Himanshu Kher, Group Treasurer, LMAX Exchange Group, knows the world of global brokerages, banks and consulting organisations inside out from a treasury perspective. He explains what keeps him sharp.
You started your professional life in M&A banking, then moved through trading and consultancy positions. How and why did you make the transition to treasury?
It was part accident and part destiny; there was some luck involved. After working in the M&A; division at Nomura for several years, I took on a role as an index options trader at BNP Paribas in London. Then, the 2008 financial crisis happened, which obviously had an impact on all the major investment banks. I decided it was time for a career change and took up treasury advisory roles at consultancy companies such as PwC and the Boston Consulting Group.
Through my years of advising treasurers and Chief Risk Officers as a consultant, it became clear to me that the real action was in being a treasurer rather than a consultant. When the opportunity arose to become group treasurer of my previous company, IG, I immediately said yes.
Describe the challenges you faced in that transition.
As group treasurer, you are entrusted with a much higher level of responsibility than a consultant and just having a big picture view of treasury doesn’t work. When I transitioned, key challenges were picking up a new industry (retail leveraged trading) as well as understanding the underlying processes that made treasury work. I was able to draw upon my strong financial services background and years of experience, and, ultimately, it was a great opportunity that enabled me to grow as a professional and reach the next level of my career.
You trained as an engineer before moving into financial services. Are there any similarities?
Structured problem solving. Engineering is all about developing structured solutions to complex problems, and that is an essential skill for anyone in a financial services role.
How do you think treasury in financial services differs from that of industry?
Across all businesses and industries, treasury is about constrained optimisation. Treasurers must strike the right balance between security of funds, whilst managing liquidity risk whilst trying to maximise returns made by the business given a set of constraints. The main differentiator for the financial services industry is that it is more regulated than several other industries, resulting in a greater level of constraint.
What attracted you to the role of Group Treasurer at LMAX Exchange?
The biggest advantage was the opportunity it provided to shape the role and make a mark in a fast-growing, innovative and successful company. The high growth level of the business means the rate of change will be immense. And I view this as an exciting challenge.
What are your main current and anticipated treasury challenges at LMAX Exchange?
Right now, I am focused on automating a number of treasury processes to improve the quality of information, and how that information is communicated, to management. This will result in better-informed decision making and also translate to greater visibility of cash and risks in the business, bolstering our ability to manage the balance sheet. As our Asia Pacific offering continues to expand, we will continue to focus on finding new and innovative ways of handling clients’ funds in a frictionless way.
What personal skills does a successful treasury professional need and what advice would you give to any young professional starting on their career path?
I would say the personal skills somebody starting out in the industry needs are an understanding of the wider context of treasury and how it fits into finance across a whole organisation; a love for numbers; and, ideally, a treasury qualification that has given them a good understanding of the company’s balance sheet and cash flow statement. I believe that every treasurer also needs to be excited to learn new things and dive into the business.
What specific successes would you highlight in your own career?
The first would be my appointment to group treasurer of IG. I’m proud of my ability to have met challenges head on in my career. And now, I’m looking at taking on the new challenge of building up a group treasury function at LMAX Exchange, which is a high-growth business that’s transforming global financial markets. That’s very exciting, and I have no doubt there will be more successes to be enjoyed here in the coming months.