As Group Treasury Director of JD.com, Jeff Yu has spearheaded a complete restructuring of the Chinese e-commerce giant’s treasury department, a mammoth task that saw him gratefully draw upon invaluable lessons and experience he gained from more traditional industries.
What were the highlights of your career before joining JD.com?
I feel very lucky to have been part of the treasury team at Ford Motor Company. Ford’s treasury is famous for its experience and not just because of the important role it played in the survival of the company during the financial crisis. It has been influential in the car industry and across the treasury profession for a long, long time. Those years at Ford were ones where I gained great experience and knowledge, learnt how to handle treasury in a multinational company with a global view.
What were the most valuable lessons you learnt at Ford?
Expertise in treasury and focus. Those are vital elements for treasurers. Another is learning how to be prepared for all possibilities. As treasurers, we need to prepare for every situation, every environment a company can find itself in, and know how to go about handling it, which is what the nature of the job demands on a daily basis.
How do the opportunities, challenges and risks differ at an e-commerce giant like JD.com compared to more traditional industries in your view?
It’s quite a different situation here at JD.com compared to my previous experiences. Ford, for example, is a typical multinational company in a traditional industry. JD.com is part of a much more recently established industry, e-commerce, one that is still developing very fast. You cannot handle the treasury here, and in new economy companies generally, I think, based on just the skills or abilities gained from traditional industries.
“The biggest challenge at JD.com for me and my team is its enormous size and the speed at which it operates: it’s very big, and very fast. That is often the major difference between the traditional company and new economy company. And it is the speed at which developments can take place at JD.com in terms of volumes and scale across all operational aspects that makes treasury management here very different from that at Ford or other traditional companies.
You began your career as a banker so what led you to switch to the corporate world?
As a banker I was just looking into the corporate world from the outside. I felt I needed a more vivid experience of companies and organisations.
On reflection, how would you sum up your career journey and achievements so far at JD.com?
When I consider the treasury structure we have put in place at JD.com over the last three years, I can see now that it really makes full use of all my personal experience. I’ve had the opportunity to transform treasury practice here, create a new structure and make full use of banking technology. But there is a basic philosophy I have used here and it is based on time-tested elements such as ensuring we have a global view, treasury expertise, professional communication, prudent procedures in place… all the essential elements that I saw work so well and experienced at those decent companies such as Ford, Fosun and METRO AG. Those basic treasury qualities are the same whether one is working in the new economy or a traditional industry.”
Read the full interview with Jeff Yu.