The Capita treasury team has therefore put a premium on standardisation and making sure that the core integration is completed as soon as possible. But for Cornwall, the biggest challenge comes in deciding what is most critical to the integration. “It can be easy to get bogged down in the noise, and as I have learnt in other areas of my role, the key is to prioritise,” he notes.
This is something that gets easier with time. “The more of these we do the better we get,” he adds. “Since I have worked here we have acquired around 70 businesses, and treasury has become a pretty slick machine when integrating these.” Touching on those soft skills again, Cornwall notes that communication is the foundation of the treasury team’s success in its M&A activity.
Pushing for more
Looking after the group’s banking relationships is the last pillar of Cornwall’s role. And in similar vein to his roles in consultancy and M&A, this area tests both his operational and soft skills.
“I have developed some great relationships with our banks,” he says. “For me, the most successful banks are the ones that take the time to understand our business and where we want to go. This is especially vital given our M&A activity as we are a fast moving organisation.”
However, there are plenty of areas where Cornwall sees room for improvement, particularly around the banks’ technology offerings. In his view, basic tools that would really help a treasury department, such as electronic bank account management (eBAM) and some automated know your customer (KYC) tools, are lacking. “For Capita these would be very beneficial because we are frequently opening and closing bank accounts and a lot of unnecessary work is required to do this,” he says.
Cornwall is noticing a change in the way that banks approach technological innovation though, as fintech companies are prompting them to up their game. It is the fintech community – with its agility and progressive thinking that allows it to react quickly to customer needs – that he believes will have the biggest impact on the corporate banking landscape.
“Fintech firms in isolation cannot help corporate treasury departments, I believe – they are too small and lack access to the necessary infrastructure,” he notes. “What I do believe, however, is that these companies will eventually overlay the banks and provide the large majority of their digital customer facing platforms. It will be interesting to see how these developments, and the growing need for partnerships formed between banks and fintech, will work in favour of the corporate treasury profession in the years to come.”
A skilled profession
Despite Cornwall’s hope that technology can continue to help treasury deliver on its strategic mandate, he has a warning for those who believe that technology is a panacea. Indeed, he believes there is a danger that future generations may become over-reliant on technology and forget the fundamentals of the role.
“There have already been huge changes in the profession brought on by technology,” he says. “Take FX dealing as an example: a decade ago this was completed over the phone and required some technical understanding. Today, this can be completed automatically through an online platform without the need for specialist skills.”
To avoid a decline in the ‘fundamental’ treasury skills at Capita, junior members of the team are sometimes asked to do some FX dealing over the phone so that they can better understand the complexities of the buy and sell side. “Technology is great to improve things, but it is important not to lose sight of the fundamentals,” comments Cornwall.
Finding the time
Since making the move to treasury, Cornwall has not only helped the Capita treasury department support the dramatic growth of the company – he has also fulfilled many of his own personal growth ambitions by challenging himself and learning new skills. “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the profession and certainly haven’t looked back,” he reflects.
But as most treasury professionals will confirm, while the job is rewarding, it can also be all-encompassing. As such, it is important to carve time for yourself outside of the office. “Creating a work-life balance that works for you is vital,” says Cornwall. “If you are constantly switched on, even when at home, then you will become less efficient.”
For Cornwall, time at home is precious: with a long commute to and from the office he makes sure that he leaves work at a reasonable time. He then uses the commute effectively to catch up on emails and other similar tasks. “I am lucky that I have built a great relationship with the Group Treasurer,” Cornwall notes. “He understands my circumstances and is happy for me to leave on time when required as long as the job is done.”
So what does the future hold? For now, Cornwall is very content in his current role and certainly sees treasury as the right career for him. But his desire to seek new challenges cannot be quelled for long and he admits that one day he would like to run his own charity: “If I can find another ten hours in the day, perhaps I will get around to doing this!”