What’s your current role?
Today I have responsibility for developing solutions that enable sales financing. Working with our banking partners, the team sits at the heart of the Microsoft customer payment offering across an area covering Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and large swathes of Asia. It’s a region that can loosely be categorised as ‘developing and emerging markets’, where adoption of more standardised financing solutions is not always possible.
Microsoft’s stated aim is to reach every person on the planet. With rising demand for innovative solutions in many of these territories, we are facilitating that growth, ensuring commercial customers have the right funding solutions available to them when they need them.
Is the regional financial services sector delivering the right customer solutions?
I feel that there is a lack of pace at which some domestic financial institutions have shown in keeping up with technology. This is most evident in how customers expect to transact with those institutions, and the speed with which credit risk approvals are handled.
Technology is progressing rapidly in the payments space, and it will continue to accelerate with the development of telecoms technology and the emergence of 5G. But I believe that it is just unacceptable now for any customer – retail or corporate – to be in a state where they cannot send a payment instruction virtually on mobile, or not be able to receive confirmations in real-time.
We build and offer customers new real-time technologies, only for those customers to face downstream process delays. The need to pick up the pace at every touch point is essential if customers are to experience the fast and smooth execution they want and need.
I believe that the emergence of the fintech community is forcing the progress within financial institutions. Within the GFS team, we are driven to keep up the pace and cut transaction times with every one of our partners, including the banks. And those that make the cut are encouraged to constantly explore and deliver solutions as rapidly as is possible.
Describe how you became an award winner
We collected the Treasury Today Adam Smith Award in 2019 for Best in Class Treasury Solution in the Middle East. Through the Microsoft GFS group, an innovative solution was developed that allows customers, when purchasing via resellers, to make monetary commitments to the Microsoft cloud, and simultaneously sign-up for extended, multi-year payment terms backed by our banking partner.
This is an innovative trade finance solution, using non-recourse assignment of receivables and is combined with the Microsoft sales offering to customers who purchase cloud products from any of our resellers. I see the end result effectively removing friction from purchases, kicking in even before a deal has closed. We no longer think of it simply as a working capital solution; we now organise the whole structure of receivables and payables flows as a sales-enabling tool.
Is technology an essential part of the industry now?
For those just starting out in their career in corporate finance and treasury, I not only advise familiarisation with the latest technologies, but also encourage them to go further and learn coding for applications in the worlds of AI, machine learning and data analytics, for example. Our environment continues to become more automated. Having a basic grasp of coding will be a valuable asset for anyone coming into this space now.
At a more general level, with all this technology, there is one factor that is often ignored by younger people which most experienced professionals agree is vital. It’s achieving an acceptable work/life balance. To me, this means moving away from the traditional ‘9 to 5’ regime and embracing flexibility. Mobile technology means we can be ‘always on’ if we allow it to go unchecked, but it also means we can manage the time as we wish within our working day. To me, work/life balance now means being able to use my time in ways that I want to. I’ve learnt to use technology to be more effective and productive.