For Lynda McGoey, Managing Director, Global Head Trade Finance, GE, one of the keys to treasury success is the will to stay informed. Her mantra – “learn, and then learn more” – has sustained her throughout her career. And as with GE’s founding luminary, Thomas Edison, McGoey has absolutely no intention of resting on past glories.
It is this approach that has seen her graduate from Manhattan College in New York with an MBA and a BS in Finance, and rising up the ranks of GE, first from Manager to Director of Trade and Project Finance, and then Global Head of Trade Finance, before assuming her current position as Managing Director of Trade Finance, which she took on in April 2018.
This role places her in charge of a global trade team, spanning the US, Latin America, Europe, MENAT and Asia. She has direct responsibility for overseeing GE’s evolving trade finance needs, managing relationships with a significant number of banks. Building a consolidated Global Trade Finance team is one of the professional accomplishments of which she is most proud. “We have a winning team today, for sure, and the collaboration is amazing.” It was this dynamic that won McGoey and her GE team the 2019 Treasury Today Adam Smith Award for the best overall Trade Solution.
An evolving role for corporate treasury leaders
Getting to this point has of course not been without its challenges over the course of her 22 years at GE. McGoey has seen her role evolve, not only as the company has changed over the years, but also as the role of trade finance has evolved. Whilst technology and an innovative mindset (and more than a little determination) are producing noteworthy results in McGoey’s trade domain, she acknowledges that today’s treasury leaders must have a perfect blend of technical and soft skills. In trade finance, especially in a global business such as GE where big ticket projects are its bread and butter, there are some quite specific technical demands, she explains.
For example, understanding and being able to mitigate operational risk is vital; performance trade finance instruments are critical to participate in new orders. Similarly, every major project requires performance instruments and warranty and retention tools.
Treasury leaders must consequently understand the risks associated with not being able to successfully procure these vital components. “These are key in the businesses’ pricing models, so treasury must have a firm grasp of what its bank capacity is, whether or not it has banking partners in the right countries for the projects, and of course what the costs are of those instruments.”
But in addition to technical know-how, McGoey believes communication and collaboration skills should be well-developed in every contemporary treasury organisation. “I have always enjoyed working with people across groups; interpersonal skills are so important, especially when developing strategic partnerships and gaining trust with treasury peers, in addition to working with the businesses and banks.”
In today’s complex trade environment, the advice she offers colleagues who may be feeling the pressure is to stay informed. “Internally, you really need to understand your pipeline of transactions. Know what your big upcoming credit needs are and plan for them; never let them be a surprise. And externally, learn about your markets and how they operate; find out in advance how, for example, a change in sanctions or local banking regulations could impact your business processes. Be prepared.”
To this end, formal training and education, and professional membership are all important to McGoey. “There’s no better way to stay informed and current than with like-minded trade professionals,” she says. “Attend conferences, build a network of peers and mentors, stay connected. As my mother taught me, ‘an education is never a burden to carry, and no one can ever take it away from you’.”
Whilst experienced treasury leaders will have the wherewithal to deal with most eventualities, what advice does McGoey offer to young professionals just starting a career in treasury? “Ask questions,” she replies. “Lots of questions. Work in every part of treasury, learn to see the ‘big picture’ but also understand the tactical aspects of how treasury works.”
The best way to do this? Mentoring. “Get yourself a mentor. You can do that organically; it doesn’t need to be a formal process.” She adds that those who are just starting out in the profession should never be afraid to ask for the advice and support from someone who has been in treasury for some time “and who can help you with your decisions along the way.”