Insight & Analysis

Adam Smith Awards: driving modern success

Published: Jul 2023

On Monday 26th June 2023, the brightest stars from the international corporate treasury community gathered in central London with their partners to celebrate their outstanding achievements at Treasury Today’s 16th Adam Smith Awards. Our congratulations to this year’s winners.

The buzz of excitement as top treasury talent from around the world gathered for this year’s Adam Smith Awards 2023 in the iconic St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel was palpable. Now in its 16th year, the quality of nominations grows ever higher, and this year was no exception, with a record-breaking 320 nominations spanning 34 countries. From this, our judges selected 57 Winners and Highly Commended treasury practitioners and their teams for their innovation, creativity, collaboration, teamwork, best practice and sheer endeavour. After months of waiting, it was time to come on stage and collect their prize alongside their partners, followed by a delicious, celebratory dinner.

Winners included multinational and regional champions, government entities and smaller companies earlier on in their growth trajectory. Treasury teams and their partners came from North and Latin America, the Middle East and Europe.

The Adam Smith Awards are an opportunity for networking and a chance for corporate treasurers to receive their awards in person in the company of their peers, colleagues and partners. And amid the jostling competition and rivalry, the awards also underscore the supportive and collaborative nature of treasury as an industry, visible in the rowdy applause from around the room for all the winning teams.

The event began with a lively drinks reception that spilled out onto a patio bathed in evening summer sunshine. Meg Coates, Treasury Today’s Joint Publisher and Head of Operations, began by extending a warm welcome to everyone. “For all the winners and partners in the room here today, you have accomplished something amazing. The competition has never been greater. I am absolutely delighted to extend a special welcome to all of you.”

In a nod to driving digitisation and technology trends as well as shifting geopolitical plates, she noted this year’s winners have proved themselves particularly adept at navigating today’s fast-changing world. “The ability of all of you in the room to seize opportunities when they present themselves and to relish a fast-paced environment with complex challenges is what drives modern success. Balancing being a good corporate citizen with delivering returns for business is a new landscape and one that we are proud to observe.”

Guests made their way to the ballroom to receive their prizes presented by Meg Coates and Sophie Jackson, Publishers. Some of their achievements are included below, but these represent just a small selection of this year’s success stories. Further details of each winning solution or personal award can be found in Treasury Today’s case studies, which will be published on our website in August.

Abu Dhabi-based Nirvana Travel & Tourism scooped Best in Class Treasury Solution in the Middle East with CFO Sultan Boudargham collecting the award on behalf of the travel management group, established in 2007. As demand accelerated in the wake of the pandemic, Nirvana’s treasury had to overhaul its working capital capabilities. Wire payments tied to strict deadlines versus a much longer receivable cycle was stretching the company’s cash conversion cycle. Working with partners Citi, Mastercard and local bank ADCB, as well as key suppliers Emirates and Etihad airlines, Nirvana designed an innovative payments solution on the back of a club financing deal, ushering in operational efficiencies and improved liquidity, as well as profit margins.

In another example indicative that the Adam Smith Awards are open to small and large companies, the London-based treasury team of Airtel Africa plc. which provides telecoms and mobile money services across 14 countries in Africa, won Best Risk Management Solution. Assistant Treasurer, Sidhanth Hota and Pier Falcione, Deputy CFO, Group Treasurer and Head of Investor Relations, collected their award for a solution that resolves issues around rising global interest rates, FX convertibility and trapped cash.

This year’s Best Funding Solution went to Acciona S.A., represented by Maria Teresa Aguerri Loriente and Ana de Guzman Garcia, for structuring an ECA-guaranteed financing of the company’s MacIntyre project in Australia, the largest onshore wind farm in the southern hemisphere. Working with partners J.P. Morgan, Joint ECA Coordinator, Mandated Lead Arranger and Lender for the project construction. The transaction was guaranteed by the Spanish Export Credit Agency Compañía Española de Seguros de Crédito a la Exportación (Cesce) and structured under its new Green Investment Policy with a corporate guarantee from the parent entity. This transaction represents the largest amount financed to date under Cesce’s Green Investment Policy and one of the first transactions to be executed with this cover.

Ryanair Holdings scooped Best Cash Pooling Solution with Group Treasurer John Norton collecting the prize for the airline’s tailored liquidity management structure centred around its EU pooling centre. Working with bank partner Citi, Norton and the team developed a solution that culminated in a single entity multi-currency notional pool and a target balancing structure, inclusive of ten new currency header accounts and 100 source accounts respectively.

German multinational chemical and consumer goods company Henkel won Best Sustainable Treasury Solution in an initiative led by Dr. Finn Marten Körner, Head of Capital Markets & Pension Asset Management at the company. Henkel has long-monitored and influenced the sustainability of its supply chain through its procurement practices. In 2021, the company went one step further when it approached Deutsche Bank to convert its existing supply chain finance (SCF) programme to a sustainability-linked SCF (SSCF) programme that went live in May 2022. Under the new system the SSCF programme links the discount margin to the ESG score of the supplier so that suppliers with better ESG scores pay lower margins, providing a financial incentive to improve their sustainable behaviour.

The coveted Corporate Treasurer of the Year 2023 went to Peter Rathgeb, Group Treasurer at Siemens, for his inspiring management philosophy. A keen mountaineer, Peter understands risk better than most. He believes thoughtful risk management is essential and makes sure his team has everything they need to succeed – the right tools, knowledge, and experience.

His career at the German multinational spans over two decades, including a highly successful stint as CFO of Siemens Bank. Under Peter’s direction, Siemens’ treasury is now entirely product-oriented with six different pillars each focusing on a particular product – cash management, FX, money market, guarantees, pensions and insurance. The award also recognised Siemens’ open culture that promotes interaction and sharing best practices, but which also has a philosophy to act quickly because taking too long can lead to being overtaken by competitors and exhausting employees.

“We are doing good things and are changing the world, but we need partners, and this award gives us the opportunity to talk about what we are doing and build our ecosystem,” said Peter.

Our Highly Commended award in the Corporate Treasurer of the Year category went to Bente Salt, Group Treasurer at Rentokil Initial plc. 2022 was a particularly stand-out year as Bente managed the cash funding element for the strategic acquisition of Terminix, which was the second largest pest control company in the US, in a US$6.7bn cash and shares deal.

Rising Star 2023

Our 2023 Rising Star is Franca Aeby, Senior Cash Manager at Roche, the world’s largest biotechnology company and the global leader in in-vitro diagnostics, employing more than 100,000 people and selling its products in over 100 countries. Motivation, curiosity and a continuous improvement mindset drives this rising star at Roche.

Top Treasury Team 2023

Always a highlight of the ceremony, this year’s Top Treasury Team 2023 went to pharmaceutical group Bristol Myers Squibb. To rousing applause, Vivek Agarwal and his team received the award on stage in recognition of their navigation of a root and branch shift in processes and treasury risk management, that has cemented treasury’s role as a true, trusted business partner.

For Bristol Myers Squibb the prize (awarded to recognise a treasury that has truly stood out either via a transformation; the integration of a new acquisition, the delivery of a suite of projects or by responding to a crisis) is rooted in the company’s US$90bn acquisition of Celgene Corporation (CELG) in November 2019. An acquisition that led to a jump in size, complexity and transaction volume for treasury. Since then, the team has perfectly timed new debt issuance used to repurchase existing bonds and accelerated a cash flow hedging programme to mitigate currency headwinds and reduce P&L volatility. Treasury has also undertaken a raft of other initiatives to improve data availability and analytical capabilities, manage insurance risk and automate multiple manual workflows.

The Top Treasury Team accolade was hotly contested this year and our judges wished to recognise two other treasury teams as Highly Commended winners; GE, led by Lynda McGoey, Global Head of Trade Finance for their transformational initiatives following a major spin-off and Merck, led by Jörg Bermüller, Head of Cash & Risk Management for their efforts in automating the entire FX settlement processes.

Special Recognition

One of the highlights of the awards ceremony was the Special Recognition awarded to Anita Mehra, Corporate Vice President, Treasurer at Microsoft Corporation. Anita leads a 1,000-plus global team across 20 countries tasked with overseeing global liquidity, financial and currency risk, worldwide banking, payments, collections, cash management and a capital structure that includes US$65bn of debt, US$130bn investment portfolio and annual cash collections of US$180bn. The award recognised her leadership around digital transformation, modernising payments and driving partnership with the financial services industry. All that alongside her celebrated reputation for supporting treasury talent. “Being recognised by my peers and Treasury Today is such a humbling moment for me and my team – who really deserve this honour,” she said.

As the celebrations ended, the winners and their partners reflected on their achievements and successes in an uplifting end to an evening that carried on late into the night. Now the celebrations are over, our focus returns to sharing all the compelling stories and successes of our winners throughout the Adam Smith Awards season and continuing until the opening of nominations for the Adam Smith Awards 2024 next January.

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