In a world where being strategic is becoming a burning imperative for treasury, the question of how to raise the department’s profile within the organisation is one that resonates with many treasurers.
More than 150 financial professionals packed into an AFP conference session entitled ‘How Treasury Can Increase its Organisational Influence’, led off by Carrie Moore, managing director, treasury sales executive, energy and power at Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofA Merrill). She was joined on the discussion panel by Kim Sipes, certified treasury professional (CTP), director of treasury, Duke Energy; David Symons, treasury manager, Southern Company Services; and Rene Bustamante, staff vice president and assistant treasurer global cash management, FedEx.
Bustamante tackled the first topic: initiation. FedEx, which is divided into four operating companies, operates in more than 200 countries and has 300 treasury team members in three treasury centres in Memphis, Brussels and Hong Kong. Bustamante has been at the company in different roles for the past 19 years; two years ago he was promoted to his current role. At this point he decided that it was critical to get to know everyone in treasury and set a time limit of 60-90 days to meet all that reported up to him.
“The pulse of any company is at the bottom,” he said. “I wanted to build bridges and hear what treasury employees has to say – the good, the bad and the ugly. Clearly, what they were saying was that they wanted to have more strategic input in business operations.
Bustamante said that it was important to educate the chief financial officers (CFOs) of the different business divisions as to what treasury did. “It is an invisible function that is the lifeblood of the company but no one understands what exactly we do,” he explained. However, he did not just stop at educating company CFOs, but also built bridges with tax, legal, accounting, HR and sales.
“The strongest bridge is with tax,” he said. “Tax tends to move to its own beat and treasury is the last one to know what they are doing, yet it has a big impact on treasury. Understanding what each other does is the first step in building a communication pipeline.”
Duke Energy’s Sipes continued on the theme of education. With seven million customers, Duke Energy’s business relies on customer service and satisfaction, and the treasury should be no different. “Treasury’s customers are internal business customers; therefore they should be treated the same as external customers. We work in partnership with many company parts. Education is a two-way street and it is important not just to educate others but also to be educated by them.”
Sipes said that treasury initiates contact and looks to be educated by business partners first to ensure that it has a seat at the table. “We go to them and learn about their processes, pain points, objectives and incentives. All of these business units touch cash, and in a situation where cash is king, incentives are tied to efficiencies around cash.” She added that treasury has the ability to see the big picture and how each business unit fits into that picture. Once the relationship is established, then it becomes easy to tailor the treasury message specifically to them.
Symons from Southern Company Services pointed out that for treasury to achieve its goals, it needs a communication plan to get across what it wants at the right level. It is important to identify whom you are speaking to and what do they know/expect from treasury.
He highlighted a number of useful tools such as networking and mentoring groups, which can be used to promote cross-functional understanding. “It’s not just about saying this is what we do, but a great opportunity to sell treasury by connecting it something meaningful to what they do,” he said.
Symons used the example of a mentor meeting when he was asked if treasury could help with a remittance project. “Even if it is just a minor part of your job, this is an opening to do something more. Don’t throw away such opportunities,” he warned.
Build It and They Will Come
Duke Energy’s Sipes outlined a number of tips for the audience:
- Communicate both top down and bottom up.
- Know your audience.
- Give them a seat at the table and they will reciprocate.
- Share webinars, articles, etc that will help in understanding treasury’s role.
- Offer shadowing opportunities to help with knowledge sharing.
- Bring in business partners for bank and vendor meetings.
- Enthusiasm is contagious.
- Listen well, be patient and follow through.
She concluded with a specific example of how treasury was engaged to review the company’s card programme, which was made up of three completely separate schemes – management, providers, etc. The company wanted to bring all divisions onto a single card programme. One division had to be brought kicking and screaming to the table. But as soon as they truly understood the benefits, they became the biggest proponents of the card programme and treasury.
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