On Tuesday 14th June 2022, the brightest stars from the international treasury universe gathered in central London to celebrate their outstanding achievements at Treasury Today’s 15th Adam Smith Awards. Our congratulations to this year’s winners.
Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (whose other masterpieces include Britain’s iconic red telephone box), the magnificent rooms of the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel this year played host to treasury’s top talent from around the globe.
In the year when, at long last, the challenges of recent times appear to be giving way to a long-awaited normality, the Adam Smith Awards 2022 celebration dinner marked a return of confidence and a renewal of hope for the industry. More than just a networking opportunity combined with a sumptuous meal, it was a chance for corporate treasurers to receive their awards in person in the company of their peers, colleagues and partners.
Since its launch in 2008, the Adam Smith Awards has been recognised as the premier event in the international treasury calendar, setting the benchmark for the entire industry. With submissions coming from a wide range of global corporates, national companies and government departments, the Adam Smith Awards showcases innovative solutions produced by treasuries both large and small.
Over 230 nominations were received this year, with an impressive 34 countries represented. Attracting the very best and brightest of corporate treasury’s innovators, the degree of creativity, endeavour and enthusiasm shown in this year’s entries meant that the decisions faced by our judges were more difficult than ever.
Guests arrived via Scott’s Grand Staircase of iron balustrading and Gothic detailing. In the Ladies Smoking Room (harking back to an era when men and women would retire to separate rooms after dinner), the event began with a lively drinks reception. In this sumptuous space of marble fireplaces and gilded ceilings, winners and their partners took the opportunity to mingle and network. For some, this was the first attendance at such an event in over two years.
Extending a warm welcome to guests, Meg Coates, Treasury Today’s Joint Publisher & Head of Operations, gave full acknowledgement to the tremendous upheavals and challenges faced by everyone in recent times. “The landscape has changed so much,” she reflected. “The evolving solutions that you are all working on and delivering are true testament to the intellectual strength and innovative thinking driving top treasury teams globally.”
Pointing out that the Adam Smith Awards have always been an important milestone for the treasury community, she paid tribute to an industry that has endured many hurdles in recent years, and which has struggled to find opportunities to get together in person.
“We are so thrilled to bring you all together here tonight and to share in your triumphs,” she said. “As we move away from the restrictions of the pandemic, it is important to bear in mind that we are still operating in a time of global upheaval and political instability, as is visible in much of the work that you are all doing at present.”
Meg then handed over to Sophie Jackson, Joint Publisher & Head of Strategic Content, who said a few words about the evening’s support for Ukraine and introduced special guest speaker Andrei Kirilenko, Professor of Finance, Cambridge Judge Business School and Founding Director of the Cambridge Centre for Finance, Technology & Regulation.
A former Chief Economist of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, his research interests centre on the intersection of finance, technology and regulation, including the design of automated financial markets and instruments. In his speech, he talked about the recent events in his homeland and shared his personal experiences, urging everyone in the room to reflect on unfolding events and to consider how personal choices can have far-reaching consequences.
During the speeches, there was a reminder that all the winners of the Adam Smith Awards 2022 will be celebrated throughout this year’s Adam Smith Awards season.
The next stop
Following the reception, guests made their way to the Hansom Hall, an event space dating from the golden age of railway travel. This unique and memorable venue saw treasury’s best and brightest arriving to collect their awards and enjoy dinner. Some of their achievements are included below – but these represent just a small selection of this year’s success stories. Further details of each winning solution or personal award can be found in Treasury Today’s case studies, which will be published on our website in July.
Innovation in cards
In the Best Card/E-Cash Solution category, the Overall Winner was Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group. The award was collected by Group Treasury Manager, Lynda Ihenacho.
Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group is a family company with businesses ranging from retail to construction and property. In order to create payment processes that would facilitate the Group’s 2025 vision of achieving complete digitisation, the treasury undertook a review of its payment processes. Of particular concern was the approval process, which required original copies of invoices to be approved by each department head – and in some cases by the Group CFO – before being sent to the authorised signatories.
Working with its banking partner, the company designed a process flow for making vendor payments utilising purchase cards (P-cards). Since these P-cards are restricted at the merchant level (ensuring that cards are only used at the agreed merchants), the Group has achieved additional security, while avoiding the need for approval processes. This migration of payments from cheques to P-cards has automated the overall process, enabling staff members to be allocated to more strategic initiatives, and resulting in resource hour savings and lower overall costs.
The Overall Winner of the Best Supply Chain Solution award was Pepco Group. The award was collected by Head of Treasury, Adam Krayevski together with Mateeusz Siwa, Finance Project Manager; Jay Navaratnam, Head of Financial Accounting; Martyna Bobowik, Category Head Buyer, and Agneeshkuh Stefanniak, Liquidity and Treasury Operations Manager.
Pepco is a European chain of discount shops headquartered in Poland with 20,000 employees and 4,000 stores in 16 countries. During the pandemic, with lockdowns forcing stores to stay closed and/or restrictions placed on the merchandise sold, the group decided to extend payment terms to its suppliers from seven-15 days to 30 days, and later 60 days. In order to minimise the impact on its suppliers in Bangladesh, China and India, the company decided to use a supply chain finance (SCF) programme that enabled suppliers to be paid in ten days.
The programme is one of a handful of programmes that offer local currency payment in China, with Bangladesh to follow shortly. In addition, the future extension of the programme to suppliers in Central, Eastern Europe and Turkey is expected to include multilateral agencies like the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
The Overall Winner of Best Sustainable Treasury Solution was Tesco PLC, with the award collected by Alex Ashby, Head of Treasury; Julian Redhead, Treasury Manager, Europe; and Nina Sengupta, Treasury Manager, UK and Ireland.
Aiming to support its many suppliers in the UK and the Republic of Ireland in tackling climate change to access lower funding costs, Tesco became the first UK corporate and retailer to deliver a supply chain finance solution with a sustainability-linked element focussing on the environmental pillar of ESG.
Innovation was needed to develop a balanced ESG scorecard which would not only employ a strong sustainability methodology, but also be accepted by the company’s suppliers. In the end, the decision was taken to create an in-house solution using innovative technology elements, such as a middleware with secure file transfer protocol (SFTP) connectivity to the bank for the six interfaces required. The middleware not only enables central automatic reconciliation and posting to Tesco’s Oracle Fusion general ledger, but will also enable the roll-out to other Tesco payables platforms in the future.
In the Best Digitisation Solution category, the Overall Winner was the International Organization for Migration (IOM), represented by Group Treasurer, Malcom Grant.
The IOM is the UN agency tasked with migration and associated projects. It operates a central treasury hub in Geneva, with a back office service centre in Manila. Seeking to overhaul its cash management, payments on behalf of (POBO) and processes around sharing donor receipt data, the agency’s main challenge lay in the need to expend funds locally via accounts with approximately 200 banks – not just in major currencies, but also in most of the world’s exotic currencies.
In two innovative solutions, several very different platforms were connected in an integrated manner, eliminating substantial re-keying of data, reducing human generated error, and reducing lead times on processes from three-to-five days to one-to-two days. The automation also provides capacity for upscaling in order to cope for predicted future increases in demand, takes account of different time zones to ensure trading for exotic currencies during live trading, and includes additional controls and validations to reduce risk.
The Overall Winner of Best in Class In-Country Treasury Solution, a new category for 2022, was Sun King (Greenlight Planet Kenya Ltd). The award was collected by Krishna Swaroop, Group CFO.
Founded in the USA in 2007 as Greenlight Planet, and recently rebranded as Sun King, the company has been an early pioneer in the off-grid solar industry. Operations in Kenya began in 2014 and since then the company has secured a strong pay-as-you-go market share, selling over 17 million products. By replacing kerosine lanterns with affordable solar products, the company has impacted more than 65 million lives.
A crucial challenge for the business was to be able to raise debt locally in local currency at an affordable rate and on sustainable terms. By arranging a US$75m club facility through its partner bank in local currency, the company has been able to import solar equipment and maintain liquidity by securing a back-stop facility. Financing environmentally friendly solutions for lower income households in an emerging market also helps to address ESG issues such as sustainability and poverty alleviation, as well as other social concerns.
The winner of the Judges’ Choice award was Masterworks, with the award collected on stage by Francisco Meyo, Controller, Investment Vehicles, and Jason Papadopoulos, Business Intelligence Manager.
The challenge faced by the team was to facilitate multiple payment options for investors, and support timely reconciliation, with an integrated workflow to identify and resolve payment exceptions as they arose. Fittingly for such a ground-breaking company (Masterworks is the first company to allow investors to buy and trade shares in multi-million-dollar masterpieces created by world-renowned artists), the solution submitted was highly innovative.
Given the unique nature of Masterworks’ model in managing hundreds of ‘micro-securitised’ investment vehicles, no outsourced payment operations or administration options would be cost-effective or able to seamlessly integrate into the investor experience. The solution was to develop an in-house investor payment reconciliation system (called T-Rec) which is able to associate investor subscriptions with corresponding bank payments, while acting as both a data processor and as a visualisation tool. As a result, operators can not only oversee the process, but also perform operations when automation reaches its limits.
Spearheading inclusion and diversity
The well-deserved Highly Commended Woman of the Year was Jayna Bundy, General Manager, Global Treasury & Financial Services, Microsoft.
No stranger to the Adam Smith Awards, over the years Jayna and her colleagues at Microsoft have collected many such awards. Her success in this category is a fitting tribute to Jayna’s 22 years in the financial sector, as well as an acknowledgement of her continuing commitment and dedication to helping others in the industry. In her position as General Manager, Global Treasury & Financial Services at Microsoft, Jayna leads the global organisation’s financial programmes and analytics, focused on worldwide accounts receivable and delivering innovative credit and payment solutions globally. Drawing on her passion for technology and innovation, she has been instrumental in Microsoft Finance’s deployment of automation in major ‘invoice-to-cash’ processes, and its leveraging of emerging technologies such as machine learning and blockchain.
As someone who cares deeply and passionately about diversity and inclusion, Jayna is involved in many initiatives: she is a senior contributor to Women@Microsoft, an employee resource group driving internal MSFT initiatives designed to embrace and promote women’s inclusion and success. Jayna also co-leads Senior Women in Finance, which focuses on providing a global platform and programmes for developing senior women leaders – and as part of Microsoft’s Racial Justice Initiative, she contributes to the project, providing black business owners access to capital.
Top Treasury Team 2022
The highlight of the awards ceremony was the presentation of the Overall Winner of Treasury Today’s Top Treasury Team 2022 award. This accolade went to the AstraZeneca treasury team: the award was received on stage by Group Treasurer, Jonathan Slade, Assistant Treasurers Kevin Martin and Carlo Reeva, and Owen Kennington, Treasury Reporting and Control Manager.
Open to any corporate treasury team that has made an outstanding contribution to its organisation over the past 12-18 months, Treasury Today’s Top Treasury Team award recognises those who have truly stood out. Whether it is in the area of treasury transformation, the integration of a new acquisition, the delivery of a suite of projects in response to new challenges, or by responding to a crisis, Treasury Today’s Top Treasury Team award is the most coveted in the industry and focuses on the achievements of a treasury team across a whole range of projects and solutions.
Although the team was supported by a number of relationship banks and treasury system consultants, it was the considerable achievements of the AstraZeneca team itself that impressed the judges. In particular, this included the team’s handling of the acquisition of Alexion Pharmaceuticals, a global biopharmaceutical company that would give the Cambridge-based company an enhanced scientific presence in immunology. After securing US$17.5bn of syndicated committed facilities in late 2020, the treasury team set about the task of preparing for the company’s largest acquisition to date, which was completed in July 2021. This included raising US$8bn through USD and EUR bond issuances, and drawing US$4bn of term loans under the acquisition facilities.
At the same time, the treasury team’s other achievements included upgrading its treasury system, implementing a cross-border cash pool between China and the UK, and adding four new partner banks to the company’s relationship group. All this was achieved while the team supported the company as it rolled out its global vaccination programme on a purely not-for-profit basis, while operating in a fully remote working environment for nine months.
Sharing success stories
As the celebrations drew to a close, the winners and their partners reflected on their achievements and successes – an uplifting end to an evening which saw the treasury community come together in person again.
Winners will continue to share their stories and successes throughout the Adam Smith Awards season, beginning in July with the dedicated winner podcast series, and continuing until the opening of nominations for the Adam Smith Awards 2023 next January.
“I no longer lead the change. I set the strategy, I set the vision, but what’s more pleasing for me is the organic growth, and the organic ideas coming from our team members as to how to make their job more interesting and value accretive. We’ve all learnt to embrace technology to really catapult what we do to be globally leading.”