Treasury Practice

Question Answered: Remote working: pandemic trend or here to stay in treasury?

Published: Sep 2021

“As employers prepare for post-pandemic employment, what are the key benefits and challenges of remote working and what are the implications for treasury around the new phenomena of working while physically apart?”

Virtual working

Portrait of Ani Filipova, Former Regional COO for Citi Asia Treasury and Trade Solutions

Ani Filipova

Former Regional COO
Citi Asia Treasury and Trade Solutions

Corporations should re-disperse any monetary savings that may have occurred as a result of office buildings, space reduction, being sold and maintenance cost savings as staff work from home.

We should see not just how and where we work as having changed but also how and what we spend our budgets on. Whereas in the past office space and employee perks may have focused on physicality, these will now look quite different, but the cost will still be there, albeit in a different form. Flexibility and adaptability are the key elements for today’s workers and organisations. People will think of themselves, not as the job that they do, but the bundle of skills that they have. People should be focused on life-long learning and as such will want to be invested in by their organisations, to feel growth and skill evolution in their roles.

In 2020-21, people, more than ever, seem motivated by their own personal ethics and situations to choose organisations and roles that work for them, rather than the other way round. People want to believe in the purpose of their organisations, to be aligned with their CSR goals and to move if that is not the case. This momentum appears only to be growing. This is particularly the case with millennials and generation X talent who will only represent more and more of the workforce. To attract talent, companies will need to be ready to offer not only competitive salaries, but also to show social purpose and a belief in career long development and flexibility in their talent management.

There are regional variations that affect the ability of companies to shift from their previous bricks and mortar set-up. The US, being geographically spread over an entire continent, can offer employees the ability to work remotely from anywhere within the country. The set-up in Europe, Africa and Asia is very different – we have number of countries with their own specific regulatory and tax requirements towards employees and employers. Without moving to another country, staff can choose now to prioritise their personal lives and commitments and avoid the major cities that were the reserve of top corporate roles pre pandemic. The next stage is how to work geographically from wherever we choose. This is tricky, as there are compliance and tax implications from country to country. But if this is the way forwards, then crossing from one country to another will need to be allowed and policies on how to support this can be worked out.

Meeting people every so often is important but the flexibility that (remote working) is going to give people is going to make a big difference. We will be able to attract completely different talent, for example hopefully more women as their roles can be more flexible. The rigid demands of certain roles may be in the past.

There is no one size fits all when we talk about future of work. For example, collaborative areas can be organised for employees who come to the office for only a couple of days every week instead of the usual desk/PC set up. The governance around this new way of work is yet to be finalised and implemented. Very important is to re-design the system of employees’ performance and contribution assessment so remote workers are properly measured and not disadvantaged when it comes to salary and bonus discussions. This will not be an easy process and companies are in very different stages.

Fintech companies have already been ahead of the game in this aspect. At the moment everyone is thinking about this and we are certainly not going to go back to what we had in pre-COVID years. It might take some time, but we are certainly going to have flexible work options as a key differentiating factor to attract great talent.

Very important is to re-design the system of employees’ performance and contribution assessment so remote workers are properly measured and not disadvantaged when it comes to salary and bonus discussions.

Yang Xu, Treasurer, SVP, Global Treasurer & Head of Corporate Development, Kraft Heinz

Yang Xu

Treasurer, SVP, Global Treasurer & Head of Corporate Development
Kraft Heinz

The pandemic has kept treasury professionals very busy, with various unprecedented business challenges, liquidity risks, market volatilities, etcetera. At the same time, it has put many things into perspective. What is the role of strategic treasury, what is the philosophy of risk management, and how do we ensure company liquidity is safeguarded, through structural ways and at all times, even post pandemic?

The pandemic also forced people to learn to work remotely. This is a fundamental change for us, in treasury and all functions. I have been very happy with the treasury systems and control processes we put in place prior to, and enhanced during the pandemic. It allows us to work remotely and efficiently. As I used to say, treasury moves billions of dollars, we must be the golden standard of control and compliance.

Besides obvious business continuity, I also observed some key benefits of remote working. First, I always believe in measuring people by their output not presence. But the pandemic proved out in practice that people can be productive anywhere. Second, it equalises people. Pre-pandemic, we used to have many telephone conferences with people not on-site. Having video conferences as a norm now with everyone actually brings people who used to be far “closer”, and we can “see” and “interact” with them the same way as with my team in the same city. Third, it does help to better integrate work and life. My family moved during the pandemic to another country. The fact that I have been physically at home created a safer environment for my children’s transition. My family also developed better appreciation of my work (and associated dedication, pride, perseverance) as they observed first hand.

But at the same time, remote working also brings significant challenges. We all see the line between work and life are further blurred. As a result, many of us work much longer hours and don’t ever “disconnect”. It can also be very difficult for some who are isolated: far from their families, and don’t have opportunities to interact with colleagues or friends. In my team, we organise virtual socials like happy hours or holiday gatherings from time to time, in an effort to talk about things other than work, and create bonding as a team, and my company promotes many health and wellness initiatives. But it can take a toll on people.

I am very grateful for my team. They have been demonstrating support, empathy and rigor during the pandemic. I do personally look forward to getting back to a hybrid model where we can interact and care for our teams by collaborating in person, and also allow work flexibility from time to time to better integrate work and life.

Having video conferences as a norm now with everyone actually brings people who used to be far “closer”, and we can “see” and “interact” with them the same way as with my team in the same city.

Next question:

“What will be the most important implications for treasury teams to come out of COP26 in Glasgow? How should corporate treasury prepare?”

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