The role of treasury has changed dramatically in the last decade. The demands CFOs put on treasury teams have changed a lot since the global financial crisis, as have the skills treasurers need in order to meet these demands. Leading treasurers aren’t just mathematical wizards performing ledger alchemy in a dusty back office, they’re slick business pros armed with unique insights that guide business strategy.
But this isn’t the last stage of treasury development. Treasury is in a cycle of perpetual evolution and you can be sure, more change is coming. It’s worth considering how your role will evolve over the next decade and what this will mean for your career.
Here are a few thoughts around some key areas to help you get started down the treasury career path.
1. Develop a deep business understanding
Treasury has gradually moved closer to the business over the past decade. To become a strategic treasury leader, you must develop an intimate understanding of your business and the competitive landscape it exists within. It’s fundamental stuff. Without this knowledge it’s impossible to know where to focus your efforts and where you can add value.
Now there are plenty of ways to get the knowledge you need, and a lot of it you’ll pick up day-to-day but some of the best advice we can offer is to simply get up from your desk and ask questions. Find out what procurement is doing, ask how AP operates, sit in on a few sales meetings, and get as much face time with senior leadership as possible to learn about the strategic direction of the company.
Take all this information back with you to the treasury department and use it to underpin everything you do. Use it to focus your team's efforts by aligning your KPIs with strategic business outcomes. Use it to break down operations silos and work with other teams on projects that create shared value. And use it to develop unique insights that you can take to your next strategy meeting with your CFO.
This isn’t a one-time project either. We all know businesses are changing at breakneck speed and it’s critical that you stay up to date with what’s happening across your enterprise or risk becoming irrelevant. So work on formalizing your relationships and make them part of your day job—that’s how you become, and stay, a strategic treasurer.
2. Sharpen your soft skills
It might feel unnatural to walk around your building asking questions of people you’ve never spoken to before—you’re a treasurer, not a journalist, right? But treasury is a people business now, and soft skills are just as important (and some might argue even more important) than core treasury skills. After all, what’s the point of having a great idea if you can’t sell it to anyone?
In fact, a recent study by Refinitiv found that communication is the most crucial soft skill for treasurers today and in ten years time. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways that you can sharpen these skills. You could take public speaking courses, learn how to listen (and we mean properly listen), or seek structured and unstructured feedback from your peers. The trick is to try out a few different methods until you learn what works for you.
But remember, it’s not all about communication skills. Adaptability, creativity and empathy are becoming equally important as the demands on treasury change. These are harder to measure and improve, but you can improve if you’re self-aware and put in place strategies for long-term growth.
So if you know you don’t like change, understand that and work to embrace it by meeting it head-on with a positive mindset. If you’re angry at a decision made by AP, take a moment and think about why they made that decision from their perspective. You won’t change overnight, but with consistent action, you’ll become more adaptable, creative and empathetic.
3. Embrace and reimagine risk management
While it’s crucial that you sharpen your soft skills, you must also work on your core treasury’ skills, and if you’re looking for a specific area to focus on there’s no better one than risk management.
The geopolitical landscape is increasingly volatile, and businesses are feeling the impact. This is bringing treasury—the expert risk managers in the enterprise—to the fore. In fact, according to the recent ACT Business of Treasury study, risk management is the most frequent topic covered by treasurers at board level right now. So take this challenge and turn it into an opportunity to bring your expertise to the boardroom.
And don’t just think about your own enterprise, ask how these volatile conditions are impacting your ecosystem. Are your strategic suppliers able to deliver? What about your long-tail? Can it survive the geopolitical storm? And if there is any uncertainty, look towards ways to mitigate the risk by using the range of supplier financing tools available to you.
Covering all the bases and guiding your organization through the storm won’t go unnoticed. It’s the perfect platform to set your treasury up for success over the next decade.
4. Take the lead with technology
You might be surprised that we didn’t immediately mention something about developing your technology skills. Technology development in treasury is the predominant topic after all. And while we agree that it’s crucial that treasurer's take the lead around new technology, it’s worth remembering that it’s you, not the technology you use, that gives you the influence to change behavior.
That being said, getting the right technology in place is crucial if you’re going to achieve your goals. And while you don’t need to become an IT specialist, you do need a good understanding of the latest technological innovations.
Most importantly, you need to look towards technology that’s as adaptable as your business is changeable. And it’s about collating data from multiple sources into a central location to create insights that drive the strategic direction of the business. And that probably means shifting away from static, siloed, legacy solutions towards modern platform-centric offerings.
There’s a lot happening right now across the full spectrum of treasury technology. Every day there’s a glut of new announcements about the latest and greatest technology that’ll revolutionize this and that. Often these are written in a language that’s clear as mud unless you’re a technology wiz. But don’t let that stop you, get out there, be curious, get experiment with new technology and try things out.
5. Seize the initiative and seek new experiences
Why not make a big decision and take a leap into the unknown by taking on something new? This might be going to work in a different part of the business. That'll give you an opportunity to develop new skills and see how the enterprise operates from a different angle. A move such as this that gives you a more rounded CV could be especially useful if you’ve got your eyes on the CFO position one day.
Another way to step out of your comfort zone is to get some overseas experience. In fact, overseas experience is increasingly becoming an attractive trait in treasury leaders. Data from Refenitiv finds that 38% of treasury leaders say overseas experience is highly desirable. Making such a move will let you see the business from a different perspective. You’ll build a new network of allies and you’ll test and challenge yourself by having to come to terms with different business cultures.
Even if you don’t make such a bold move, make sure you challenge the status quo and that you’re always moving forward.
Set yourself up for success
The future of treasury is exciting and we guarantee it’ll look very different in ten years time. So let’s rewrite the rule book, challenge the status quo, and take your treasury career to the next level.
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