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Women in Treasury: Joanna Bonnett, PageGroup

Joanna Bonnett, Group Treasurer, PageGroup

This much I know

Joanna Bonnett, Group Treasurer, PageGroup advises those beginning to build a career in treasury to always be true to themselves at work and never hesitate to seek help when struggling.

Joanna Bonnett

Group Treasurer

PageGroup logo

Joanna Bonnett is a seasoned treasury professional with 20 years’ experience across multinationals and large government departments. Her expertise includes delivering on global transformation and automation programmes and creating high performing treasury teams. She joined PageGroup plc as Group Treasurer in 2017 with responsibilities that include global debt, investments, cash and liquidity management and FX management, sanctions compliance and insurance programmes.

Her previous postings include Treasury Consultant, IMI and Director of Treasury and Banking, Department of Defence of Australia. She graduated from the University of South Australia. As part of the ACT Mentor Me and Women@Page programmes she provides mentoring to female treasurers and finance personnel.

What attracted you to a career in treasury and how would you describe your experience to date?

As is the case with so many of my contemporaries, I almost fell into treasury. In saying this I mean I realised in hindsight all of my prior ‘accounting’ roles were actually treasury related. Initial encouragement came from being able to work on high profile and complex projects with early career access to the CFO. As the years progressed I was promoted and have since gained depth and breadth across a variety of industries, organisations and even countries. I have found the diversity of work challenging but also very rewarding.

How would you assess the opportunities for progression at PageGroup?

PageGroup is a people business which invests heavily in its employees and takes succession planning and career aspirations very seriously. Employees are actively encouraged to seek new opportunities to diversify their skillset and should you want the opportunity to move within the group, roles overseas are available. Personally I have been able to take on a number of new challenges, such as taking on the global insurance programme in 2018.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given so far along your own special journey?

I would say it has to be to remember everyone starts at the beginning and never be afraid to ask questions along the way.

Looking back, is there anything that you would have done differently in your career path?

Looking back, I would not do anything differently. I believe everything is done for a reason and even in the most challenging of circumstances I look for the positives and feel there is always room for personal growth.

What advice would you give to women in trying to develop their careers in treasury?

My advice would be the same for either gender. I would say it is vitally important to be yourself, no matter who you are and to always put your best foot forward; as only then will you be happy and realise your full potential. If you feel you are struggling, always seek help, whether it is from your supervisor or the group treasurer or even seek the help of a mentor. There are a lot of fantastic mentors out there to help people through those early years.

What has been the most important guiding principle during your career?

My guiding principle is to be genuinely passionate about what you do because if you are passionate, everything else including success will fall into place.

It is vitally important to be yourself, no matter who you are and to always put your best foot forward; as only then will you be happy and realise your full potential.

Multiple challenges from within and without

Joanna believes the biggest near-term challenge, not just for her but all treasurers generally, is the unprecedented volume of information needing to be tracked and processed: “Political turmoil, the plethora of new regulation… and then the fintech providers that are challenging traditional banks. As treasurers, we need to assimilate and analyse all this information, assess the opportunities or threats it presents for our respective companies and wider industries. A huge amount of personal investment and skill are required to achieve that.”

Treasurers today have to show very high levels of agility and flexibility, yet remain grounded and methodical: “It is certainly a very challenging skillset but it helps ensure we have the right ability and skills as treasurers, to face the challenges presented by exponential growth in information and data, and the arrival of the age of automation. There is going to be a big change, and I think it will be a very fast change, however, we must embrace it, keep up with it, while at the same time driving our companies and industries forward.”

The complex and demanding responsibility treasurers have in keeping abreast of such external developments whilst at the same time ensuring their departments remain fit for purpose operationally, is certainly in evidence at PageGroup, where Joanna’s team recently delivered on a large scale group-wide transformation project. In the space of just 12 months the team transitioned or replaced transactional bankers in 94 subsidiaries and established cash pooling and automated the banking interfaces with the group’s new global ERP.

It was “a mammoth undertaking” for Joanna’s small team but already she and her colleagues are focused on delivering the second phase of the project. Over the next 12 months the team intends to take a deep dive into the group’s working capital and debt facilities, investment portfolios and global credit card programmes.

“We may be a small team but we are challenging the status quo, which I think is really interesting and certainly keeps us all on our toes. We want to ensure that treasury is fit for purpose and in so doing support the wider business in a fast-evolving environment.”

Joanna says the size of her department means each of the individuals within the team is being given the unique opportunity to develop new skills: “I believe that being able to offer personal growth is vitally important for treasury team members. We get to deliver the new products but we also get to develop our individual skills, and generally enjoy a greater sense of fulfilment. It allows us to embrace innovation, in doing so creating opportunities which benefit us as individuals as well as the organisation.”

Sage advice for treasury newcomers

For every young person, embarking on a career is a daunting process, especially in treasury where for juniors the required knowledge and the skill set will appear insurmountable. To best navigate their early career in treasury, I would certainly recommend they look to secure professional qualifications such as the Diploma of Treasury Management offered by the Association of Corporate Treasurers. The qualification provides a solid foundation for anyone entering this industry.

Membership to professional bodies or other industry groups provides additional benefits such as access to career development tools, career hubs, networking opportunities and mentoring. Combining professional qualifications with on the job experience is critical to gaining confidence and making progress.

Joanna further believes it is important for those starting their journey in treasury to appreciate just how diverse the profession’s skill set has become and the demands which will be made of them going forward. “We are no longer operating in our ivory tower as was the case ten years ago. We do now have a seat at the table, we act as advisors to the CEO, the CFO, and the business alike. We move interchangeably between talking to say the board, our banking partners, the commercial teams, and shared service centres within our organisations.

“To be effective in this job, one must evolve beyond the treasury function and really become a trusted advisor, almost with a masters in stakeholder management. Put simply, we must be prepared for the foul weather as well as the fair.”

To read all the interviews in this series go to treasurytoday.com/women-in-treasury

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