Annemarie Moore, Group Treasurer at global child rights organisation Plan International, explains the importance of having a supportive employer and outlines the biggest challenges facing treasurers at the moment.
Group Treasurer, Plan International
As Group Treasurer of Plan International, Annemarie has developed a central treasury function that services the NGOs 50 programme countries and a turnover of approximately €700m in multiple currencies. In her time at Plan she has devised and implemented appropriate currency management and rationalised banking across Africa and Asia for the organisation. At any one time Plan’s treasury manages between €120m and €160 equivalent of multicurrencies. The Treasury function that she has implemented has been highlighted in reports by Stamp Out Poverty and Better FX as ‘best practice’ regarding foreign exchange. The rationalising of banking that Annemarie implemented was a case study in Treasury Today in November 2011. Annemarie is on the Overseas Special Interest Group steering committee and the Treasury Special Interest Group committee of the CFG (Charity Finance Group) plus a member a of the Association of Development Organisations Treasures in the US. She has most recently implemented a Treasury Management system in Plan which she describes as a ‘labour of love in that what you put into it is what you get out and I really want to see great efficiencies by using the system.’ Within Plan she is a member of the Senior Finance Leadership Team. Prior to joining Plan Annemarie worked in an arm of Lehman Bros in securitisation, was a Treasury consultant and also Treasurer of a merchant bank.
Maintaining a balance between one’s professional and personal life can be tricky – how important is it to have a supportive employer?
Like most organisations today, my current company offers dependency leave. Since I commute and the school which my youngest child attends is too far for me to leave and then come back, having an employer who is happy for me to work from home on occasion is a real benefit. That said, it can sometimes be difficult to apply flexible hours within the treasury profession, given the various time zones, dealing deadlines and payment cut-off times.
What is the biggest treasury challenge you are facing right now?
The raft of regulatory changes we’ve seen over the past five years – particularly for derivatives – is the most significant challenge I and other treasurers are facing at the moment. Under EMIR, for instance, corporates are liable as well as financial institutions, yet corporates don’t necessarily have the infrastructure and the management information systems (MIS) that banks have to help them carry out the reporting. In addition, the quantity of obligations and uncertainty over implementation has been burdensome. At Plan we use financial instruments for managing currency exposure but have had to implement regulation without increasing our overheads. Being an NGO we are mindful of costs.
Having said that, Dodd Frank and EMIR are now very current, so the workload on implementation is generally behind us in the treasury sector. The remaining ongoing challenge is finding yield in a risk averse manner in the Basel III and low interest rate environment.
What can treasurers do to get their voices heard within an organisation?
There is a triangle of flow here, relationships, knowledge and communication. From relationships one can understand the issues and latest strategy, which is knowledge. The knowledge provides opportunity to add value, to change. And the communication piece is the proposal followed by marketing for which one can fall back on relationships.
For my part, I do quite a lot of internal and external presentations. When there has been external change such as the euro collapse a few years ago or the advent of Dodd Frank, I have written papers for circulation internally to relevant management and for the Board, with regular revisions. In addition, as and when there are appropriate opportunities, I draw attention to the department’s challenges and achievements.
Who has been your greatest career inspiration?
I was greatly influenced by my mentor from many years ago when I was a junior dealer in a bank. My treasurer at the time was a gentleman who decided I was going places and he took me under his wing to make sure that I did, I guess. He provided the environment for me to learn and broaden my experiences and for me to move the dealing room into further attractive and profitable areas. His parting words to me when he handed the Treasurer reins to me were, “you don’t need to know everything, just know who to go to.”
“His parting words when he handed the Treasurer reins to me were, ‘you don’t need to know everything, just know who to go to’.”
In the early years of her career, Annemarie Moore worked in the back office at several international banking institutions, but always aspired to be one of the dealers or front office team. Taking on her first role as a treasurer at a merchant bank in the mid-1980s, the working environment in which Annemarie began her career was very different compared with the financial world today. “I think that was quite a big accomplishment,” she says. “Not only was I just one of only a handful of women globally in that role, I was also in my late 20s as well – so still relatively young.”
Her experience in banking, and particularly the understanding it gave her of how the ‘other side’ operates, is something Annemarie still finds useful in her current role. “I can relate to what the bank dealers are experiencing and accommodate and appreciate their difficulties, maybe in pricing certain sizes for instance. This understanding of how the other side works and their constraints has enabled me to put in place realistic procedures and policy.”
A step change
In December 2006, Annemarie joined Plan International, a global child rights organisation, heading up the group treasury function. At the time, the organisation was planning a restructuring of the function and looking for someone to drive that change. Of course, Annemarie did not hesitate when the opportunity to try something exciting and different presented itself. “I had wanted to work in a company in which there was an end product at the time. A physical end product, such as a can of baked beans, seemed to me a more tangible way of adding value to society. But what is more tangible than directly improving the lives of thousands of children?”
The work of a treasurer at a non-profit organisation is actually not at all dissimilar to the treasury in the corporate world, she explains. The risks to manage and methods are driven by company exposures, whether domestic or international, and size – regardless of whether the treasury is in a profit making or non-profit making organisation.
There is one small but notable difference, however, that appealed to her. “The breadth of currencies we manage here is huge,” she says. “We do have the same risks to manage and the scope of those risks is often larger owing to the number of countries we operate in. We are also mindful of our quasi fiduciary responsibility as the funds being managed and exchanged are donations. Preservation of value is paramount.”
She adds an example: “For instance, if installing a latrine under a sanitation programme costs about £10 and if we can achieve a saving of £3,000 by purchasing Tanzanian shilling from bank A versus bank B, then we in the treasury department think of it as 300 latrines and each cost saving being achieved improves lives for children.”
Diversity and equality
When Annemarie first undertook a senior role in treasury, the lack of women in the field was noticeable. “An early conference that I went to abroad in the late 1980s with international dealers staged a dinner for delegates and an alternate venue for spouses one evening. My husband found himself at a fashion show. He told me there were a handful of men amongst 500 or so female spouses.”
Whilst no longer that extreme, Annemarie still finds that women remain under-represented at conferences. “Maybe as I remarked earlier, the market deadlines and timezones do not lend themselves to flexible working and that discourages women.”
In her experience, opportunities to travel to conferences are often limited for professional women with young children. Annemarie has been lucky enough to have a supportive family, however. “My ex-husband is working in Dubai so my backup currently is my partner who is stepdad to my daughters, and my ex-husband’s wife, who works locally, also steps in when I need support. Having said that, my children are older now – with the eldest being an adult,” she adds.