Ship management is a unique industry with some unique challenges. Treasury Today Asia sat down with Aiden Fung, Group Treasurer at Anglo-Eastern Univan Group (Anglo-Eastern), to discuss his approach at the recent J.P. Morgan Asia Pacific Treasurers Forum in Tokyo.
What is your role at Anglo-Eastern and what have you done since joining the department?
I head up the group treasury department at Anglo-Eastern. This is a new function that was created when I joined the company in mid-2016 as a result of its significant expansion and increasing complexity.
Prior to my arrival, the treasury was extremely decentralised from a geographical and organisational perspective. A large part of my role initially was to begin centralising our operations. Today we have the group treasury function that I head, looking after all the strategic and process improvement aspects of treasury. Additionally, we have teams in shared service centres located in our key markets looking after the more operational parts of the department.
As we have been centralising I have also been organising the department, building a clean and efficient machine that can support the company as it continues to grow. The first thing I did to achieve this was issue a global banking RFP so that I could rationalise our banking group, putting in place a smaller tranche of trusted partners who could support us moving forward.
Internally, I have also worked to clean up our databases and organise the data in a structured and logical manner. This, along with our banking clean-up, has created a backbone for us to be a truly strategic and value-adding treasury.
What have been the biggest challenges on this journey?
Personally, when I joined Anglo-Eastern I thought that I could just replicate the treasury structure deployed by my previous employers. However, I very quickly learnt that this would not be possible because of the uniqueness of Anglo-Eastern and the ship management industry.
As an example of this, our business model is based on receiving funding from our clients which we then distribute to our suppliers, such as the shipping companies and the crew that staff the ships. The growth of the business means we now must process many more of these high volume, low value payments and this has posed some unique KYC challenges.
This is because the ships may be on routes that pass by some sensitive countries. Also, the staff on the ships are from all over the world, including some high-risk markets for banks. Because of this, our payments quite often alert the bank's compliance engines and with bank KYC becoming increasingly stringent it means that there is a lot more work for us to do to make these payments.
My solution is to build a robotic tool that can automatically reply to a bank’s KYC questions. The concept is to recognise the key points in the bank's question, scanning our database and pulling out the relevant information, sending it back to the bank. But as mentioned previously, this is something that could not be achieved without having a robust and trusted banking group and clean database.
How have you encouraged the rest of the organisation to buy into what treasury is doing?
Change management is a huge part of what we do. We are a new department within the organisation and we have some innovative ideas of how we can save costs, extract value and generally improve how the business runs. But at the same time, we must remember that Anglo-Eastern was founded in 1974 and has been hugely successful doing things a certain way.
It is therefore crucial that treasury takes the time to go out into the business and listen to all the stakeholders, striking a balance between the old and the new. By doing so we can all move forward together and ensure the company can continue to be successful in the years to come.
What are your plans for 2018?
2018 is shaping up to be a busy year. Top of mind is fine-tuning some treasury and payment processes and rolling these out globally – you can only move forward when the whole organisation is moving together in one direction.
There is also a little bit more work to do cleaning up the system so that we can continue to harness the data that we have and build new tools that allow us to analyse it.
From a broader change management perspective, it is important to establish a set of global KPIs so that the different departments can be steered in the right direction. The challenge then will be communicating these and pushing forward with the rest of our plans.