation.
The problem of treasury not being seen as department for your career, but instead as a stepping stone to somewhere else within the organisation, was picked up by a group treasurer from Switzerland. He suggested to the other delegates in the workshop to consider the role of head of tax – there’s not many people in this role questioning “what next?”, as they’re the head of tax and they’re perceived as having made it. This treasurer posed the question as to why treasurers seem to want to ‘get out of their box’? Again he linked this back to the need to promote the role of the treasurer internally within the organisation.
The point was made that, while a controller can be seen as a safe pair of hands within the business, they would be a “terrible” appointment as CFO. Succession in many cases can depend on what type of role the CFO of your company already plays. If your current CFO is strategic, they are likely to recognise the value of the forward planning that comes from the treasury department and bring the treasurer into things more. However, if the CFO is effectively a ‘super controller’, it is highly likely that a controller will replace them and that the treasurer will be squeezed out.
The issue of demonstrating the value that treasury brings to the organisation was one of the key themes of this workshop. A vice president (VP) of treasury said that this was clearly required in order for a treasurer to advance their career.
However, he suggested that there are two different approaches to treasury – specialist and generalist – and that to forge a successful path to senior management, it is likely that the treasurer has to demonstrate skills in both of these. It can be all too easy for a treasurer to become boxed in to the specialist side, but it’s actually on the generalist side where treasurers can fully demonstrate the value added side of their job.
A group treasurer in the room explained how, in her role, she had a number of positions reporting to her – the VP finance, treasurer, credit controller and accounting – and that she reported to the CFO. She emphasised the need to create a culture that other members of the team wanted to be a part of, adding that you shouldn’t let the HR department create that – she saw it as absolutely her responsibility. A number of other treasurers agreed, with one echoing the point that as a group treasurer you have to have a really good core set of people on your team – people who want to do their jobs as well as possible.
Rounding off the free-flowing discussion, another group treasurer identified risk management as the topic that sets treasury apart in certain areas. This group treasurer also agreed that treasury is selling itself short, and needs to promote its competitive advantages to both the rest of the business and to senior management.
Overall, this workshop suggested that treasurers may well need to add another role to their already hectic workload – that of a marketing manager. Treasury needs to be marketing itself to potential staff members, other functions within the business, and to senior management.
Treasury doesn’t have to be seen as a stepping stone to another department, but that it can instead provide a dynamic and innovative career that adds demonstrable value to the business. The strategic side of the treasury function also equips treasurers for senior management roles, such as that of CFO, if that is the direction they choose to go. But without ‘pr-ing’ itself effectively and in a much clearer way, the treasury function risks slipping back to its position pre-credit crisis, when the attention of the CFO, and especially the board, was much less focused on the department.