The COVID-19 crisis has brought numerous challenges where treasury is concerned, from securing liquidity to managing supply chain risk. To navigate this landscape, treasury teams first need to have skilled professionals in place – and where recruitment is concerned, the advent of country-wide lockdowns and social distancing measures has led to the adoption of some new and inventive approaches.
In some cases, there may be no pressing hiring needs, or companies may be selective about whether to recruit. George Dessing, Executive Vice President, Treasury & Risk at Wolters Kluwer, says that the treasury team is “currently stable” with no recent openings or vacancies, adding that “On a companywide level we currently look carefully at hiring – only critical jobs are filled.”
Virtual or face-to-face?
While some companies may have put their hiring plans on ice when lockdown started, this isn’t possible in every scenario – recruiting for a maternity cover role, for example, is not something that can be postponed. But in the context of a global pandemic, face-to-face meetings may be unappealing or even prohibited by local lockdown rules. As a result, companies are increasingly turning to video conference platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to screen candidates for treasury roles.
“Until January of this year, I had only ever recruited one person who was interviewed via Zoom calls, and was offered the job without ever meeting the team,” explains Mike Richards, Chief Executive of The Treasury Recruitment Company. “But since the beginning of the year, we’ve had four people who have done every round of interview over Zoom.” One candidate, for example, had been trapped overseas when lockdown began, but had been interviewed and hired remotely. He has now been working for his new employer for several months – all without meeting anyone in person.
But while some companies are comfortable with a Zoom-only approach to hiring, a fully remote recruitment exercise is not always ideal. Consequently, in countries where lockdown restrictions have loosened, companies may opt for a hybrid interviewing model. As Richards says, “Nothing replaces that face-to-face – but you can still do face-to-face and be responsible.”
He cites one company which carried out the first round of interviews using Zoom, but is still planning in-person interviews with the CFO for shortlisted candidates. “They won’t have to wear a mask, but modern protocols will be in place – people will be sitting two metres apart, and candidates will be able to have tea and coffee, but will need to use hand sanitiser,” Richards says.
How remote is remote?
With many companies planning to continue working from home arrangements for the foreseeable future, could treasury candidates be eligible for roles further from home than in the past? For roles in the same country, this could well be the case. Richards notes the example of a company based in a less well-known location in the UK which is currently recruiting for a treasury role. “In the past, this was difficult, but now they’re saying the employee won’t need to be in the office – they could just come in for two or three days a month to work with the team, and the rest of the time they can be based from home,” he says.
Could this mean a treasurer could take a role in a completely different country or region without moving there? “I don’t think so,” says Richards, explaining that obstacles would include time zone differences and cultural hurdles. “Another issue is that if there was an emergency, and the company needed to get everyone together, would that person be able to get there in a few hours? No, they couldn’t.”
Beyond the recruitment exercise itself, the COVID-19 landscape may also have an impact on the types of skills recruiters will be looking for. While not currently recruiting, Dessing says that any new recruits “should be able to be an effective team player and a networker when working (predominantly) remotely, and even better at sharing innovative ideas about how this remote interaction can be improved.” He adds, “This will require building further technical awareness and skills which will allow us to look beyond the traditional treasury role in order to become even more agile and productively add value to the company.”
In the remote working context, Dessing says it’s more important than ever for individuals to be critical thinkers and able to work in a “self-dependent” way – while still needing to connect and communicate with each other. “Without this connection, problem solving and innovation within the team is not effective, especially given the global disruption and uncertainty due to COVID-19,” he says – adding that adapting to the new situation is important not only for any future hires, but also for the team as a whole.