Silver Zuskin has accumulated global experience across multiple functions including treasury, accounting, business process and trade finance. This has prepared him well for a life of change within one of the world’s best-known tech multinationals.
Describe your journey into treasury.
My financial career started in 1997 in the Slovakian office of a multinational telecoms business. No one had the notion of treasury at the time so I started building out the function from scratch. I added more activities such as payments and collections, credit risk, FX and bank relationship management, expanding the role into a recognisable treasury function.
With the same company I then spent time in Germany in a regional treasury, before returning to Slovakia and my own small team. I moved away from treasury briefly, taking on an international corporate role in France where I worked to define, create and deploy an SAP-based solution for small and mid-sized entities within the group but at a global level.
This exposed me to a very deep inside view of all those business processes internationally. This was the game-changer for me. I believe that looking at treasury only from one angle might restrict your perspective and not allow you to understand the views of other finance groups and other territories. Taking that wider view enables you to increase your own level of competence as a treasurer.
Is treasury strategic?
Since I joined Dell in 2006 it has become a highly acquisitive business and has worked to extract value from each new combination. I think treasury has played a vital role in enabling this. When we acquired EMC Corporation in 2016, for example, there was a shift from cash-rich to leveraged, with treasury managing both the funding of the transaction and the subsequent financial re-organisation. Treasury has undergone some major changes in this time too, centralising operations and building out our cash management Centre of Excellence. In July 2018, we announced plans to return to public trading and treasury will again be involved in planning.
With each big event, treasury has been pushed into the limelight to an extent and it has been vital for us to be more business-oriented, and good communication skills have been essential. Often it comes down to actively listening to what the business needs to be able to carry out its strategic intentions, and then for treasury to find the best solutions. We are definitely a strategic player!
To what extent does diversity play a part in Dell treasury’s success?
To start with, an international outlook is essential. At Dell, we need to work with people from all corners of the planet and so need to be sensitive to cultural differences when trying to meet the goals of the business. It’s not always easy to grasp the nuances of human interaction so we have created a learning and development programme to which treasury has ready access, online and in person.
On a personal level, one initiative that is dear to my heart is MARC (Men Advocating Real Change). It’s a community for men committed to achieving gender equality and diversity in the workplace that has been operating since 1962.
At Dell we have made MARC a cornerstone of our strategy around diversity, making it a strength of the company – although we have broadened it out beyond gender equality, renaming it as ‘Many Advocating Real Change’. At a regional level, and within the team in Bratislava, the approach to diversity is fully incorporated as part of the necessary education and development of all staff.
What is your view on learning to be a successful treasurer?
I have Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) and Certified Treasury Professional (CTP) qualifications and so I advocate classroom learning. I always support my team in their undertakings too, with full backing from Dell, but I am also keen on informal learning. I think attendance at major networking conferences and other events delivers many opportunities to seek out additional information and industry views from our treasury peers.
But it’s about more than technical skills. For junior treasurers and those seeking to move into the profession, I would say gain as diverse an experience of business as possible at an early stage. Try to take on roles in other countries wherever possible or seek out a position with a global organisation. I believe this will help form a truly international perspective. Then you need to really nurture your business skills and understanding so you can actively provide solutions and engage with the whole organisation. It is essential to keep learning.