Insight & Analysis

Adam Smith Awards 2021: winners prove treasury’s guiding hand in tough year

Published: Jun 2021

Against the backdrop of one of the toughest years on record, Treasury Today’s Adam Smith Awards 2021 show treasury’s supportive and strategic role within an organisation is more important and vibrant than ever. Our 14th Adam Smith Awards ceremony finds much to celebrate in over 300 nominations from 40 different countries.

Adam Smith Awards winners announced

The first company to issue a sustainability-linked ‘transition’ sukuk and the first sustainability-linked bond in the airline industry; a treasury overhaul to free up cash for key investment, and a new strategy to enable local currency financing in Africa for cross-border software sales and root and branch reform at one of the world’s biggest tech companies. A quick glance at just some of this year’s Adam Smith Awards winners proves that the challenges of the pandemic have not crimped the ambition or innovation of treasury over the last year. Against the backdrop of one of the toughest years on record, treasury’s strategic and supportive role in corporate success is visibly undimmed.

Treasury Today has been celebrating the best and brightest in corporate treasury through the annual Adam Smith Awards for 14 years. This week we announced our 2021 winners, drawn from a record-breaking 309 submissions from over 40 countries compared to 187 nominations from 24 countries last year. Choosing winners across 23 different award categories from such a diverse and strong cohort was challenging and time consuming. It was also a privileged deep dive into the workings of corporate treasury.


Key trends to emerge in this year’s nominations include a push towards digitisation and more ambitious ESG integration. For example, Dubai Municipality scooped Overall Winner of the Best AP/AR Solution award for a sweeping digitisation programme that has helped do away with paper and manual processes in a reform drive borne by the need to stop in-person visits during the pandemic.

Elsewhere, UAE flag carrier Etihad was awarded Overall Winner of the Best ESG Solution for its sustainability-linked ‘transition’ sukuk, issued in October 2020. The first of its kind in the world, and the first sustainability-linked bond in the airline industry, it ties Etihad’s financing to achieving company-wide ESG targets.

The Overall Winner award for the Best Working Capital Management Solution went to RHI Magnesita. The specialist in refractories (materials in the steel and industrial sectors) with operations in 150 different countries has introduced an innovative programme to free up cash for investment. Tesco was awarded Overall Winner of the Best Foreign Exchange Solution, following group treasurer Lynda Heywood’s use of hedging tools to navigate exchange risk following the sale of the supermarket’s Thai and Malaysia business.

Just as celebrated, Highly Commended Winners include Microsoft’s African subsidiary, where a treasury overhaul has enabled local currency financing in the continent for cross-border software sales. Tokyo-based NTT Data won Highly Commended Top Treasury Team for masterminding the company’s transformation from a domestic company to a global group, with operations across 65 foreign entities managing over 30 currencies and 200 bank accounts, spread across 20 banking partners. Just losing out to Alphabet, where Chris Keuler’s leadership of a sweeping treasury transformation won our Top Treasury Team Award. Elsewhere, Lausanne-based Tetra Pak won Highly Commended for Best Supply Chain Solution after extending its supplier payment terms to over 95% of designated countries, fully integrated with the group’s ERP system and the company’s bank platform.

The 2021 A Rising Star award goes to Angela Brown, Assistant Treasurer, Continental Tire of the Americas, nominated for her leadership of a modernisation programme to overhaul the company’s cash management function against the backdrop of steep personal challenges. Other individual accolades go to Overall Winner, Woman of the Year 2021, NexTier Completion Solutions’ Phung Ngo-Burns and Martin Schlageter, Head of Treasury Operations at F. Hoffmann-La Roche, who picks up this year’s Corporate Treasurer of the Year.

While every award is underscored by the strong partnership between banks and treasury teams, one award celebrates this crucial relationship in its own right. The Overall Winner of this year’s First Class Relationship Management goes to Elanco Animal Health, a fast-growing US pharmaceutical group where the treasury team describe their banking partner as “running alongside” in a “flat-out sprint for two years,” and providing “consistent support and dedication” that has been vital to treasury success.

Expect a series of online case studies and podcast stories in the coming months for insight into what our winners achieved – and why we believe they should pick up this year’s gongs. This is the second year we’ve celebrated our Adam Smith Awards winners virtually. It goes without saying that we miss you all, and very much hope to be back together, in-person in London’s Plaisterers’ Hall this time next year.

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