Insight & Analysis

60 Second Interview: Gerry Keefe, Global Head of Sales, Corporates and Public Sector, Treasury and Trade Solutions, Citi

Published: Apr 2020

New York-based Gerry Keefe is Citi’s new Global Head of Sales, Corporates and Public Sector, Treasury and Trade Solutions. Having previously held positions with Citi as Head of Corporate Banking Japan and Head of Asia Pacific Banking, Keefe is utilising his experiences to bring innovative and exciting new ideas to his role.

Gerry Keefe, Global Head of Sales, Corporates and Public Sector, Treasury and Trade Solutions, Citi

Tell us how you came to your current role

In my early career, I trained as a lawyer, and worked on corporate finance transactions, focused on high yield debt and IPOs. After the cycle turned, this evolved into structured finance, and I joined Citi in this capacity. After several years in this business, I was given the opportunity to run the corporate bank in Japan, which I did two and a half years before moving to Hong Kong to manage the Asia Pacific region.

Could you outline the nature of your current role? What sort of things are keeping you on your toes?

I’m still pretty new in this role, so just about everything is keeping me on my toes at the moment!

My current role is global. I’m responsible for client strategy and execution across the corporate and public sector client sets. There are two main things we focus on: first is thinking about what solutions we can devise and deliver to our clients that will enable the treasury suite to become a better business partner to their front office. Second – this is the more traditional part of Treasury and Trade Solutions (TTS) – devising innovative, tailored and forward-looking solutions for the usual funding, liquidity, risk management aspects of treasury responsibilities. This is so we can help our clients future-proof within the treasury suite.

In addition to current events, what keeps me on my toes the most now is the sheer amount of innovation that’s happening – both within this industry and within Citi specifically. Our clients are remarkable sources of innovation themselves, and frankly we’re often lucky that they come to us with ideas and want to partner on those efforts.

How have your previous roles prepared you for this new one and the world of TTS?

Fundamentally, I’ve learned two things that I think are relevant.

One is that you really have to understand your clients. You have to know your clients’ business at a very deep level, understand what their goals are, what they think their opportunity set is, what they’re worried about. And then you have to take that and put it into the context in which they’re operating, and come back with insights and solutions and great execution. I think if you can do that then you’ll deliver every time.

The second is that you have to take care of your people. Everything to do with the bank, the technology or real estate or connectivity, it all pales in comparison to the talent that delivers those insights, that can create those solutions, and that delivers the best execution. That’s what makes all the difference.

How do you think the current geopolitical issues are influencing the work that you’re doing, and at Citi as a whole?

To talk about the geopolitical environment, you have to start by taking one giant step back, and start with what are we seeing in the macro environment – what are the consequences of that to our clients, and therefore to our business?

In the case of the coronavirus, we operate in every major market that has been affected, and so we’ve had to develop our own approaches to this. Clients are seeking our guidance because of our global presence. One aspect that strikes me, is the opportunity to use technology. We’ve been using video-conferencing at higher levels and I think it’s causing a re-think of how we do what we do. Clients have also been very receptive to it; we’ve had roadshows that have been conducted entirely virtually.

You also have a unique combination right now, where there is this explosion of popular sentiment around the world that is resulting in different political outcomes than we’ve had in the past.

The combination of those two forces is creating uncertainty, and our clients are finding that this is creating a lot of volatility for their businesses in ways that they just had not expected and had not experienced before.

So, I think it’s been a highly uncertain time but also a time for our bankers to really step in and deliver the solutions and advice that our clients need at times like this.

From a corporate treasury perspective, what do you believe the key themes will be for 2020?

Leaving the coronavirus out of this one, I think there are essentially four key themes.

First, is the shift to real-time treasury, recognising that we’re increasingly operating in an ‘always on’ economy. We’ve been spending a lot of time devising solutions around that and understanding the best advice to give clients.

Second, is the theme of treasury as a partner to their business and the treasury as an enabler to the business. I think the days of a treasurer being someone who solely funds the balance sheet and manages risk have long gone. We’ve been working on ways to position our treasury clients with solutions that enable them to be that partner to the front-end of the business, and I think that trend is durable and is here to stay.

Third, no shock here, is environmental, social, and governance strategies (ESG). What’s interesting about ESG in a treasury context though, is that treasury really is the place where companies are able to express themselves and their own agenda around ESG. Whether it be what sort of modes of funding someone chooses – be it a sustainability-linked loan or a green bond, or supply chain finance and the ability to establish sustainability all the way down through a supply chain – treasury is the place where a lot of the talk about ESG actually becomes a reality.

At Citi, we have committed to lend, invest and facilitate US$100bn over ten years (2014-2023) towards activities that reduce the impacts of climate change and create environmental solutions that benefit people and communities.

We are also working on environmentally positive business opportunities in partnership with our clients, developing solutions to some of our most pressing global challenges, such as climate change. Additionally, our environmental footprint and supply chain goals, updated as part of our Sustainable Progress Strategy, focus on minimising direct impacts, reducing costs and reflecting global best practices.

Fourth and last, is future-proofing treasury, and continuing to make sure that clients are in a state of constant reinvention and constant reconsideration of treasury processes and systems. Clients will be asking themselves, ‘are in-house banks still the right structures?’, ‘are existing liquidity and funding structures the right ones for the next five or ten years?’

Some of the efforts that we’re undertaking now are designed to improve their preparedness for that next set of changes that are surely coming. It is important to have a treasury that’s agile and that can respond to change effectively, so that it can perform not only its traditional functions but also be a true partner to the overall business.

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