For Cale Bennett, Group Treasurer at Australian gaming giant Tatts Group, treasury is a role that demands creativity and flair if it is to add genuine value to the organisation.
What is your philosophical approach to the role?
I want the treasury department to add value to the organisation, be this through conventional methods or by ‘thinking outside of the box’.
Although it is vital for treasury to be compliant and adhere to its policy I don’t think that this makes it simply a support or compliance function – a belief that is commonly held.
As a result, in my time at Tatts I have worked on a host of projects and taken steps that have all sought to add value and show the worth of the treasury department. These include the renegotiation of debt lines and the implementation of an innovative hedging strategy.
In doing so, treasury has been able to bring tens of millions of dollars of added value to the company over what the market has offered naturally. Treasury has also been a significant contributor to net profit after tax (NPAT) uplift for each of the past three years.
To become a consummate treasurer, what skills are needed?
To be a great treasurer you need to know the profession inside out and be respected for your professional knowledge. When dealing with the banks this is especially important. I don’t want to sit in a room with highly incentivised bankers and not be respected as a peer. The smartest people in the room can’t all be on one side of the table – or the outcome will be similarly one-sided.
In the world we live in now, I believe that treasurers also need skills that translate beyond the realm of treasury. For instance, I have taught myself how to program. I am certainly no expert, but a capable amateur.
This has served me well though and I have been able to build a few solutions that we use in the treasury department that has helped streamline processes and save considerable hours per annum.
What is your view on the current wave of regulation sweeping across financial services?
The new regulatory paradigm puts a renewed emphasis on the need for treasury professionals to be technically excellent.
Banks complain that regulation is making their lives more difficult and more expensive. But really it provides a big opportunity for them to use regulation to make more money. Information asymmetry has always been a source of income – if the banks know more than the corporates about these regulations then they can use this to get the outcome that they want. This is why I believe it is so important to keep abreast of changes in regulation and the different ways that banks implement them.
It is also important to challenge regulation and the myths that sometimes can exist around it. I spend a lot of my time trawling through different regulatory documents to find the opportunities to challenge the status quo and drive value.
What about fintech – how do you see this transforming the treasury profession?
I am watching this space closely, but development is slow in the treasury world. The issue is that at present, the vast majority of all fintech is in the business to consumer space. This is because building enterprise level solutions is challenging and although fintechs have plenty of people that are good at the ‘tech’ side, the ‘fin’ knowledge primarily still sits in the banks.
Today, I still seem to spend a crazy amount of time filling in paperwork for the banks. It amuses me to the point of distraction, especially when I talk to the banks and they enthuse over their innovations. For the corporate treasurer, the banks taking a step back and removing some of these paper processes would be a great innovation. Nevertheless, I believe that banks will be forced to be more nimble and adaptive in the coming years due to the emergence of fintech.
The inside view
A full interview with Cale Bennett who talks in more detail about these topics will appear in the March/April edition of Treasury Today Asia.