The Future Treasurer roundtable event series is one of many new digital interactive events that the Treasury Today Group has been hosting in 2020. The Future Treasurer builds on the work that we have done together with State Street Global Advisors to provide a roadmap for future best practice in the industry. These events incorporate inclusion and diversity conversations with a hard look at future skill sets, leadership, sustainability and more. The first roundtable took place earlier this summer with our community around the Greater New York City area and it was then our privilege to return to our treasury community on the West Coast. It was a rare chance for our West Coast community to come together after facing the challenges posed both by the pandemic and the ongoing California fires. We are very grateful to our co-hosts, our panellists and to our community for taking the time out of their busy schedules to grab a GrubHub lunch at home and join us to discuss how inclusion and new skill sets in treasury have shifted in such a short amount of time.
The day opened with a welcome from Sophie Jackson and Meg Coates. Kevin Zimmerman then outlined the background on the partnership between State Street Global Advisors and the Treasury Today Group. The energy and enthusiasm was evident as our guests digitally interacted with each other in break-out rooms before the panel discussion.
Our phenomenal panellists who shared their insights on the day were:
Carolyn Hansen spoke about her background in finance, her experiences in treasury and the events leading up to her current role at Uber. Carolyn also highlighted the importance of such events when explaining how earlier on in her career there were very few instances where she would see anybody in the industry who looked like her. The importance of communities, such as those we have created with the Future Treasurer series, in terms of representation and inspiration cannot be underestimated. Donna Bebb spoke about her fascinating background and varying experiences which led to her arrival at Google. All three panellists shared the humbling experiences of the past six months of working from home and their personal passion for inclusion and diversity. Carolyn also discussed her team’s use of virtual games and icebreakers to keep engaged and connected during remote working.
Elizabeth Kwong shared her experiences of moving with a role at Goldman Sachs to Tokyo, Japan. Coming to understand a different culture, language and navigating a new city takes professionals out of their comfort zone and forces them to consider completely different perspectives and cultural viewpoints than they would ever have experienced otherwise. This appreciation of the limitations of our perspective is a critical piece of the inclusion puzzle as we learn to walk in another’s shoes and consider positions outside of our own life experiences.
All three panellists spoke of their passionate support for female representation, inclusion in all forms and of the broad conversation around ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) issues, affecting corporations. After a career involving managing assets in the oil and gas sector and a period dedicated to academic research, Donna was surprised to be approached with a professional opportunity dedicated to the returns of sustainable financing. However, it was her very experience and focus that was sought after in what was then a nascent financial arena. Donna’s early work on green financing and sustainability were explored as she talked about what we mean when we say, ‘ESG’. Over the eight years that Donna has been involved in sustainable financing she has seen a great rise in awareness of such terms and ideas. She spoke of her concerns that these terms are used so widely and with such varying intent and meaning that they can cease to have impact or value as they sweep into the lexicon, destined to impart no significance. It therefore becomes incumbent upon us all to apply value to such terms, to learn within the industry about the true meaning of these ideas and to protect and uphold the intent of the ideology.
Carolyn and Elizabeth both talked through the rise of the strategic treasurer in recent times and the new suite of skills, which are prioritised in our modern industry. The Future Treasurer title was chosen to highlight the new and evolving key elements of a treasurer’s role. Both in terms of the practical skills required of treasurers and the leadership skills that the present and future demand, one theme was clear for them both, which was to expect the unexpected. The pace and adaptability of modern corporate finance is here to stay.
Flexibility and intellectual curiosity were highlighted as key attributes of the modern treasurer by Elizabeth and Carolyn as they spoke of their professional journeys in the industry. Donna also shared her advice on avoiding short-term optimisation and embracing skill sets and pursuits outside of work that can bring us additional resources and conviction. In her case, taking up extracurricular classes led to a new professional tool, helping her to develop confidence and presence. We never know where new opportunities and challenges may take us and that uncertainty and open approach can be incredibly rewarding in ways which we never imagined.
Attendees on the day were polled on the importance of ESG issues for their companies. We also divided into smaller groups to discuss topics including the challenges and the influence of working from home on issues like diversity, inclusion and female representation. Our West Coast community’s conversation consisted of troubleshooting issues that their peers were facing whilst looking more broadly at the impact on long-term targets for inclusion and diverse representation of the global pandemic. Attendees focused on their personal and professional challenges, offering advice on leadership while remote working. Maintaining the ability to galvanise and keep their teams motivated while managing productivity were also issues that our West Coast community discussed between each other.
Kevin closed the day, outlining his thoughts on the impact of the communities that have been created across the world in partnership with Treasury Today. Our new virtual events are a powerful tool to ensure that our community maintains connectivity and can support and inspire one another even at a distance.