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The triumph of treasury

Published: Jul 2014

Winning an Adam Smith Award involves copious amounts of effort and ingenuity. For those who do get to take home a coveted award it is seen as an embodiment of all they have achieved to date in their chosen profession. It is also recognition and appreciation of their success by a peer group that understands the challenges and knows the importance of being ahead of the curve. This year’s event brought together some of treasury’s most outstanding talent in an economic environment tinged with hope and expectation.


In a year when life, at long last, seems to be returning to the world’s embattled economies – and businesses are planning and looking forward to an invigorated future – the Treasury Today Adam Smith Awards has attracted the highest quality of entrants yet. This has given the panel of judges the unenviable task of sorting out the best of the best as more than 200 of the most inventive and visionary treasury professionals from around the world seek recognition for their work. Now in its seventh year, this benchmark event for best practice in the corporate treasury profession was fittingly held amidst the splendour of London’s Plaisterers’ Hall on 19th June. With its returning sponsor, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the Awards fielded entries from across Asia, the Americas, the Middle East and Europe. The increasing professionalisation and fundamental importance of the treasury role very much in mind, the panel of judges selected winners across 15 categories drawn from a total of 206 entrants representing some of the world’s most forward-looking organisations.

“We are delighted to support the 2014 Treasury Today Adam Smith Awards as they share our ambition to recognise outstanding performance across the treasury industry,” said Jennifer Boussuge, Head of Gloabal Transaction Services EMEA at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “The Adam Smith Awards have grown to become a globally-recognised benchmark for excellence and we are pleased to be working with Treasury Today to recognise and celebrate innovations in the field of corporate treasury.”

This is high praise indeed from a key industry player. But did the event itself live up to expectation? Christoph Woermann, Managing Director, Deutsche Bank AG, London branch told Treasury Today that this year’s awards “were possibly the best Adam Smith Awards I have come to witness so far”. Woermann added that this year’s presentation was “a truly important event for the treasurers present”. This leads us of course to the thoughts and feelings of the stars of the show; the treasurers who came to receive their award or support their colleagues in their moment of triumph.

Recognising talent

“The Adam Smith Awards have a great brand recognition in the industry and they are highly competitive,” says Microsoft’s Group Treasury Manager, Anita Prasad. “Winning an award means a lot to me personally and to our treasury team because it is recognition from our peers and counterparts in the industry that we are adding some value and pushing the boundaries in terms of innovating.”

Indeed, the prevailing feeling is that winning an Adam Smith Award is recognition for a lot of hard work by many talented people; they are a way of simply announcing to the world that you are best-in-class. Margaret McDonnell, Treasury Operations Manager at Pfizer, another of this year’s winners, views the team’s ‘Treasury Today Top Treasury Team’ award as confirmation that they are taking the right steps to continuously improve. “We are benchmarking ourselves against the best companies – and showing that we are best in class”.

Pfizer’s VP and Assistant Treasurer, Amit Singh acknowledges the importance of sharing best practice through the Adam Smith Awards because this way companies “learn from each other how resources are put to best use rather than trying to reinvent the wheel each time”.

Of course, Microsoft and Pfizer are huge companies but winning an Adam Smith Award is not about size as Itron’s VP and Treasurer, Byron Jackson attests. He is particularly proud of being able to show that as a medium sized company “with a strict budget” it has still been able to win a global award. Scooping the Best Process Re-engineering Solution “demonstrates the ability of our team to architect the best practice in treasury and secure the integration of treasury processes into the wider financial processes of the company”, he states. Jackson’s Itron colleague, Ed Barrie, Assistant Treasurer, declared that the award not only “validates our vision around architecture and processes internally” but is also “one of the few ways the team can achieve external validation”. Itron’s EMEA Treasurer, Beatrice Ransquin, further commented that every member of the team had put a lot of effort into the project and felt that “recognition of the work is important”.

“It is a wonderful appreciation and kudos for us,” declared Mondelēz International’s Treasury Director, Mike Foye. “It is very pleasing to see that our work is recognised and it’s good to be able to talk to colleagues about winning such a prestigious award.” An Adam Smith Award, he continued, “really does allow us to get the message through to people about the achievements of treasury”. Continuing with the theme of recognition, Wyndham Worldwide’s Corporate Treasury Director EMEAI, Mike Cassidy, said that the award for the team’s international transformation project “gives us more visibility in the organisation and hopefully gives people a greater understanding of what treasury does”.

And the winner is…

Each category in the Adam Smith Awards has a winner and one or two highly commended entrants. The judging is monumentally difficult and nothing is clear cut except that all who progress thus far are exceptional treasury talents. Treasury Today will soon be presenting the individual case studies in detail as part of the Adam Smith Awards Yearbook. But as a taste of what is to come, here is a brief (as it can be with such engaging projects) run down of each category winner and how they stood out in an outstanding field.

The Treasury Today Top Treasury Team for overall excellence is open to any corporate team that has made an outstanding contribution to its organisation and recognises those who have made the world of corporate treasury that much better. The winner in 2014 was the New York and Dublin-based teams from Pfizer.

Somewhat hyperactive in their approach to treasury, the Pfizer teams’ submission covered no less than seven key projects ranging from a supply chain financing programme in Asia to EMIR reporting and an in-house vehicle financing solution. In addition, their submission in the Best Risk Management solution category was worthy of a Highly Commended in its own right. The dedication and expertise demonstrated by members of both teams, plus the wider Pfizer organisation, is exceptional, showcasing examples of enterprise-wide teamwork and collaboration. The bar keeps moving ever higher.

Any solution which demonstrates how the company manages its cash is eligible to enter the Best Cash Management Solution. The well-deserved 2014 winner was Intel Corporation, led by Regan Nanbara. Its goal was to manage this vast multinational company from one bank account outside of the US and that is precisely what it has achieved. Having moved away from four non-US cash pools each holding various balances, it now operates a single cash concentration infrastructure relying on a target-balance saccount structure.

The Best Liquidity Management/Short-Term Investing Solution this year went to Brembo SPA and Giancarlo Cicuttini. Over the past three years, Brembo has undertaken a series of initiatives to move from a decentralised treasury structure to a centralised structure that concentrates most of its cash and liquidity management with a single global bank.

Efficient working capital is a key challenge for companies of all shapes and sizes and this is why the Best Working Capital Management/FSC, AP/AR Solution is always hotly contested. This year, the winner was Mondelēz International Finance AG, led by Tom Jack. Mondelēz needed to bring transformational solutions to its Business Services Centre (EBSC). The primary goal was to release resources within the EBSC to focus on more value-adding tasks for the market organisations and to simplify its banking infrastructure. Faced with duplications in process, complex bank set-ups using a wide variety of electronic banking platforms and associated payment formats and security controls, the team’s ‘One Bank’ project delivered some impressive benefits – and an Adam Smith Award.

The recent economic turmoil has certainly focused the attention on relationships and to win the ‘First Class’ Bank Relationship Management award, Holcim Ltd, under the guidance of Stefano Bianchi, drastically changed its banking and funding setup in Europe in two steps. It implemented a cross-border zero-balance euro pooling structure, replacing local pools and local working capital facilities in each country. It then selected a single cash management and funding bank for the Eurozone, where previously it had no less than 46 banks. It was a major undertaking made all the more impressive by achieving it in just 12 months, incorporating ten countries and 100 entities within its scope.

No longer just a convenient means of settling T&E bills, corporate cards have become an integral part of the cash management set-up. WorleyParsons Limited and Simon Holt took the Best Card Solution by creating a monumental programme which will incorporate over 4,500 cards with over $400m in ‘cardable’ spend per annum. The project is set to cover over 40 countries in Asia Pacific, EMEA, Canada, the US and South America and all data from the programme will be integrated into the company’s Global Reporting and Account Management (GRAM) portal.

The increased level of corporate bond issuance is no surprise in the current environment but some issuances just take your breath away. This year’s winner of the Best Financing Solution was Microsoft, represented by George Zinn, Joel Combs and Anita Prasad. Microsoft achieved all its objectives and set several industry records by issuing a multi-currency and multi-tranche debt of $8 billion. The strategy generated over $175m of savings in interest expense purely from leveraging the euro-denominated issuance instead of issuing just in USD. As with all these stories, be certain to read all about it in the Treasury Today Adam Smith Awards Yearbook.

Best Foreign Exchange Solution looks for innovation whether found in a single transaction, a suite of transactions or a complete change in FX strategy or policy. The 2014 winner, Wyndham Worldwide Corporation, has undertaken a treasury transformation programme which includes optimising the company’s liquidity management structure, putting in place a netting programme and improving FX risk management practices. The result has been significant improvements in the company’s FX scorecard metrics.

FX of course can have a significant level of risk attached to it, but just being in business exposes a company to many other forms of risk. Part of the treasurer’s job is to mitigate financial risk and at Toyota Financial Services (TFS), Vanita Aggarwal and her team demonstrated true innovation achieved by attaining the best from people, processes and technology. TFS achieved its objective of improving funding options and maintaining regulatory best practice without taking on additional operational risk. The company was seeking an ‘uncharted territory’ solution to reliably synchronise complex data across two contrasting environments. The Adam Smith Award for Best Risk Management Solution demonstrates the level of TFS’ success.

The use of key performance indicators (KPIs) has in recent years risen up the treasury agenda alongside a growing appetite to benchmark against the industry’s best performers and practices. The level of uptake for Treasury Today’s own annual Corporate Treasury Benchmarking Study reveals this much to be true. Some company’s use the process to great effect and Brocade Communications Systems’ Chris Hanson and Yun Kong collected the Best in Class Benchmarking award. The team established a benchmarking project to identify best professional practices and organisational standards to maximise value for the company. It now uses benchmarking to achieve efficiency and productivity gains, reduce manual errors, reduce bank fees, mitigate counterparty risk and optimise the company’s bank and account structure as it sought a ‘holistic’ solution.

The power of technology to transform treasury is significant and projects that achieve greatness deserve recognition. Itron’s Best Process Re-engineering Solution winning team are engaged in a truly global multi-faceted project that has focused on delivering an architecture that simplifies, standardises and centralises all treasury processes across 130 countries. It is aiming for a best-in-class automated straight through reconciliation model and enhanced liquidity optimisation. The project is not over yet, but the achievements to date are more than impressive.

The very nature of innovation at the cutting edge means it is not always easy to categorise but may nonetheless be of great importance. The Adam Smith Awards One to Watch category was collected this year by Microsoft’s Pankaj Gudimella, Jayna Bundy and Jamie Christel. The Microsoft treasury team has 1,300 bank accounts with 85 banks worldwide and makes over 12,000 treasury wire payments each year, totalling over $240 billion. Their solution, Wire Request Tool (WRT), is built using Internet Explorer, SQL server, Visual Studio and leverages the Windows Azure cloud platform.

Clearly the effort of businesses such as these is proof positive that treasury does not stand still in its pursuit of excellence. Adam Smith Awards seeks to mirror this dynamism. For 2014 Treasury Today has introduced a new category: Middle East Regional Award for Best Practice. This recognises the number of entries that we are seeing which address issues specific to this important region. Inaugural winner, Honeywell, led by Ciar Timon, faces certain issues which it has overcome with aplomb. Implementing a solution in Iraq, for example, which is still relatively politically and economically unstable, has comparatively high transaction costs and is one of the most complicated countries in the region for routing LCs, is quite an achievement. It is certainly one for which Honeywell must be applauded not least because it makes for fascinating reading when the story is revealed in this year’s Adam Smith Awards Yearbook.

Another relatively new category, introduced in 2013, is the Treasury Today ‘Woman of the Year’. This is open to any woman operating in the corporate treasury environment who can demonstrate real innovation and achievement and is someone who is a real inspiration in her current role. Anita Prasad from Microsoft has all these qualities and more and is deservedly awarded this title for 2014. Anita was nominated by a member of her team who told Treasury Today that Anita is the epitome of a strong female leader in Microsoft’s organisation. “She demonstrates leadership with the highest integrity and is a strong promoter of talent for high potential men and women in the organisation.” Our judges were unanimous in their decision.

The final relative newcomer award is Judges’ Choice. This was introduced in 2012 and is awarded as a way of celebrating something that is just that little bit different. This year, Etihad Airways, led by Ricky Thirion, took the prize for their ingenious sale and leaseback (SLB) scheme that forms part of the larger investment of Etihad Airways in Jet Airways. Originally submitted under the Best Financing Solution category, the Adam Smith Awards judges felt that the scheme’s most innovative nature, securing take-off and landing slots at London’s Heathrow Airport as the underlying security to the transaction, truly delivered something different.

If that has whetted your team’s appetite to demonstrate all that is good and great in treasury, note that nominations for the 2015 Adam Smith Awards open on 30th January 2015.

The Award winners for the Treasury Today Adam Smith Awards for Best Practice and Inniovation 2014 can be found at: treasurytoday.com/adamsmith/2014/winners

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