Andrew Marshall is an experienced consultant and project manager with a vast range of involvement both as an external consultant and as an entrenched in-house treasury executive. AstraZeneca is a leading biopharmaceutical company. Andrew speaks to Treasury Today from his current position as Director of Treasury Solutions at AstraZeneca…
Can you tell me a little bit about your background, your experience, and what you like most about your role?
I’ve been fortunate in my career that I’ve worked around the world in both the corporate sector in industries as diverse as Automotive, Aviation, Mining, Food and Beverage and Retail, as well as in the investment banking sector. This has given me a very broad based experience of treasury.
The great thing about working in the Pharmaceutical industry is that by the very nature of its business, it operates at the cutting edge of innovation. In the case of AstraZeneca, this is clearly evident within the Finance function. I have therefore been lucky to have been working alongside some wonderfully talented and visionary people, enabling a small treasury team to implement a huge transformation project in a relatively short space of time.
Was the treasury space a lot different ten years ago from what it is today? If so, have any fundamentals changed and what are they?
I prefer to reflect on the last three years as we are in the middle of a once-in-a-career financial crisis which has forced change upon treasury in ways that nobody could have ever envisaged. Consequentially, treasury as a function is now the subject of far greater levels of scrutiny than ever before, this having a major impact on both operational methodology and priorities. Although counterparty credit risk and liquidity grab all the headlines, we have also witnessed the rise in prominence of controls, security, audit compliance and the adherence to best practice methodologies. These are no longer ‘nice to haves’.
What impact do you feel the (on-going) financial crisis has had on the corporate treasurer? Has this enabled any positive developments?
The economic crisis has certainly put treasury back on the map, and as such its relative importance to the financial well-being of an organisation is now more apparent than ever before – from operating subsidiary right up to board level. The crisis has definitely provided treasury with unlimited free publicity and with it, increased levels of exposure. On a positive note, this heightened visibility has provided an ideal opportunity to showcase our talents and skills and to clearly demonstrate how these add genuine value to an organisation. How we choose to build on these solid foundations is in our own hands.
What are the top five areas that treasurers should focus on to optimise success in 2012 and for the future?
As an industry we need to continue to look and plan for life beyond the current crisis and to ensure that our operations are not only fit for purpose in today’s environment, but that they continue to be so well into the future. As such, my future focus areas are based around the need to leverage treasury’s new found ‘popularity’, and ensure we continue to build on this:
Use the crisis as a catalyst to ensure adequate long term budget/funding allocation to continue a policy of on-going investment based around a flexible and dynamic five year operational roadmap;
Work towards implementing the optimal operating model for your organisation and don’t be afraid to embrace outsourcing of ‘non-core’ treasury processes where this can add genuine benefit to your team;
Review and question your current operations using different approaches such as best practice reviews, time and motion studies, for example, to remove wasteful and inefficient activities from your daily processes;
Establish a culture of on-going and continuous improvement within your team to ensure that you are regularly evaluating and questioning what, how, when and why you are performing your processes. Always ensure that technology is at the forefront of all planning;
Invest time in existing vendor/supplier/banking relationships. The value of this is often overlooked, but this is a no cost activity that can pay big future dividends.
Does an experienced treasury consultant like yourself take your treasury ‘hat’ off from time to time? Can you share with our readers what fills your time outside of the office?
I have no idea why I agreed to it but some comedian in the local pub has managed to convince me to do a 70 mile cross country run from Carlisle to Newcastle. This is an example of the dangers of drinking…