Treasurers embracing a bigger role in the boardroom

Article published on 14 december 2021 on website: theglobaltreasurer.com written by Liz Salecka

 

Corporate treasurers are now well placed to pursue greater career ambitions – even outside treasury

Corporate treasurers have historically always taken a back seat in driving forward corporate operational and strategic thinking, and for many this has led to a long career focused on figures and number crunching.

However times are changing. Today, treasurers are not only emerging into the spotlight in their own companies but forging new career paths for themselves.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, corporate treasurers have taken centre-stage in boardroom discussions, with their advice on access to liquidity, cash flows, and cash forecasts sought on an ongoing basis by the senior management team.

“Low-cash companies, or companies with lot of external financing, are now looking extensively at the treasury function to make sure there is enough cash to pay the bills,” says Patrick Kunz, a former treasurer, and now an external treasury, finance and risk consultant with his own company Pecunia Treasury & Finance. “Nowadays ultra-cash rich companies also rely on the treasurer to make sure cash is invested properly while minimising counterparty risk.

“During Covid-19, this was of huge importance and treasury was a weekly and, sometimes, daily guest at the CFO table.”

Meanwhile, Alexis Wattinne, group treasurer at food company Bonduelle for 11 years, and now its CFO and business development director, points out that treasurers first gained greater prominence and recognition during the 2008 financial crisis.

“During the financial crisis, there was an increased focus on the liquidity available and raising finance. Treasurers had to explain their strategy, and where the company stood in terms of financing, and people at board level realised how important the treasurer’s role is,” he says, pointing out that treasurers always enter the limelight during crisis periods.

“Since the financial crisis, the role of the treasurer has continued to evolve with the board more interested in issues such as managing spare cash in a new low level interest rate environment.”

Wattinne notes that the pandemic forced many businesses into a complete shut down, and this created some major liquidity issues – particularly for companies like Bonduelle that operate in the food industry.

“In situations like this, the treasurer takes responsibility for ensuring that his/her company will be paid, and for us at Bonduelle, we knew that many of our customers were facing huge difficulties,” says Wattinne.

“The treasurer in such scenarios becomes a key actor in ensuring that the company maintains a healthy financial position.”