Lisa Tierney has worked in corporate treasury at Diageo and now with Luxottica, but she also has a banking background, having worked at Merrill Lynch on the treasury funding side. She is currently learning Italian and believes language skills are extremely important in business – now more than ever before.
European Treasury Manager
Lisa Tierney joined Luxottica Group in May 2009 and was appointed European Treasury Manager in January 2011. She has held several positions within treasury, including at Diageo, the worlds’ leading premium drinks corporation. In addition, she has a background in banking, having worked in Merrill Lynch on the treasury funding side. She holds a degree in Economics from Trinity College Dublin, a MSc degree in Investment and Treasury and is an Associate of the Irish Taxation Institute (AITI) having completed the professional tax exams.
Luxottica Group is a leader in premium, luxury and sports eyewear with approximately 7,000 optical and sun retail stores in North America, Asia Pacific, China, South Africa, Latin America and Europe, and a strong, well-balanced brand portfolio. In 2012, Luxottica Group posted net sales of more than €7 billion.
What is your career-defining moment?
It’s hard to define your career in one moment but two that stand out are first of all getting the opportunity to kick-start my career with Diageo Plc, a large multinational company (MNC), and more recently taking responsibility at regional level in Luxottica, where I am European Treasury Manager.
Which women in business most inspire you and why?
In the early stages of my career in treasury, I worked with some inspiring women who instilled their passion in me. Luxottica actively promotes women in the workplace and our workforce actually comprises a 60/40 female to male split.
What is the biggest challenge you are facing just now?
Luxottica is a fast growing company and the biggest challenge is integrating new acquisitions and new retail and wholesale subsidiaries into our business model. From a treasury perspective, this entails significant travel as we meet the local finance teams and our relationship banks in order to understand the business operations and relevant banking requirements.
What couldn’t you manage without?
The network of contacts that I have built up throughout my career is invaluable. On occasion, I can tap into their vast experience and knowledge base which enables me to tackle certain challenges that my current role presents. Building and maintaining relationships with people across all functions and departments in Luxottica has allowed me to gain a better understanding of the business and ensures that the treasury department plays a key role in servicing it.
What advice would you give to other women in treasury?
Gaining as much experience as possible in all facets of the treasury function and building a strong network of contacts are key to progression. Also, in my experience, some women shy away from certain opportunities presented to them such as attending relevant conferences and forums. I find that by attending such events you become more aware of what is happening in the wider treasury world and the financial markets and how other people approach the different challenges.
If there is one thing you could have done differently in your career path so far, what would that be?
I believe languages are extremely important in business now more than ever before. Working for an Italian company with significant global reach you come into contact with people from different cultures and languages all the time. The company provides language classes for staff and I am learning Italian at present.
“Gaining as much experience as possible in all facets of the treasury function and building a strong network of contacts are key to progression.”
Lisa Tierney’s first taste of the treasury world was with the global beverage company, Diageo, where she worked with a number of inspiring women who held senior positions in the firm. These senior executives acted as mentors in the early stages of her career. They set the standard that Tierney endeavoured to emulate as she progressed in her career. This illustrates the importance of women putting themselves forward for managerial and director-level positions, and acting as a role model for younger women in the business. This will have a greater impact on changing the gender composition of boards and treasury teams than a formal quota, according to Tierney.
She began her career in treasury after completing a degree in economics at Trinity College, joining the treasury team in Diageo at its headquarters in Dublin. “I decided that this was where I wanted to work – in a fast-moving environment with a broad range of activities, such as cash management, inter-company financing and foreign exchange (FX) management.”
From Diageo, Tierney moved to the banking side to Merrill Lynch, and was involved in cash and liquidity management – funding various business units on a day to day basis across the various currencies. She embarked on an MSc in Investment and Treasury, studying part-time whilst continuing to work. She then moved to FTI, a specialist international treasury company providing treasury management solutions and consulting services to a diverse range of companies, which gave her excellent experience in dealing with all aspects of corporate treasury both operational and strategic.
“I continued to study at night and the MSc proved very practical, tying in with aspects of what I was dealing with on a daily basis,” explains Tierney. “I moved out of the treasury environment for a short time and then found myself returning to a position with Luxottica Trading and Finance in 2009.” She has been with Luxottica for four years, starting out as a Senior Treasury Analyst before being promoted to European Treasury Manager in 2011.
What she enjoys about treasury is the integral role it plays within the business. “Treasury deals with many different departments, groups and banks on a daily basis in order to get its job done. I am always talking to different people, for example the local finance teams in our subsidiaries in order to understand their needs and then working with our banks to get the right services in place for those subsidiaries.”
Treasury is also a challenging environment, especially in the case of Luxottica, a fast-growing company which is expanding into the emerging markets both on the wholesale and retail sides. Since December, the company has acquired two companies in Europe that it is now integrating into the Luxottica model: Alain Mikli, a bespoke boutique eyewear business in France that has operations across Europe, US and Asia; and Sunglass Time, a retail chain with stores across UK and Europe. Furthermore, Luxottica has incorporated a new wholesale subsidiary in Russia and retail operations in Germany and Italy.
“When we are acquiring a company, or a new company is incorporated, treasury is involved right from the outset with the M&A and legal teams. For a new company all the risk factors are assessed and this can entail evaluating new banking partners, currency of bank account, invoice currency, etc. Where feasible, new group companies are quickly linked to the cash pool structure so they can access funds for their day-to-day operations. For acquisitions in particular, bank account consolidation is key in order to simplify the flows and allow for automation of accounts payable (AP) and accounts receivable (AR) processes. For this, we liaise with our shared service centre (SSC) in Italy, IT and accounting departments as they on-board companies into SAP,” says Tierney.
The treasury team in Dublin has responsibility for cash, liquidity and FX risk management activities across Europe. Due to the fact that Luxottica’s primary manufacturing site and HQ is located in Italy, the region sees quite significant flows, while at the same time the region accounts for about 80% of the group’s total FX exposure. There are approximately 50 legal entities across Europe with the majority linked to the regional cash pool structures. In addition, there are approximately 50 banking relationships to be managed. The challenges include forecasting and ensuring all cash generated is centralised into our cash pools as quickly as possible for use at group level.
The treasury team is involved right down to local level with each of the subsidiaries and Tierney negotiates credit lines, fees, etc, both with Luxottica’s local banks and also the main cash pool bank. “It is very important to have a constant communication with our banks in order that they continue to provide good service to us as the business expands. With such a fast-moving environment, we want the process to be as smooth as possible. Having the communication channels open with the various relationship teams makes it a lot easier when a new company comes on board and you want something done very quickly.”