Treasury Today Country Profiles in association with Citi

Treasury Insider: Why every treasurer should have (or be) a mentor

Person helping another during climbing a mountain

In this occasional series, Treasury Insider, Amit Baraskar, Vice President & Head – Treasury at Thomas Cook (India) offers his view on why mentoring is important in corporate treasury.

It is very easy for a busy treasury executive to carry on with the day-to-day without realising where they are heading. I believe that it is vital to take a step back from time to time and get a sense of direction.

This is exactly where treasury mentoring can help. A treasurer’s potential can best be understood and unveiled when collaborating with a mentor that has greater qualitative experience, and one that possesses the essential traits required for effective mentorship.

Effective mentor traits

The ‘must have’ traits:

  • A mentor must be an expert at building trust: unless a relationship is founded upon this pillar, it is difficult for both to share, understand and acknowledge each other’s strengths, weaknesses, mindset and objectives.

  • Listening and feedback are core components: a mentor has to be a patient listener and must be good at analysing and giving honest feedback.

  • The mentor needs an inspiring personality.

  • A smart approach to setting goals is essential; realistic and yet challenging are the watchwords.

  • The maturity to encourage change is vital: change in today’s dynamic treasury management space can be very difficult to deal with and when a person is in the process of adapting to change, they need guidance and empathy from trusted colleagues.

  • Domain expertise is a given: treasury is a specialised subject which can be difficult for the people outside of it to experience and understand. The real treasury pressures can be felt only by deep-diving into it. There is a need for a firm grip on the subject, unlike mentors in other fields where this may not be quite so necessary.

The ‘good to have’ traits:

  • Being a trained mentor helps both parties: ‘born’ mentors are rare, especially when it comes to treasury mentoring; formal or informal training is therefore a good skill for a mentor to have.

  • Expertise in the soft skills can be taught: today’s treasury executive needs a range of soft skills, mentors can help hone these skills.

Individual approach

It is not only difficult to define a specific format or standard of mentoring (treasury or otherwise), it also goes against the original concept of mentoring, which is to be guided by the specific and highly individual needs of the mentee.

In my opinion, treasury mentoring should revolve around establishing a connection, understanding and taking stock of progress. It is a process of self-discovery for the mentee and there needs to be a setting of realistic yet challenging goals, and preparation of an appropriate plan of action. The mentee must be able to work under guidance at a very broad level (as opposed to under close supervision). The mentor must therefore inspire and provide feedback on an ongoing basis, at least until the goals are achieved.

On a practical level, while face-to-face meetings are preferable, where there are distance or timing constraints, mentees quite often have to settle for communicating remotely. The ability and will to sustain the relationship in such conditions is therefore vital on both sides.

Personal experience

All I have said above can be demonstrated in the mentor work we have done in the treasury team at Thomas Cook India. The group CFO, Debasis Nandy, has been our most valuable mentor. Apart from the treasury function, he is in charge of finance and taxation for the group, which is spread across 21 countries and four continents. He has experience of both mentee and mentor relationships.

Remembering his days as a young mentee, Nandy says: “I am indebted to a few of my bosses who mentored me in the early stages of my career. They gave me responsibilities which helped me develop self-confidence and guided me when I was in difficulty, but purposefully never solved the problems for me. They also encouraged me to think differently and helped me to find innovative solutions.”

I believe his statement reinforces my view that mentoring should be about inspiring and giving individuals the tools to do it themselves, instead of the mentor trying to be a troubleshooter for them. It also confirms the importance of leading and inspiring by example.

With globalisation and increased awareness about treasury and finance within many organisations, there has been a raft of digital platforms developed (such as Mentorcliq, Chronus and River) that can connect potential mentors with those searching for help in their careers.

In regions such as Asia, North America, and Australia-New Zealand, I believe mentoring is fast evolving. Many companies, as well as educational institutions, already have formal mentoring programmes, while others are encouraging a more informal approach.

There is increasing evidence of mentorship programmes for women in treasury and banking too. This should help ensure more women make it into the senior roles, bringing about greater gender equality and diversity in the workplace.

Maybe it is time to give mentoring a go.