Jan Beukes, Group Treasurer at South African video entertainment group MultiChoice, shapes strategy around one guiding mantra: treasury must add value and pay for itself. Treasury should engage and get involved in the business in an expansive role that reaches far beyond just operational support. “For treasury to be a strategic business partner you have to add value. You can’t just be a processing cost centre,” he says, from where, given the firm’s Randburg offices remain closed, he recently accepted Treasury Today’s coveted 2021 Adam Smith Awards Overall Winner - Best in Class Treasury Solution in Africa.
It is this belief that has shaped a busy couple of years of sweeping operational optimisation and automation, bringing new data and visibility to decision making and forecasting, particularly around hedging and cash management. A root and branch transformation he never envisaged when he took the job three years ago, leaving an 11-year post at South African agricultural group AFGRI, the last five of which were as group treasurer.
When Beukes joined MultiChoice, treasury was still run through its parent company, internet and tech giant Naspers. “About three months after I joined, I got called into the office and told we were unbundling from Naspers,” he recalls. It sounded the gun on a “stressful and crazy” process that began with setting up MultiChoice’s own independent treasury operation including new borrowing lines and FX hedging facilities and positions, as well as onboarding a raft of new banks.
Next came automation. Beukes set about implementing a new treasury management system (TMS) together with a bespoke cash forecasting tool in SAP BPC, transforming a complex two-day spreadsheet consolidation process to instant consolidation with far reaching analysis capabilities. Together with FIDES as the SWIFT partner, the treasury team has cash visibility across the groups 600 bank accounts with a daily upload onto the TMS.
Reflecting on the change, it’s perhaps not surprising he is most enthusiastic about the benefits of building a bespoke cash forecasting model. The process spoke to his guiding treasury beliefs like putting his team centre stage, buy-in at a senior level, and real expertise and learning around the security element. “There is always a preference to have something already built, but there is lots of value in doing it yourself.”
Elsewhere, 360T gives new FX visibility like an automated audit trail on bank performance for the first time. “We are finally drawing out the data and value. It’s making conversations, especially with banks, much easier.” The next wave of FX management reform will involve rolling out new hedging models in TMS to complete the process. “We execute in 360T, confirm via Finastra and it then flows into our TMS. This year we will be able to populate hedging documents and produce hedging entries that are then uploaded in SAP.” Once these manual tasks are finally done away with, he estimates he will have freed up a significant amount of staff time. “We are getting another member of the team without employing anyone else.”
Looking back on the challenge of managing a transformation in a new role, he says teamwork was the most essential ingredient. “Give yourself enough time to get to know the company and how the team works. Only then can you collectively work on the gaps and opportunities ahead. Don’t come into an organisation with an ‘I am going to change everything’ attitude,” he concludes.