Sundeep Arora joined the treasury team at WPP in 2013, after previously working in broader finance roles around the world. Here, Sundeep speaks to Treasury Today Asia about the biggest challenges he faced when first joining a treasury department, what makes treasury a great role and his advice for those considering a career in the profession.
After working in a number of different finance roles, what made you move into treasury?
In my previous roles at Adobe and McKinsey, I focused primarily on the reporting and analysis, in which exchange rate movements had significant impact on operational performance. It is a fascinating aspect of the finance world and one I was interested in pursuing further. The remit of the treasury profession encompassed not just foreign exchange but all aspects of business risk, so in many ways it was a natural progression. I also enjoyed looking at the micro and macroeconomic factors underlying business and market volatility.
One of the key duties of the treasury function is to analyse market factors such as risk and liquidity, assess their impact, and provide advice on actions to mitigate possible adverse impact on the company operations. So, being able to use my analytical skills in an unpredictable environment was one of the primary reasons that I decided to move into the treasury profession.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of the role and has it lived up to your expectations?
Treasury is a wonderfully complex area as risk exposures have a wide geographic reach, impacting operating companies in multiple ways, from a plethora of evolving regulations in developing countries to varying degrees of market maturity. The economic and geopolitical environment in Asia Pacific also has a large impact on operations, constantly offering unexpected challenges, requiring treasury teams to always be alert.
These factors make the profession very diverse in terms of the skills required, and provides many learning opportunities. I meet and work with a wide range of people daily, including: bankers, procurement specialists, acquisition teams, board level executives and legal and tax experts. This offers the opportunity to learn how different areas interact with treasury and the wider business. The idea of constantly learning is one of the strong appeals of the profession for me and it has certainly lived up to my expectations in this regard.
For you, what were the biggest challenges in the first six months working in the treasury function?
My primary focus when I joined WPP was to develop the reporting and analytics infrastructure for the organisation’s treasury operations. But shortly after joining, I realised that, although this was my primary focus, there are many elements that are involved in the process and many other functions in treasury that I also needed to understand. These areas, including cash management, risk management and working capital management, were quite new to me so getting up to speed with these topics was a big challenge. In fact, this was the biggest challenge in the first six months and is still ongoing because the scope of the treasury function is large and ever evolving.
What has helped you overcome these challenges?
Talking to people in the industry and learning from them is an invaluable tool. My treasury colleagues at WPP are all professional treasury specialists and have a wealth of knowledge that I have been able to tap. The team at WPP has also been very helpful in answering all of my questions or pointing me in the right direction to find the information that I need.
Elsewhere, I try to attend as many seminars, conferences and events that are focused on the treasury profession as possible. Not only do these provide a great opportunity to hear about the latest trends and what other corporates and banks are doing, but it also allows you to meet other treasurers and build the network of peers that you can learn from. Another way that treasurers, both new and experienced, can enrich their knowledge is by reading the wide-range of magazines, journals, internet reports and reports by the banks that are available, this again allows you to hear about the latest developments and about what your peers are doing.
If you had a word of advice for anyone looking to join the profession what would it be?
Do it, treasury is a great profession to be in! There are however, some areas that it is helpful to have an acute interest in. Firstly, you have to be interested in number crunching and enjoy developing insights from the numbers that can then be applied in practice. Secondly, it is important that you are interested in the global economic and geopolitical environment and have a good sense about what is happening and how this may affect business. These are the two areas that for me are key for anyone looking to join the profession.
With the role of treasury being so demanding and there always being lots to learn, can you share with our readers how you relax outside of the office?
When I am not spending time with my family, I enjoy reading about finance and economics. As I mentioned, this is a passion of mine so I am lucky that my main interests directly reflect what I have to do in my job. I am always learning.