Women in Treasury

Women in Treasury: Carol Thurnheer, Haleon

Published: Jul 2024
Carol Thurnheer, Manager International Treasury APAC, North Africa, Middle East and Turkey, Haleon

This much I know

Carol Thurnheer discusses her sources of her inspiration and explains why no day is ever the same in treasury.

Carol Thurnheer

Manager International Treasury APAC, North Africa, Middle East and Turkey
Haleon logo

Carol Thurnheer was born and raised in Switzerland. She started her career there before relocating to Luxembourg in 2005. For many years, Carol worked In Luxembourg as a finance director for a US Corporate. She joined Haleon’s Corporate Finance team in May 2022 from which she moved into her current role in international treasury.

Haleon plc is a British multinational consumer healthcare. It is one of the largest consumer healthcare businesses in the world, with brands including Sensodyne toothpaste and Advil painkillers. The company is a global leader in over-the-counter medicines. Haleon was established on 18th July 2022 as a corporate spin off from GSK.

Describe your typical workday

I usually start my day with clear objectives. Ten minutes and a couple of e-mails later, my plan usually ends up in the bin, and I work on something completely different. An extreme example of such a day was 6th March 2024, when the Central Bank of Egypt raised its key policy rates by 6%. As a result, the Egyptian Pound lost 60% of its value in a couple of hours. Egypt is one of my markets, so this required my immediate attention. It’s one of many examples of the agility and capacity for change that treasury requires.

Of all the days, Fridays are usually the quietest. I can focus then on moving ahead with my trade finance projects and prepare for the next week. So even though my days seldom go according to plan, I still prepare for the weeks ahead and try to organise as much as I can, which helps to keep me focused on hard deadlines.

What advice would you give to people who want to advance in their careers?

Firstly, it’s important to understand your core values. I’m an animal lover, for example. I would never accept a role in a corporate that exploits and harms animals. You need to feel proud of your employer’s positive impact on the world. You need to carry out your role with all your heart. You need to love what you do. If you can satisfy these requirements, you’ll find it much easier to progress in your career. It still takes hard work. You have to search constantly for new opportunities. And you have to communicate clearly with your manager, supporters and mentors to move to the next level. Stepping out of your comfort zone is key. If you want what others don’t have, you must do what others don’t do.

What gets you up in the morning?

Two things in particular: my personal growth and inspiring people to be courageous. I like challenges. I like to learn new things. I like to step out of my comfort zone. Without these challenges, I would lose my passion for my job. I try to pursue opportunities without being afraid of failure. Everyone experiences failure from time to time. I’d rather fail while being bold and challenging the status quo than fail without stepping out of my comfort zone and trying to grow.

I usually start my day with clear objectives. Ten minutes and a couple of e-mails later, my plan usually ends up in the bin, and I work on something completely different.

Describe your style of leadership

I try to instil a growth mindset in my team members. I encourage everyone to be open, to learn from others, and to embrace change. As a leader, I can create such an environment by focusing on performance, rather than promoting an expert culture.

As a leader, I ask my team regularly where they were six months ago, where they are now, and where they want to be in six months. This simple question promotes a culture based on performance rather than expertise. I also try to understand what motivates a team member. It might be a sense of belonging, autonomy, status, fairness or certainty. By understanding my team members’ motivations and finding common ground, I can be inclusive.

If someone doesn’t speak up in meetings, for example, I try to make the individual feel welcome to participate. This builds a culture of psychological safety, empowers individual team members and encourages continuous learning and growth. When I assess an individual’s performance, I try to eliminate bias as much as I can by gathering evidence from different sources and checking my own thinking. I try to listen and understand the motivations of my team members. By doing this, I can support their career development, which is critical for them and is also key to employee retention for our organisation. A win-win situation for the team and for the company.

What inspires you and how do you inspire others?

Treasury inspires me because it’s forward looking. As a treasurer, I can shape the business and build its resilience by managing risks. I can add quantitative and qualitative benefits in the form of financial value and strong relationships, which help us to weather challenging times and endure black swans. Compared to accounting, for example, in which we record and disclose what we’ve already negotiated and implemented, in treasury, we evaluate and implement forward-looking facilities and instruments.

For me, the most exciting area in treasury is international treasury, where we combine treasury with a commercial view. We work as a combination of regional treasurers and finance directors. When we investigate a funding request, for example, we need to look at geopolitical context, match that assessment with the business model and cash flows, then form an opinion about the possibilities in this market, from an internal and external funding perspective, and link it with our treasury policy.

As a leader, I ask my team regularly where they were six months ago, where they are now, and where they want to be in six months. This simple question promotes a culture based on performance rather than expertise.

In 2023, I got a request to fund the extension of the Panadol line in our Pakistan business. By partnering with a local bank, we found a project finance solution that allowed us to pay European supplier invoices in hard currencies through a letter of credit and repay the loan in Pakistani Rupees. It was a great solution for the local and for our global treasury team, but it required out-of-the-box thinking and collaboration between many different local and global teams.

Thinking on how treasury can inspire the younger generation I turned to my young, awesome analyst, Eunelle Amoroso, who’s in a much better position than I am to provide an answer. She identified three areas of great importance to young people.

First, she pointed out the importance of role models and mentorship. A mentor can have a huge impact on a younger person’s aspirations and can influence the person’s views of the treasury function.

Second, she noted the critical contribution of empowerment and independence. It makes a big difference to young people when a leader fosters a sense of empowerment and independence by teaching them how to make informed decisions autonomously. Finally, a leader can educate young people and enhance their awareness of treasury’s scope and importance by sharing knowledge.

Finally, I find huge inspiration from taking my treasury and finance knowledge into the not-for-profit world. I live a privileged life in a privileged part of the world. I’m very grateful for my freedom and security, but I’m also acutely aware that others are much less fortunate. To pay forward what I get for free every day, I volunteer for two charities.

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