Insight & Analysis

The joy of treasury transformation

Published: May 2024

Varun Wadhwa, Deputy Treasurer at Baker Hughes talks about his treasury career, explaining that treasury transformations that combine his knowledge of banking and treasury are the most compelling part of the job.

Origami birds transforming into a paper plane
Varun Wadhwa, Deputy Treasurer, Baker Hughes

Varun Wadhwa

Deputy Treasurer
Baker Hughes

Varun Wadhwa, Deputy Treasurer at Baker Hughes, an energy technology company, started his career in banking when he joined Citi’s Management Associate programme, working across cash management and foreign exchange operations out of Citi India’s HQ. After three years, he seized the opportunity to take a customer facing sales role, leaving Citi for a role as VP Payments and Cash Management Sales at HSBC, selling banking solutions to HSBC’s clients.

Fast forward to 2012, and his enduring draw to work for a corporate meant he left banking to join GE’s corporate treasury function. The move also gave him the chance to broaden his experience outside India, working across GE’s EMEA and APAC operations.

“This was my way to get to the other side of the table and bring my banking knowledge to a corporate to solve complex problems and create a win-win with banking partners” he recalls in an interview with Treasury Today.

“One of the first projects I led at GE involved creating 25 cash pools across 25 currencies across EMEA and APAC.” He says this project called on his understanding of transaction banking and emerging markets and involved leading on RFPs. At the same time, the company was expanding into emerging markets. “GE was entering Myanmar, and I got the opportunity to travel there and setup banking infrastructure.”

It was at this time he also got involved in a new project around cash transformation.

Initially tasked with mapping as-is cash processes, the project developed into a wider brief involving optimising a number of bank accounts and strengthening cash controls.

He also worked on establishing a business case for GE’s in-house bank capability and set up a shared service treasury centre in Budapest. “I was responsible for training and going live with the shared service centre in a one-year role,” he says.

When GE merged its oil and gas business with Baker Hughes the next transformation landed on his desk. Wadhwa had already moved across to GE’s Oil & Gas division with business operations in 120 countries so in 2017 he found himself in poll position to lead the carve out of GE Oil & Gas from overall GE, setting-up day one treasury processes to ensure continuity of business once the merger was completed.

“Once GE decided to sell its majority stake in the company, we were tasked with setting up a standalone treasury function for Baker Hughes,” he says.

The roll out of the new treasury function required him to establish a 50-member project team and a business case for a multi-million investment across people, processes and technology that included integrating a new treasury management system, Quantum and payments and bank reporting platform Trax as well as setting up a shared service centre that won several treasury awards. At the same time, he worked on establishing a currency-based banking strategy and implementing a follow the sun cash pooling structure that freed up significant cash for the company and improved automation across accounts payables, accounts receivable and inter-company processes. He says the experience instilled in him the importance of treasury working with other parts of the wider business to deliver maximum value.

More recently – and now Deputy Treasurer at Baker Hughes – Wadhwa has partnered with sourcing to create a multi-ERP and multi funder supply chain finance programme with Taulia designed to optimise working capital. He has also overseen an initiative around the repatriation of cash across emerging markets that combined setting up new intercompany processes and understanding of regulatory processes across different jurisdictions.

His other career highs in recent years have included leading refinancing of a US$3bn RCF and supporting treasury due-diligence and integration of various M&A’s including spin-offs and JV formations. He’s also managed the company’s insurance programme; multi-billion debt book, share repurchases, interest rate and FX risk, pensions and looked after trade finance. “Over time I’ve got the opportunity to work across all functional areas of treasury,” he reflects.

Wadhwa is appreciative of the global exposure that GE and Baker Hughes has afforded him, counting stints in the US, UK, and Budapest amongst others. But he finds overseeing large scale transformation the most thrilling part of the job because it brings his experience of banking and treasury together. Treasury transformations also require the ability to change – something he says he is inherently comfortable with. “Delivering a world class treasury function is always exciting. Taking something from scratch and developing it is really enriching.”

“I enjoy problem solving, particularly complex risks in a global set up,” he concludes. “In treasury every day is a new day to learn something different including different markets. There is a new element to treasury every day, and this really keeps me going.”

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