Treasury Talent

Future Treasurer: why niche skills hold strategic value

Published: Nov 2023
Allspring logo

When Treasury Today Group and Allspring Global Investments hosted their 2023 workshop for the Future Treasurer series in Palo Alto, the discussion focused on the importance of niche skills, how technology has transformed treasury and the role of mentoring.

Allspring Future Treasurer Palo Alto

The Future Treasurer events seek to highlight treasury leadership and foster and nurture the skills that create treasury leaders with lessons and insights from pioneers in the industry. Our 2023 gathering of bay area tech treasury professionals in Palo Alto, hosted by Allspring Global Investments and the Treasury Today Group began by highlighting the importance of treasurers becoming specialists early on in their career.

Allspring Future Treasurer Palo Alto

A generalist has no more skills than others, but perfecting one thing can boost career progression, said opening panellist Eric Ball, whose career experience spans Treasurer at Oracle, CFO at an AI start-up to his current role as Founding General Partner, Impact Venture Capital. Speaking to Sophie Jackson, Publisher & Head of Strategic Content at the Treasury Today Group, Eric said treasury was his natural home because he had always sought a corporate role that would give him the most opportunity to make a difference. Espousing the virtues of treasury, he said it rewards easily transferable analytical skills, sits within a strong community and carries real responsibility as guardian of the balance sheet.

In recent years, technology and the availability of real-time data has transformed treasury into a strategic role grounded in decision making. Eric recalled how, in previous roles as an FX manager, he spent long hours working hard first simply to measure currency exposures. “Today you just go into the ERP and see what the currency exposures are and go straight to addressing it.”

It makes it much easier to manage the fallout from tumultuous events like 9/11 or the GFC. Alongside wider events, he said treasury’s role within an organisation ebbs and flows in line with corporate growth, like international expansion.

For sure, treasurers are risk averse. But that doesn’t mean they can’t innovate. For example, when he was treasurer at Oracle between 2005-2015 Eric became one of the first treasurers in a tech company to issue debt to support the company’s acquisition trail. “During my tenure, we bought 105 companies,” he said. Since then, issuing debt has become commonplace amongst tech firms where treasury prowess around stock buybacks and dividends counts as other essential, specialist skills.

Allspring Future Treasurer Palo Alto

Eric, who has written several books, also sounded on the importance of taking on different and energising projects alongside treasury. There is a tendency to always stick with the tried, tested and proven, he said, but trying to do difficult things and breaking out of the treasury mould is fruitful. “In treasury you are trained to be risk averse. You are the most risk averse person in the corporation.”

Treasury is also a route to CFO. But making the jump to CFO from treasurer requires switching from being a specialist to a generalist. “Treasury skills no longer matter so much,” says Eric. Sure, the accounting team report to the CFO, but then so do other teams like HR and IT. He added that the CFO role also required FP&A skills that he wished he’d honed before, rather than learn on the job. “Some of what you do as a CFO is high level and strategic; some of what you do is take out the trash,” he joked.

Treasury’s niche skills and experience, particularly in capital markets, make treasurers sought after board members. “Be a specialist, show your value,” said Eric. Treasury also equipped him for his next step heading up a venture capital firm where his role centred around drawing in LP investment and dialing for investment dollars to channel into entrepreneurial companies, taking time to understand their business models. Fittingly, he has always been drawn to startups focused on in-house treasury management tech and supporting the treasury function.

Recognition and encouragement

Allspring Future Treasurer Palo Alto

Treasury thrives best in a community built on a work-place culture of friendship and fellowship; where colleagues can support and invest in each other in a mutually beneficial setting. These characteristics manifest at Allspring Global Investments in an annual golf tournament in memorial for a former colleague, as well as a myriad of Employee Resource Groups founded for women and veterans, amongst others. “It’s about understanding each other and including each other,” says Jeff Weaver, Senior Portfolio Manager and Head of Global Liquidity Solutions at Allspring Global Investments. In another initiative, this November, Allspring U will gather clients and partners to foster understanding in treasury fundamentals around balance sheet investment, in a window to portfolio management.

Treasury’s role in honing specialist but also transferable skills was also picked up by fellow speaker George Zinn, President of Treasury Go and long-term ex VP & Treasurer at Microsoft. George entertained the audience with early anecdotes from his career like learning the hand signals for the trading floor. He stressed the importance of taking up training opportunities and getting involved in wider communities to share best practice and develop skills.

Taking risks is another central pillar to career progression, something that panellists agreed comes easier early on in a career. For example, when George took the job as CFO of intellectual property and licensing at Microsoft it meant he was better positioned to take the job of treasurer when it came up a few years later. “It’s how I got the nod to become the Treasurer of the time,” he recalled.

Allspring Future Treasurer Palo Alto

Workshop attendees also discussed the importance of recognition and encouragement, energy, and community. Nurturing talent and career development involves giving team members the opportunity to be creative, as well as trusting them. Table discussions also raised the importance of making space for younger and quieter members of the team.

Mentoring is another foundation to community. The two-way street provides the mentor with an opportunity to learn from younger colleagues, particularly the application of new skills like AI or programming in an exchange of knowledge. It is a vital pillar of relationship building and offers a sounding board in a safe place.

Panellists also spoke about the importance of being in-person rather than working remotely because it allows us to get to know each other as individuals. Another tip from the discussions highlighted the value of not making assumptions about other’s responsibilities and understanding deliverables.

All our content is free, just register below

As we move to a new and improved digital platform all users need to create a new account. This is very simple and should only take a moment.

Already have an account? Sign In

Already a member? Sign In