The world of corporate treasury is full of talented people. But how can treasury departments make the most of their teams and what can individuals do to progress? In this article, we propose some tips for climbing the career ladder, as well as highlighting the benefits of embracing, and supporting, a diverse, ambitious treasury team.
Diversity and equality
Diversity is a topic close to Treasury Today’s heart having run the successful Women in Treasury initiative for four years now. The motivations are simple: despite concrete evidence that having more women in senior roles is good for business, equal opportunities are still a long way off. For example, Treasury Today’s Women in Treasury Global Study 2015 found that 33% of female respondents believe they are paid less than their male counterparts and 45% did not feel their career prospects are the same as male colleagues.
Yet evidence has proven that gender-diverse companies perform better. In fact, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to outperform other companies, a report, titled ‘Diversity Matters’, from McKinsey & Company indicated. But diversity isn’t limited to gender – the same research showed that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians.
What’s more, it’s not just that bottom-quartile companies are not leading – they are lagging. For both gender and ethnicity and race, the least diverse companies are statistically less likely to achieve above-average returns.
Diversity in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, background and so on creates diversity of thought which is a strength in business because it ensures different ways of approaching the same problem are suggested. “Alternative ideas allow us to come up with the best solutions,” says Debra Todd, VP, Global Treasury Services, BP.
Therefore, when corporates are hiring they should consider the dynamic of their existing treasury team – and consider which aspects could need more prominence. As Todd says: “It’s important that we look at whole teams, rather than just at individuals. If you consider six people that are the same and have similar strengths, that team would be a lot weaker than six very different people who boast diverse strengths.”
In order to develop such strengths, talent needs to be nurtured. As corporate employers reap the rewards of a successful treasury team, it is in their favour to support the progression of individuals’ careers. Internal and external training programmes are beneficial, as well as supporting those who are studying for additional qualifications. Ones of note include: the Association of Corporate Treasurers (ACT) qualifications, the Certified Treasury Professional (CTP) or the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). Some professionals also look into the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), but it is important to be aware, as the title suggests, this is not as treasury focused as the first two.
In terms of encouraging a team who want to succeed, senior executives are responsible for providing a good example. The CEB Corporate Leadership Council™ analysed data from more than 150,000 employees and identified that senior executives acting as good role models for developing employees is the single most important factor for driving leadership quality. What’s more, excellence here increases an organisation’s probability of being a top-tier leadership organisation by 84.1%.
Top-tier leadership, the CEB Corporate Leadership Council™ says, is characterised by managers who prioritise and act on employee development needs. Whether this is further training, support for flexible working or backing for a career change perhaps, these are some of the areas good managers keep an eye on. Not only that, but it is often recognised that professionals don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. A Gallup poll claimed that 75% of workers who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their bosses and not the position itself. As the graphs below confirm, a competitive salary is rated as the least influential factor in a treasurers’ happiness (Chart 1), whereas a poor boss or manager is the most influential factor in their unhappiness (Chart 2).
Chart 1: Why treasurers are happy in their roles
Source: MR Treasury Recruitment Global Treasury Salary Survey
Whilst it may have become somewhat of a cliché, the most important company resource is its people. Supportive working environments and the opportunity for career progression are key to attracting and retaining great talent.
Chart 2: Why treasurers are unhappy in their roles
Source: MR Treasury Recruitment Global Treasury Salary Survey
Mentoring frequently comes up as a springboard for success; many corporates cite mentoring programmes as critical in helping them navigate new organisations and supporting them with different perspectives throughout a career. Mentees can gain a lot from the experience of those around them, picking up new skills and knowledge. It is an opportunity to have conversations in a risk-free way as a key aspect of mentoring is confidentiality.
There are some myths to debunk, however. Mentoring isn’t necessarily restricted by gender. Males can mentor females and vice versa. Also, mentoring doesn’t have to be formally ‘set up’ by a programme or organisation. What is perhaps less emphasised is informal mentoring. Rather than going through an established mentor programme (as not all companies have them), similar relationships can evolve in a more natural way, within the same company or from outside. Senior executives have a wealth of knowledge others can tap into and the recurring thoughts Treasury Today hears suggest that most professionals are more than willing to share their understanding – and time – with others.
For informal or formal mentoring to be successful though, mentee and mentor must have commonalities, meet regularly and have areas of experience identified which the mentee wants to gain from. For the mentor, it can be hugely rewarding to see someone develop and progress. Fifty-eight percent of respondents to Treasury Today’s Women in Treasury Global Study said they would be interested in being a mentor to others.
Moreover, successfully leveraging networks is a great way of meeting other professionals, making friends and learning. You may also hear of suitable vacancies and are more likely to receive recommendations from those who have worked alongside you in the industry.
Indeed, sponsorship is said to be another – potentially more lucrative – way of progressing your career. It is a case of ‘who knows you, not who you know’ as a sponsor is essentially an ally who will be your advocate when it comes to staffing decisions. It is worth noting that employees of all seniorities can champion colleagues.
To attract sponsors, Catalyst, an organisation with a mission to expand opportunities for women and business, recommends the following:
You – and your work – must be visible. If your achievements aren’t seen, how can colleagues or managers champion you?
Sometimes you need to go outside of your comfort zone to progress – for instance, applying for positions you don’t yet possess the entire skill set for.
Ask for what you want.
So long as you have a clear understanding of what you want, don’t hold back on articulating these career ambitions.
More than anything, though, your work should speak for itself.
Preparing for career success
Indeed, it is the responsibility of individuals to manage their careers. Seeking out an informal mentor or attracting a sponsor could be part of this. According to Singapore-based recruiter Megha Khare, Manager, Accounting & Finance, Page Personnel: “For somebody who is very keen and passionate about treasury, if they plan it well, they can have a good career ahead of them.”
But don’t run before you can walk. The emphasis here is on planning – knowing where you’d like to progress to and the best methods to help you get there. A career road map can help to boost your mobility.
A common piece of advice Treasury Today hears from the industry is to put yourself in the right place at the right time so that you are having the right conversations with the right people. Martha Pierce, Senior Consultant at UK-based recruitment firm Hays Treasury says that a common gripe made by candidates to recruiters is that there aren’t sufficient opportunities within their current company. “But I will be having a conversation from the other side and line managers will say ‘they are great at their job, but are not showing much eagerness to learn’.”
It is the responsibility of all employees and managers to start having conversations which ensure staff know their employers are willing to invest in them. “In my experience, it’s difficult to recruit at the moment so businesses, most of the time, are going to give you that opportunity to gain more experience,” Pierce adds.
For some treasurers, the ultimate goal is to become a member of the C-suite. There are, of course, certain things a treasurer can do to improve their chances of this happening. Making themselves more visible (for the right reasons), getting closer to the operational side of the business and expanding their scope of responsibilities, for example.
Chief Financial Officer
The CFO role necessitates the capability of translating business decisions into numbers and explaining the impact on the company’s bottom line. Looking into the future – and all the time translating reality into numbers and numbers into reality – is a vital part of the job. As Maciej Müldner, Finance Director, Skanska Property Poland says: “There is no ‘safe haven’ for a CFO, so whilst many talk about it, the role isn’t for everybody.”
Typical financial qualifications are good to have, as well as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or alternative forms of management study. Working in the treasurers’ advantage is the fact that they are already, in their current role, exposed to some of the most critical contacts within the CFO’s reach – financial institutions (FIs) and suppliers, for instance.
Additionally, it is “second nature for a treasurer to look for financial risk; they understand how operational, financial and strategic risks are all linked and can trigger each other”, says Mustafa Kilic, CFO and Member of the Board of Directors, Candy Group Turkey. “In their existing roles, treasurers have already built up a good perspective of credit and market risks too.” All of which are key components for a CFO.
Indeed, the skills valued in the role are all within the reach of the corporate treasurer who can “add these abilities to their current skillset and maximise their chances of becoming a CFO”, says Kilic. Desirable skills, he says, include an in-depth understanding of an individual company’s business operating environment, risk management skills, and the ability to communicate well with people from governments, banks and also local populations.