No longer challenged by your role? Been in your current position too long? Thinking of making a move to a new company or sector? Then read on to find out how treasury professionals can climb the career ladder while achieving job satisfaction and securing a decent level of remuneration.
As companies lift their crisis-induced hiring freezes, the job market is coming back to life. What is more, with corporates expanding into new territories, exciting career opportunities are opening up across the globe for corporate treasurers. Competition for the top jobs will be stiff, however, as – let’s be honest – after a significant lull in treasury recruitment, there will be many professionals out there with proverbially itchy feet.
This is not a reflection of the loyalty of treasury staff; rather it speaks volumes about the nature of treasury positions. “In my experience treasury roles have a three to four year life cycle,” says Mike Richards, Managing Director of MR Recruitment. “The first year is all about learning the role, the second is about applying this knowledge and the third year is focused on refining your work and your role. At the end of this third year, I find that tedium begins to sneak in.”
Former corporate treasurer, now Chief Financial Officer at Skanska Romania, Maciej Müldner, agrees: “There is a moment when your role becomes repetitive and you feel the need to learn new skills and face a new challenge,” he says. “For me this happened three years before I became CFO. It wasn’t a conscious choice, it is just something that happens and you know once it does.”
Often this turning point comes once all of the objectives that you have set yourself for your current role are achieved. “If you are satisfied you have ticked everything off – and have a proven track record of success within the treasury function – then you are on the right track to achieve your next move,” Richards believes. “But if you haven’t, this needs to be fixed before thinking about stepping up,” he advises.
Ready to go
Once you feel ready to move on or up, one of the most important questions you need to ask is: where to? And this isn’t just a geographical or company-specific question; it should address all of your additional career aspirations. What salary level would you like to achieve? What position do you wish to attain longer term? How can you secure a new role that will provide job satisfaction?
Each of these aspirations will be personal of course, but there are certain standards to work towards. The tables below, for example, provide a good indicator of the average level of remuneration attached to the various treasury roles, as well as a guide to realistic salaries in 2014, compared with 2013. This data, from the 2014 MR Recruitment Survey, is collected globally and UK Sterling is simply the current choice of base currency for the survey. Conversions can be made using the following rates: GBP £ = 1, AUD $ = 1.851, CAD $ = 1.845, CHF = 1.459, EUR € = 1.198, SGD $ = 2.106 and USD $ = 1.661.
The same survey also looks at the factors which contribute to job satisfaction. The level of job satisfaction is positive overall for the industry with 68% of respondents happy in their role, although there is a bias towards the upper echelons of the treasury department.
“From my conversations with treasury professionals,” says Richards, “the key reasons for job satisfaction are power and control. The higher a treasury professional moves within the department the more control they have over the environment and direction of the department.” Richards believes that this is why at junior levels there is less job satisfaction. “You are at the learning stage of your career and if this is not managed correctly then frustration can begin to creep in.”
This begs the question then, how can a treasury jobseeker improve their chances of landing their dream role?
Turn the tables
One of the most obvious and yet most effective tactics when answering this question is to think carefully about the skills and attributes that your potential new employer is actually looking for, rather than just focusing on what you have to offer. Often employers are not looking to take on someone who has the potential to step up into a role or to train someone internally – if the pressure is significant and there is an immediate skills gap, experience and the ability to hit the ground running are required. “Many clients I speak to want carbon copies of their previous treasurers and often want the exact same qualifications, backgrounds and level of industry experience,” reveals Richards.
Post-crisis, employers are also seeking treasury professionals who can understand the business as a whole; keep a cool head when the heat is on; and apply knowledge from previous roles or experiences, thereby adding value to the company from an operational and strategic standpoint. “Of course, the core competencies of a finance person are expected,” says Paul Pomroy Senior Vice President and UK Chief Financial Officer, North West Division Financial Controller for McDonalds. “But for those working in finance to be promoted they also need to have a strong personality and a variety of business experience.”
Chart 1: Average compensation by position
||Average base salary
||Average car allowance
||Average total compensation
Source: MR Treasury Recruitment
Diversify to improve
Diversification is the order of the day therefore. And while this may mean taking a difficult step outside of your comfort zone, it can give you the opportunity to learn new skills and can enhance your suitability for more senior and/or executive positions in the future.
Indeed, Pomroy is a fervent believer in the benefits offered by undertaking a variety of different roles in the business in your career – and he has first-hand experience of the dividends this can pay. In 2003, Pomroy was offered a promotion in the finance department; he chose instead to take a sideways step into the business strategy department. This allowed him to gain new perspectives on the business and also to progress more effectively once he returned to the finance department. “The more senior you become the more you are expected to understand the broader business,” he says “moving sideways is therefore as important as taking a forwards step sometimes. In my case I was giving up the immediate promotion for the longer-term view.”
Similarly, Müldner sees his experience in different roles of the business as vital to his career progress. “Treasury is a great job, the problem is that it is extremely specialised and you need to expose yourself to other elements of the business if you want to move up.” Without this diversification of roles Müldner believes that he “would have had substantial challenges taking up this new position [CFO]. It is something I would strongly advise to treasurers wishing to progress.”
If the opportunity simply isn’t there to move into another part of the business, undertaking some additional training may be another route to improving your career prospects.
Formal and on-the-job training
Treasury training and qualifications allow you to develop your existing skills and learn new ones, whilst also keeping up with the latest development in treasury and business. Interestingly, Müldner believes that in addition to building up one’s technical skills, training has a more pivotal role to play in the development of a treasurer’s soft skills too. And these soft skills such as, how to manage staff, he says, are a now a key requirement for any treasurer looking to progress up the career ladder. Having taken part in an internal management and leadership programme at Skanska to improve his own soft skills, Müldner explains that “although you do not get a certificate for taking part in these kinds of courses, they offer you valuable insights which can complement your technical expertise and help you get ahead.”
For Pomroy, presentation and communication skills are also increasingly sought after in senior treasury staff. “You need to be able to bring what you are presenting to life and do more than say something is happening,” he says. To develop these attributes, Pomroy recommends a mixture of classroom style learning, where you can grasp the fundamentals, and on-the-job experience which allows you to apply and hone these skills in practical situations.
Stand out from the crowd
Aside from improving your technical and soft skills, striving to add value to the business is another good way to get yourself noticed. It’s a cliché to say that you should go above what is asked of you in your role, however, if you are looking to move up the career ladder, this is certainly something you will need to do. Being an excellent treasurer is one thing, but becoming a strategic business partner to the C-suite will help you stand out from the crowd when vacancies arise.
To achieve this Pomroy suggests that treasury professionals begin to “develop a close relationship with all sides of the business and understand why the business is successful.” He believes this will “allow you to become an effective business partner and strategic advisor.” It might seem like a difficult task to accomplish, and one that is not easy to kick-start, but when a new job is at stake, proactivity is a must. According to Müldner, “you have to just invite yourself into other areas of the company. Treasury can often seem detached from other lines of the business, so you have to bridge this gap.”
Candidates that are shy or introverted must also make more of an effort to stand out from the crowd – personality is a key ingredient in the hiring process. “You need to show an inquisitive nature and explore why things are happening,” says Pomroy. It is also important to show leadership and a willingness to help those junior to you develop. “Nurturing the talent pipeline below you is vital as these will be the people you will rely on when you move up,” he adds.
Chart 2: 2014 salary shifts
||2013 Average Salary
||2014 Average Salary
Source: MR Recruitment
Finally, it is helpful to have a long-term strategy in place to decide what you want to achieve in your career – and how to get there. Moreover, having a plan should help to ensure that you progress up the career ladder in a logical way, allowing you to continually learn and gain new experiences. Müldner has successfully used a plan to shape his career: “My career path was a conscious decision,” he says. “Maybe not the places I have worked at, but the roles I have selected, I knew what I was looking for.”
Likewise, Pomroy also believes a plan is important when looking to define your career, however he believes that being ready to take advantage of opportunities as and when they occur is even more vital. “You need aspirations of where you want to go,” he advises, “but more importantly you need to make yourself the most attractive candidate when the opportunity arises. While there is a natural career path, you never know when the right moment to take the next step will present itself.”
Becoming CFO: tips from the professionals
Today, those working in the corporate treasury function have a wider remit within the organisation than ever before, and are increasingly involved in business development and executive decision-making. The good news is that this experience is invaluable, in particular for any treasurer wanting to become CFO. So, when there is the opportunity to get involved in a project that will give you exposure to new parts of the business, or allow you to get involved in high-level decision-making, be sure to put yourself forward.
As outlined above, it is advantageous to have a wider business background when looking to advance to senior positions. The majority of CFOs that recruitment expert Richards has had contact with have previously had experience in other areas of finance, not just treasury, he says.
While research indicates that the treasury skillset is proving increasingly desirable in CFO recruitment, the career path from treasury to the C-suite is being made even smoother by the creation of roles such as Deputy CFO. This kind of opening offers a great opportunity for an aspiring CFO to hone their skills and learn the ropes before stepping fully into the CFO’s shoes. So don’t feel the need to aim straight for the top – often a slightly slower or more circuitous route can be beneficial for long-term career success.