Senior treasurers are corporate superstars. They’re responsible for protecting the financial health of the company. They’re also increasingly called upon by the C-Suite to help guide the company’s strategic direction. Because of this, being a treasury leader calls for more than first-rate treasury skills. Aspiring senior treasurers must be innovators that drive value across the company.
As a junior treasurer focused on the nuts and bolts of day-to-day treasury it might seem difficult to find avenues (and time) to show your strategic potential. But if you see yourself as a strategic guru and want to make that step up, there are actions you can take to make your mark.
1. Break down silos
Don’t live up to the stereotype that treasury is a support function that operates in the background with little impact on the day-to-day business. A world-class treasury function is one that proactively works with other departments and provides them with tools to help them meet their objectives.
Achieve this by getting to know the other departments in your organisation. Show them how your specialist knowledge can bring value to these team. Start by arranging an informal meeting with procurement to understand their objectives. Ask them about where they are sourcing from and why. Find out about the health of the supply chain and if they foresee any risks that treasury can help manage. And see how to create greater collaboration between the two departments.
Also, spend time with AP/AR to understand their processes and the challenges they have. See how they are digitising and define a strategy for a more seamless data exchange between departments. Talk to them about the various buyer and supplier financing solutions treasury can facilitate. Make sure you don’t downplay the value these solutions can provide. And try to align these departments with treasury’s broader working capital goals. This positions you as a strategic thinker who looks beyond their own department to drive enterprise-wide benefit.
2. Work on your soft skills
What good is an excellent idea if you cannot communicate it to the rest of the business? Soft skills are just as important as core treasury skills for any treasury leader. To achieve any leadership role, it’s important to work on how you present your ideas. Specifically, practice explaining complex financial concepts to a non-financial audience. So don’t tell AP about the challenges treasury has in earning a return on surplus cash through typical investment options like bank deposits and money market funds. Instead, tell them the company has surplus cash to pay suppliers early through a dynamic discounting scheme and highlight the benefits this will provide them.
It’s also important to have empathy. Remember, any changes you implement will impact others. Talk to those involved, understand their concerns and reassure them when you can. You are not forcing your ideas on others; you’re a collaborator with the best interests of the company at heart.
3. Think technology first
Any aspiring treasury leader must think technology first. The reason for this is simple: technology allows treasury to automate manual tasks and effectively support the business. So make sure you understand and champion technology within your department. Show initiative and involve yourself in every technology project you can to build up your experience. Also, think beyond treasury and look at the projects other departments are working on. More often than not these will impact treasury in some shape or form and you may provide some added value. For example, if accounts payable is implementing an e-invoicing solution, talk to them about adding on supply chain financing or dynamic discounting for added benefit.
Why not learn to code as well? Leading technology platforms now offer end users the ability to build apps to solve unique business problems. What better way to stand out from the crowd than by building these apps to solve problems. Brand yourself as the change-agent dedicated to delivering business-wide value, and that next promotion is as good as yours.
4. Focus on the future
The need for you to determine a technology roadmap for treasury will only intensify. As cutting-edge concepts like blockchain, AI and the Internet of Things become mainstream, you’ll surely see an impact to the business. Yes, these concepts seem complex at first, but so did smartphones when they first hit the market. You’ve got to start somewhere, and it’s important to understand these concepts as they will impact your future in treasury. Cut through the noise by speaking with experts working with these technologies. Ask them to explain the impact they may have on your treasury operation. And position yourself as a centre of knowledge not just for treasury, but for the organisation as a whole. Then, when the CFO next asks about blockchain, you can step up and outline what the technology is and the impact it might have. There are few better ways than impressing the big boss to earn yourself that promotion.
5. Step into the unknown
You will only reach the top if you push yourself out of your comfort zone. What better way to do that than gaining overseas experience. In fact, overseas experience is no longer just a nice to have, it is a must-have for many large companies hiring senior executives. This makes sense in a globalised world. Increasingly, businesses must look beyond familiar markets to drive new revenue growth. Take advantage of this opportunity. If your business is flourishing in China, for example, see if there’s an opportunity to work out there. By doing so, you will see the business from a completely different perspective. You will build a new network of allies. You will also test and challenge yourself by having to come to terms with a different business culture and way of working. And most importantly, you will add to that holistic view of the business which every senior treasury professional requires. Yes, moving overseas may seem a daunting proposition and there will be challenges. But if anything else it will be an enriching experience and one you will never forget. It will also impress the hell out of hiring managers.
Go get ‘em
You have the skills. You have the vision. Get out there and become a treasury superstar.
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