Re-evaluating treasury — role, skills and priorities in the re-defined CFO’s office
To the CFO,
The last two decades, especially the post-pandemic world, has witnessed you being busier than ever with a massive shift in priorities.
“CFO Research (part of Argyle Advisory and Research Services) and Grant Thornton surveyed 631 & 174 CFOs/ senior finance executives respectively, in Feb and May 2020, to gauge the effects of the COVID-19 upheaval. In Feb 2020, the survey respondents reported that they as CFO, divided their time relatively equally amongst devising strategy, being a change agent and standardizing automation & compliance. But by May 2020, that balance had shifted majorly towards crafting corporate strategy and architecting business value, in response to Covid-19 crisis.”
Unanimously agreed, the pandemic was a huge wake-up call. You might be left wondering how to give a revised focus to your teams, especially treasury since it is fundamental to the organizations’ financial health. Your Treasury department assumes all the more significance since your role as the CFO and that of your treasurer though unarguably distinct are still quite linked, overlapping in a no. of areas.
But was it always so? Not really. The erstwhile treasurer’s role was limited to a standalone operational support function, responsible for paying bills and handling petty cash of the business. The role gradually expanded to cash and risk management, especially foreign exchange and interest rates. These times are long gone now.
Treasurer’s evolved role
Global business volatility and changing regulatory landscape in the wake of 2008 financial crisis and pandemic have set treasurers on a new path. Their enhanced role has become more critical and will be progressively ingrained in strategy — not only conceptualizing and developing it but also educating the Board of Directors about complex treasury terms in simple business language.
The treasurers will be further expected to play a pivotal role in providing strategic decision making support in a) mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity and b) business continuity plan during the ensuing crisis — leading to creation of significant business value.
As a CFO, you would agree wholeheartedly that it’s an increasingly difficult time to be a treasurer. Nonetheless, successfully navigating the organization through tough challenges is precisely what would earn the treasurer a true ‘seat at the table’.
Now, it goes without saying that the new role would require a set of improved skills and a refocus on priorities, with relationship building and strategy at the core of it.
As per 2020 AFP Strategic Role of Treasury Survey Report
the critical skills required for treasury during the next 3 years would be
Treasurer of tomorrow: From the CFO’s eye
- Good Communicator
- Ability to collaborate with the entire spectrum of stakeholders
- Strategic thinker and planner
- Relationship building capability with the CFO and Board of Directors
- Adaptability to changing environment
- Ability to embrace new technology towards creating a better ecosystem
Refocused priorities for treasurer
Liquidity management was the treasurer’s key agenda during Covid-19 with cash reserves drying up and significant challenges being faced by organizations. In the post-pandemic period, there is still an increased urgency around improving liquidity planning and management.
Treasury centralization and process/Technology-led-unification: Historically, a decentralized treasury structure had been widely used in emerging economies like Asia. However, with treasurer’s evolved role, centralization of treasury has become the new mandate. Arguably, there is no one-way approach to achieve phased centralization, usually starting from the unification of critical treasury processes and technology.
The need of the hour is A UNIFIED system for treasurers that automates and connects together their multiple tasks — cash, liquidity, working capital, risk and supply chain finance management, compliance & regulatory reporting and daily reconciliation. Undoubtedly, the advent of disruptive treasury technology has offered treasurers the opportunity to embrace their new roles. It has played a pivotal part in helping them strengthen their liquidity/risk management strategies by offering a 360 degrees’ visibility into cash facilitating accurate forecasting, robust risk/working capital management & integrated supply chain funding.
How treasures can retain a seat at the table?
Treasury function and treasurers have assumed greater significance during Covid-19. In order to retain their seat at the table, it’s important for treasurers to truly be instrumental in helping their organizations recover in the post pandemic world. They need to invest in actively shaping the future of not only the various interconnected functions but the organization as a whole.