“The media landscape is evolving even more rapidly than treasury, and Viacom has made a number of accelerant deals to grow its portfolio and capabilities,” Gubbini explains. “From a treasury perspective, the challenge is to integrate these new businesses into our existing core structure seamlessly. Additionally, we will need to ensure that treasury is able to support the different requirements that each acquisition has brought to the table in an efficient and swift manner.”
Gubbini makes no secret of the fact that he is a technophile and the extent to which he feels an appreciation of technology is essential to the future of his treasury function. “New technology is very important,” he states. “At Viacom, we embrace it, we keep current, we are often willing to pilot new solutions proposed by our banking partners and, at times, we help our partners shape their new products.” However, he adds, because regulations do not always keep up with technology, it is important for the business to be very thorough in its due diligence whenever considering an innovative solution.
“Viacom has been at the forefront of embracing new treasury solutions,” he explains. “Throughout the last decade, we developed a comprehensive treasury technology solution, which resulted in great visibility, control, automation and the ability to manage and mitigate risks.”
In practical terms, as well as rationalising the company’s bank account structure, achieving cohesion across the business has been effected by implementing the IT2 treasury management system (TMS), a new ERP system, an in house bank and through SWIFT membership.
With the implementation of IT2, all accounts are now managed on a single platform. The system, managed by a dedicated New York treasury technology team, is effectively the centre of treasury, Gubbini stating that “we now do everything through it.”
With SWIFT connectivity providing MT940s and MT942s directly into IT2, the treasury function has accurate balance positions across the business. This, he says, aids better decisions on all of Viacom’s investments and redemptions.
The effort to connect and control continues with the implementation of a new cash pool, leveraging a virtual account structure and enabling a full OBO structure. The work, in which treasury is very much involved, is seen as critical to Viacom’s progress in an extremely competitive environment.
Like most media-related businesses, Viacom has undergone several structural changes in the last few years. This has seen treasury’s input increasingly called upon. “One of the objectives of our treasury transformation was to create a structure that was flexible and, in a way, bank agnostic,” says Gubbini.
When SAP was implemented, SWIFT membership meant ISO 20022 XML coding could be incorporated for payments. Rather than having individual bank-formatted files, treasury now has one standard format for all banks, enabling treasury to switch partners far more easily, should it need to.
“We no longer rely on bank proprietary file formats for payments or individual transmission connectivity,” he explains. “With such a structure, treasury has been able to support the company throughout its evolution, whether it was relocating functions, launching in new countries or acquiring new companies.”
Having been closely involved in deep structural shifts, the notion of the ‘strategic role of the treasurer’ is one that Gubbini wholly recognises. There is a strategic element to his job as International Treasury Director that has yielded some fundamental changes within.
For example, he has been a strong advocate for the implementation of the in-house bank for Media Networks and his team’s current project of a single entity cash pool with virtual accounts and a full OBO structure for Paramount. Both projects have a material impact on working capital and liquidity management, as well as the ability to generate “significant cost savings.”
For a treasurer to reach the position of strategic importance, let alone sustain it, requires a well-developed skillset. These are skills that Gubbini believes every modern professional should harbour. “Good communication is very important. Treasury needs to liaise with many different groups internally. We have daily interactions with tax, legal, accounting and our shared service centres. Treasury needs to be able to explain our actions and strategies to our stakeholders, whilst having a strong understanding of potential impacts on other parts of the organisation.”
With the depth of experience that working in a leading global media operation offers, Gubbini is happy to impart some of his wisdom to young professionals starting on their treasury career. “I have been in treasury for 20 years now, and I can say that it has never been the same. There are always new challenges, new regulations, new systems and a better way of doing things,” he says. “It is a very interesting industry, but you need to be passionate, keep yourself informed and have a willingness to embrace constant change.”
Of course, in his time at the top, he has managed to accumulate a number of highlights in his own career. One of the projects that he is most proud of is the recent implementation of the in-house bank.