ACT ones to watch: heading for the top

Author Rachael Crocker
November 6, 2019

In the first part of her two-part series, Rachael Crocker highlights the five skills and qualities that will help treasury professionals as they move through their careers towards the top roles.

As the role of the treasurer becomes increasingly strategic and high-profile, treasury leaders of the future can look forward to an even more exciting and varied career path than ever before. There are some common themes in terms of personal development areas that some of the most successful treasury leaders have focused on during their journey to the most senior positions. Here we explore how individuals who aspire to reach the top in treasury can ensure they are best placed to do so. Gaining true depth of experience to ensure technical expertise; gaining relevant treasury qualifications; developing soft skills; making moves at the right points in your career, and using your profile and network to your advantage is essential to career development. 

1. Gain depth of expertise 

We live in a fast-paced world where it is increasingly seen as desirable for ambitious, talented professionals to progress more quickly in their careers. Historically, there was a belief that you should serve an extended time in-role before progressing to the next level, an outdated view that happily no longer applies in most companies.

Today, bright individuals starting their treasury career in a forward-thinking organisation can expect to gain plenty of good, relevant experience and be in a position to move upwards before they would have been allowed the chance to in the past. The specialist nature of treasury also often means that it is possible to gain exposure to more high-profile matters and projects than peers in a more generalist environment. 

However, it’s also essential for treasury leaders of the future to ensure that they spend time honing their technical skillset. It is possible to move too quickly through an area of experience without fully exploring the maximum breadth and depth of exposure possible. Naturally ambitious individuals are keen to work on projects and to take on extra responsibility. This is all fantastic for their careers and should, of course, be encouraged. However, it’s essential that rapid progress isn’t at the expense of gaining a truly extensive understanding of the foundations of treasury. A strong and extensive technical toolkit is crucial as treasurers move to a more senior level. 

With treasurers expected to be more strategic than ever, a deep knowledge of the workings of treasury departments at all levels and in all areas is vital. We are seeing some bright and extremely talented individuals missing out on the top role because they have not seen all aspects of a particular area or because they have missed out altogether on some of the perceived ‘less glamorous’ areas of treasury. 

2. Focus on qualifications

Treasury qualifications are more important than ever, with the AM CT an essential requirement for almost all roles at treasury manager level and above. The Advanced Diploma (formerly the MCT) is a great way to set yourself apart at the more senior level. Holding this qualification can make a material difference when applying for top-tier senior roles. Both qualifications help treasurers to refine their technical skillset and ensure a solid understanding of best practice and differing approaches to practical treasury issues. 

As the role of the treasurer becomes increasingly strategic, so senior professionals are becoming more involved with the senior finance team. We are seeing group treasurers moving into the CFO role with more frequency. As a result, it is increasingly popular for treasurers to be dual-qualified as accountants. This not only allows the possibility of stepping up into a broader finance leadership role in the future but enables treasurers to see and discuss issues with other finance professionals around the top table.

3. Develop your soft skills

Outstanding soft skills are essential at senior level, so it is important that treasury leaders of the future focus on them as early as possible in their careers. Group treasurers must have the ability to lead teams that are often sizeable and at times geographically dispersed – as well as the ability to manage internal and external stakeholder relationships in a way that ensures a collaborative approach across treasury initiatives and across the wider business. 

Group treasurers also need to maintain strong and lasting relationships with banking partners so that they are able to negotiate with confidence when required. They need to be personable and engaging as well as confident and decisive when required.  It is advisable to seek out opportunities to develop these attributes whenever possible. Attending training courses or offering to take on a mentoring role can help individuals develop these core competencies. 

A key element of leadership is the ability to delegate and step away from the detail, a skill that doesn’t always come naturally to treasury professionals as they tend to be detail-oriented by nature, so delegation is a good skill to develop. A strong technical skillset will also give treasurers confidence when stepping back as they have the assurance that they can drop down into the detail and understand quickly if needed. 

4. Consider your CV  and plan your moves

Taking into account the need for technical expertise, qualifications and soft skills, it is important to plan your career moves carefully and to ensure you are building a CV that demonstrates all of the above. A quality period of time in any role is important to show you have fully explored the depth and breadth of its technical aspects, alongside studying for qualifications and developing your soft skills. It is important for treasury professionals to consider their time in a role carefully. Too little time in a position can mean a lack of deep experience while staying too long in a role past the point where they are being challenged and continuing to learn and grow can be equally damaging to one’s CV. Typically, three to five years is considered the norm, however, it’s possible talented individuals may be ready for a fresh challenge after two years and, equally, rising stars may continue to be challenged for much longer than five years in the right team. 

5. Raise your profile and grow your network

Finally, your individual profile and a personal network of other treasury professionals will add value across all aspects of career planning and personal development. Whether treasurers are using their network to gain technical knowledge from a peer, seek leadership guidance from a mentor or career advice from someone that they respect, it is invaluable to use their network as much as possible. The ACT provides not only the qualifications and training that is directly related to the course but ongoing technical support, soft-skills development and access to the largest treasury network in the UK. 

For more advice on progressing your treasury career, contact Rachael Crocker.

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