Advice for Treasury Professionals looking to increase their influence

Increase your influence

Alex Hyde

Companies are more reliant on treasurers than ever before, so how can you use this to further your career? Alex Hyde, who heads up our Treasury team, explains.

In the past year, the job market has improved dramatically as the economic recovery builds momentum. So now is the perfect time for treasury professionals to focus on their career development in order to make the most of their ability. It also presents an opportunity for them to make the most of a macroeconomic environment that has given treasury professionals a greater level of visibility within their organisations. The global financial crisis, and its long-lasting hangover, presented significant challenges for treasury professionals and functions. But it also gave high performers in the treasury profession the opportunity to shine, since organisations became increasingly dependent on the insight and functional importance of their treasury department.

A focus on effective cash and risk management, along with the challenges associated with funding, has created a corporate culture that is more reliant on effective treasury management than ever before. As a result, talented treasury professionals have had more opportunity to demonstrate their ability to add real value to the business and to influence those outside of treasury and finance in order to progress up the career ladder. In this article, we will explore the best ways to develop the skill set required to advance your development and identify opportunities that will enable you to progress.

Colin Tyler, CEO of the ACT, believes that “the best treasurers make a difference and catch the eyes of those running the show. In order to do this, they must have a high level of technical competence and make a positive difference based on their functional expertise”. All treasury professionals looking to advance their career must develop a technical treasury skill set to use as a foundation of expertise before progressing to senior treasury or finance positions of influence.

On-the-job learning is a critical part of every professional’s development, but the AMCT qualification is essential for those at an early stage of their career who are looking to progress to more senior roles. For those at the treasury manager grade looking to advance to deputy-, assistant- or treasurer-level roles, the MCT is a great qualification that will develop the technical and strategic level of expertise that is needed to operate at this level and above. When you have developed the technical competence necessary to provide functional expertise, you should then be able to identify opportunities to have a positive influence across the department and beyond, rather than performing a purely operational treasury role.

As you develop your technical treasury skills, you should also be looking at the development of your ‘soft skills’ so that you can effectively manage your relationships upwards, work across the treasury team, partner with colleagues outside of treasury, make external relationships work in your favour and, in time, lead people in teams beneath you.

The most successful treasurers that I have worked with have the ‘two Is’ – imagination and influence. Their imagination stems from their functional expertise and professional knowledge, which enables them to spot or create opportunities where they can have a positive influence on the business. For Alex Hyde is associate director – treasury at recruiter Brewer Morris example, this could be an innovative cash management solution or spotting an opportunity in the markets that others will have missed. Their ability to think differently enables them to stand out from their peers. But a good imagination is nothing without the ability to influence. A successful treasury professional must be able to influence those above and around them, as they will be unable to make the most of their technical treasury skills if they don’t possess the soft skills that will turn ideas into action.

These skills may appear to come more naturally to some than others, but they can be learned. Speak with your group treasurer, and others above you within the organisation, about how they influence people and developed into their current roles. The best learning often comes from observing them in the work environment in order to hone your soft skills so that you can make the most of your technical skills. With a rounded set of technical and soft skills, you should have the confidence to start pushing for further development and make more of an impact on your treasury department and the wider business. As Simon Neville, group treasury director at consumer goods giant Reckitt Benckiser, puts it: “Build a functional skill set, make sure you are informed and be prepared to speak up.”

From here, it is the responsibility of the individual to identify opportunities where they can develop their exposure further. By building strong relationships with those above and around them, treasury professionals should be able to develop an understanding of their organisation and department’s plans over the next six to 18 months and position themselves so that they can advance their skill set. If the group is likely to go through a round of refinancing, get its first agency rating or do projects to develop its treasury
processes, and you don’t have experience in these areas, put your hand up and position yourself so that you get the experience you need in order to advance your career.

When treasury professionals find they are at a point where they have maximised their learning within their current team, or their opportunities to develop further are restricted, it is time to start looking externally for career development. Unless a fantastic job opportunity presents itself, it is my view that treasury professionals are better off staying in their current role until they’ve maximised their learning in that position.

With a developed skill set and a positive reason for exploring the treasury job market, they are able to command a better career move and salary increase when they change organisations. There is also less chance that they will find themselves torn between two parties, with a difficult decision to make if their current employer counter-offers because there is still scope for them to grow in their current organisation. Treasury professionals who have open relationships with their line managers should be able to have frank conversations about development opportunities. As a result, there should be no surprises for all parties when it is time to part ways. Treasury professionals who don’t have open relationships with their line managers, and can’t have these frank conversations with them, should see this as a sign in itself that it is time to move on and work in an environment that will provide greater opportunities for personal development.