Over 200 entries from 35 countries made up this year’s Treasury Today Adam Smith Awards. With the judging over and the winners notified, it’s down to the prestigious Gala Presentation Lunch, held in the City of London’s Plaisterers’ Hall, to gather the treasury world’s finest and celebrate their success.
The idea that the treasury space is a community may, to outsiders, seem like a fanciful notion. After all, it is the place where highly qualified professionals operate, sometimes in intensely competitive fields, always in challenging environments wherever they are in the world.
But with entrants from as far afield as Bahrain and Brazil, Canada and Cameroon, the UK and the US, the Treasury Today Adam Smith Awards 2018 reads like a roll-call from the United Nations. And, as Angela Berry, Founder & Director of the Treasury Today Group, said in her opening speech, this is a group of people who gather “not only to celebrate, but as an opportunity to meet one another and share experiences”.
Having celebrated its first decade last year, this year’s Adam Smith Awards event was honoured with the presence of greatness, not least in the form of Adam Smith. As a Highly Commended in the Best Card Solution section, Microsoft’s own namesake of the great man himself, aptly played up to the coincidence, the audience delighting in the moment.
But if ever there was doubt that treasurers are part of a real community, the spontaneous standing ovation given to the wife and daughter of this year’s Winner of Best Cash Management Solution, Inchcape Shipping Services’ Nirpal Bharaj, displaces any such idea.
Nirpal sadly passed away a few weeks before the awards ceremony. With his family bravely stepping up to collect his justly deserved trophy – won in the face of intense competition – the genuine respect shown for this talented, vastly experienced and much-loved man is evidence that being professional and deeply caring are not mutually exclusive concepts.
As the Adam Smith Awards continue from strength to strength, this truly international cast of expert teams and their partners have delivered – and keep delivering – solutions to meet a broad range of corporate treasury challenges.
The 240-plus guests at this year’s event all have one thing in common: the belief that the determination, teamwork, collaboration, innovation and sheer hard work of the community ensures progress for all.
“Treasurers should never stop asking for advice. Those at the top needed advice and help on the way; they didn’t do it on their own. Winning the award, shows that someone from the outside has seen what I’ve done and acknowledges and appreciates my direction and focus.”
Amanda Schreiber, ICU Medical
Highly Commended Winner, Woman of the Year
The core criterion for the Adam Smith Awards is the demonstration of best practice and innovation. This can be evidenced by outstanding cost savings, above average ROI, optimisation of accounts and treasury structures, and quantitative improvements in efficiency. Cutting edge technology, tailor-made solutions, exceptional implementations, and quality accreditation are all par for the course too – singularly or in any combination.
Making the grade is not easy. With a calibre of entrants such as Microsoft, which this year scooped Best Working Capital Management and the Judges’ Choice awards, adidas (winner in the Best Risk Management category), and NIKE (Best Foreign Exchange Solution Overall Winner), treasury teams are up against some very well-known competition. And clearly the challenge is accepted with relish.
Jörg Bermüller from global pharmaceutical firm, Merck, the Overall Winner in the First Class Relationship Management category, said strong teamwork and communication has been “crucial” to success. Being able to keep everybody in the loop over a six-year project has been a test of Merck treasury’s skill and judgement. But the award, he said, gives the team “even greater recognition in the Group Finance function, and with external partners”.
With the likes of Royal DSM (Best Card Solution), STMicroelectronics (Best Funding Solution) and Carnival UK (Harnessing the Power of Emerging Technology), emerging triumphant this year, household names are not the only victors. Indeed, winners are declared at a personal level too.
This year’s Rising Star is Dominique Cachelin. Samsung’s energetic and communicative powerhouse attributes his success to the “huge number of incredibly intelligent and knowledgeable people who have had the patience to teach me”. Without them, he said, “I would not be here today”.
Amanda Schreiber from ICU Medical, the Highly Commended Winner in the Woman of the Year category echoes Cachelin’s thoughts, noting that treasurers should “never stop asking for advice. Those at the top needed advice and help on the way; they didn’t do it on their own”. Winning the award, she added, “shows that someone from the outside has seen what I’ve done and acknowledges and appreciates my direction and focus”.
Anatomy of a winner: Adam Smith Awards 2018 in brief
Use of technology continues to be a key focus in many of the solutions showcased and our Harnessing the Power of Technology category accounted for a quarter of the submissions entered. Overall Winner, Tableau Software, like many treasury departments, was suffering from a lack of visibility over its global cash position. Inaccurate short-term cash flow forecasts, and an inability to view all its investment balances and financial exposures saw it build in-house a global cash positioning and short-term cash forecasting platform. It now has 99.9% daily automated visibility to global cash and investment balances.
Other categories strongly contested include Best AP Solution, where winner, Euro-Center Holding, tackled mounting AP complexity with a project based on bank consolidation, process automation and a suite of solutions including a virtual card accounts portal.
Best AR Solution saw Maersk Kanoo Emirates victorious with a full digitisation programme that has changed its customers’ experience beyond recognition. Best Trade/Supply Chain Finance Solution Overall Winner, Brake Parts Inc, tackled its working capital management problems stemming from slow collections using a global factoring solution to benefit suppliers, the company itself and its shareholders.
As in previous years, the Top Treasury Team award was very well supported. This year, Digital Realty Trust emerged as Overall Winner, demonstrating how multiple challenges being addressed by multiple projects can deliver fantastic results, but also show what is possible if the team pulls together.
“Being able to keep everybody in the loop over a six-year project has been a test of treasury’s skill and judgement. Strong teamwork and communication has been crucial to our success. This Award gives us even greater recognition in the Group Finance function and with external partners.”
Jörg Bermüller, Merck
Overall Winner, First Class Relationship Management
Treasury is a dynamic role. Given the nature of the challenges thrown at it over time, change is inevitable. The Adam Smith Awards are a bellwether of such change. This year, strong themes have emerged. Several entries were driven by M&A activities, treasury transformation projects involving technology and projects which deliver some impressive funding, and foreign exchange with Middle East and Africa solutions rapidly rising up the agenda as treasuries grow in stature in these regions.
Indeed, Overall Winner in the former category, Alghanim Industries, impressed with a project in payment process excellence which has completely transformed how this Kuwait-headquartered company manages its payments by leveraging SWIFT.
The general geographic dimensions of the solutions are worth highlighting, with almost half being global in nature. Collaborative solutions are also prevalent, especially where banks and technology companies have partnered to deliver a particular solution. The use of treasury consultants was also more prominent in this year’s nominations, with Zanders notably helping its clients AkzoNobel, Endemol Shine Group and EQUATE Petrochemical towards Highly Commended awards in Harnessing the Power of Technology, Best in Class Treasury Solution in the Middle East, and One to Watch categories respectively.
Although this year’s presentation for the Winner of the Best Cash Management Solution, was tinged with sadness when the industry learnt of the sudden passing of Inchcape Shipping Services Treasurer, Nirpal Bharaj, it marked the celebration of a remarkable solution driven by a true professional.
Inchcape is one of the largest maritime services providers globally, with some 300 offices in 68 countries. This solution achieved visibility over 80% of the firm’s bank accounts in less than ten weeks. Key to success was the strength of collaboration between different stakeholders, both internally and externally. With a treasury operation now underpinned by world-class technology, the business is achieving its liquidity and risk goals today and can face the challenges ahead with confidence.
The full set of case studies for 2018 will be published soon.