Vincent Liu, Asia Commercial Treasury Leader, GE, explains why he decided to follow a career in corporate treasury, and provides insight into the thinking that saw GE Asia Treasury take home the coveted Adam Smith Awards Asia Top Treasury Team 2016 award.
What made you decide to follow a career in treasury?
I began my career as an accountant. It was an obvious choice because I was not very good at arts or science so there were not too many options left.
As an accountant, I primarily focused on tax, business consultancy and some auditing. This gave me a very strong foundation in finance, in understanding balance sheets and how different businesses make and lose money.
After a time, I came to a crossroads in my career. This is when I decided to move into treasury. I decided on this because treasury leverages a lot of the knowledge I have gained in accounting. But unlike accounting, treasury also matched my desire to play a significant role in governing the direction of the business.
I spent just under 20 years working in bank treasury, primarily at Morgan Stanley as the regional treasurer for Asia. There are not too many differences between working in bank treasury and working in corporate treasury, apart from that I do not have to wear a tie here at GE!
What has it been like leading the GE treasury as the company evolves?
Since I have been working at GE, the company has undergone a monumental shift, pivoting away from financial services to become a digital industrial company.
This shift is not just redefining the company, it is also redefining the role of treasury. Our objective is to create a smaller, nimbler and more impactful treasury that can better support the organisation and its customers as it enters a new era. As a result, my role has changed considerably in recent years. Today I am a ‘change manager’ as much as a treasurer.
Part of this evolution has required us to complete many high-profile projects. These include the creation of a pioneering cross-border liquidity structure, implementing a single platform solution for all FX payments, enhancing working capital efficiency and creating a centralised transaction processing centre.
These changes have forged a contemporary treasury organisation that is integrated into the core of GE’s business operations.
How important is team work when undertaking so many projects?
A strong, talented team is crucial to the success of any treasury team. But a diversified workforce is more important than more people. Having competent and commercial-minded people in the team is vital. Having the right people in place can solve 80% of the challenges that you face.
Something I really want to see from my team is well-honed soft skills. I believe that skills that enable one to be a better leader, cope with adversaries and communicate effectively are critically important for the modern treasurer. These are attributes I look for when hiring and I would advise any aspiring treasurer to focus on soft skills just as much as the technical skills.