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.”