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Follow the Money: Finding a Career in Corporate Treasury

To most outsiders, the world of corporate treasury is little known and little understood. It seems synonymous with glass-paneled skyscrapers, starched collars and seven-figure sums. The treasury department of a large company is responsible for developing and assessing every element of financial strategy, from daily transactions to long-term investments. Treasury managers outline financial policy and define what constitutes risk. They are constantly looking to the future, measuring credit risk, currency risk, liquidity risk etc.

Treasury Jobs

Corporate treasury is an exciting and diverse branch of finance, completely autonomous these days from accountancy. However, it’s not an easy sector to get into, especially if you’re just starting out. You’ll notice early on that treasury positions are not generally marketed to recent graduates but to experienced candidates who have earned their bread in other financial sectors.

With a fast-paced environment and strong financial rewards, corporate treasury is certainly alluring but how do you get a foot on the ladder? Getting there and staying there requires hard work. In a treasury department you will be expected to contribute meaningfully to day-to-day decision making. It often requires a good working knowledge of specific global markets and foreign exchange workflows.

Hard Work and Big Rewards

There is nowhere to hide in corporate treasury. Dealing on a daily basis with banks and shareholders requires a broad skill-set. Knowledge of the sector is not enough. Financial management and treasury jobs often involve extensive collaboration. Communication and interpersonal skills are highly sought after. In the beginning you may find yourself managing cash-flows or investments, developing new financial workflows or focusing on exchange markets.

Entry level jobs usually include the word “analyst” in the title so when you check out the jobs boards, look out for titles like “treasury analyst” or “risk analyst.” As you advance with the company you may rise to assistant and perhaps manager. The highest position is usually finance director.

Necessary Background

Most people in treasury will have a substantial background in economics. A bachelor’s degree in business is a good place to start. In order to enhance their resume and experience, many people follow this up with a post-graduate specialization. At entry level, treasury jobs can be hard to come by and you may have to build up a portfolio of experience, perhaps in an area like investment banking or licensed accountancy. This will give you credibility and help you to create a network of contacts within the industry. Treasury jobs offer exciting opportunities for the right individuals.

What’s Your Sustainability IQ?

Do you know your Sustainability IQ? How sustainable is your organization? Do you know where you have your greatest organizational strengths and assets? Are you aware of your risks, and how to minimize them? And, do you have a roadmap for building your sustainability?

Building sustainability is critical in today’s challenging fiscal, programmatic and public policy environment. This article will provide you with an overview of the key areas of sustainability, and how to develop a more sustainable organization. My firm has developed a Sustainability Profile, used in consulting and training, that identifies five key organizational areas to consider: (1) Mission, Programs, Planning & Evaluation; (2) Finance, Fund Raising & Marketing; (3) Human Resources; (4) System; and (5) Culture.

A. Mission, Programs, Planning & Evaluation. Most nonprofits and local governments excel here. You have developed programs and services that address needs and relate to the core mission. Sometimes, however, one finds “mission creep,” where programs are added that are not as related to the core mission. Has your organization added programs over the past years that were originally well funded, that are now not so well funded? And do these pull resources away from core mission programs? Do your programs make a difference, and how do you know? Can you demonstrate meaningful outcomes and impact? Are programs a model, or based on models and effective practices? Another area you may want to watch is planning. Although most organizations conduct a yearly strategic plan, fewer are able to actually implement the plan in such a way that is a living part of the work. There are strategies that can help make the planning come alive, such as incorporating goal reports into meetings, developing a plan template used for quarterly tracking, and celebrating benchmarks.

B. Finance, Fund Raising & Marketing. According to national research, a large percentage of nonprofits are still struggling with budget cuts and contracting challenges. So, this is an area of concern for many. Although the average organization’s budget has taken multiple hits, it is possible to reduce the risk: develop a conservative budget; identify ways to expand and diversify income; analyze cost overruns; create strategies and incentives for cost reduction; and involve staff in these efforts. Have you analyzed what works and what doesn’t with your fund development? Identify a few fund raising strategies that allow the organization to expand and diversify revenue. Nonprofits can often find ways to strengthen donor giving, with good database analysis. Board involvement in fund raising can bring in significantly more gifts, especially once this becomes a regular part of the board’s work. Build marketing in cost effective ways, and leverage your organization’s reputation using social media, traditional press, community outreach and meetings or events. Have financial policies and a financial plan in place to handle cutbacks; a fund raising plan and a marketing plan. These can be short, bulleted documents. However, having them will improve everyone’s ability to focus on priorities and stay focused. Staffing is often tight, so look for trusted volunteers and student interns to do some of the work.

C. Human Resources. In nonprofits and local government, the people are the primary asset. Review any budget to see that the largest percentage of revenue goes to staffing, which drives programs and services. Analyze board and other volunteer work to determine the value of volunteer time, and you’ll find that it’s substantial. Ensure that you have an HR plan and policies that cover staff, board and volunteers. Normally, these will be found in different documents, the HR policies, board by-laws and policies, and volunteer policies and procedures. Ensure that the CEO and Board Chair provide a model for board and staff. Make certain that people know what is expected of them, that they receive feedback, support and praise for work well done. Offer training and evaluation, and involve people in shaping plans that affect their work.

D. System. The agency’s infrastructure often lags in development and can be the first to fall to cutbacks. That can really put a drag on organizational effectiveness over time. When funds are tight, look for ways that staff and volunteers can become involved in evaluating and improving the organization’s system, administration, internal communications and technology. Look for retired managers and retired consultants who may provide targeted pro-bono services to help you keep your organization’s system and processes on track. Consider partnering with youth organizations to have young tech gurus work with you if you need a video, or a tech-specific project. Develop priorities for upgrades and changes, and look at the return on investment they will provide.

E. Culture. The Sustainability Profile has identified a number of elements that are an important part of a growing organization’s culture, and reflect that organization’s capacity. These are diversity, collaboration, innovation, and mindfulness. When an organization pays attention to these areas, investing organizational energy and resources, the organization builds its resiliency. It becomes more focused and effective; more proactive and responsive; better able to target and leverage resources; stronger and more able to weather challenge and change.

Build your Sustainability IQ, and your organization’s sustainability by taking the following steps:

  1. Analyze your organization’s strengths and weaknesses in each of the five key areas identified above.
  2. Target your greatest strengths, and outline strategies for leveraging those strengths.
  3. Identify your biggest weaknesses or risk areas, and build steps for developing those areas and minimizing risks.
  4. Implement your Sustainability Roadmap.

What You Can Learn From My Summer Vacation

‘Remember in our youth the standard return-to-school “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essay? This summer has given me several lessons that have value for you today.

The story begins with a local police officer knocking on my door at 9:00 one night, asking me about my brother, Billy. Of course, you know what happens next–I find out that Billy died in a motorcycle accident a few hours earlier. He was 57, divorced, with no children. He was a floor layer, a regular ordinary guy. Like you and your team members.

First lesson: we are in a business of relationships. Don’t let corporate purchasing and hard bid tactics make you forget this. While price is part of the purchase consideration, the quality of your work and the relationships you foster with your clients, customers, and co-workers are paramount. I first realized this as word about Billy spread through the grapevine and I received numerous calls, emails, and cards of condolence from across the country. These were unexpected and much appreciated.

I saw it again at his wake. Having worked his trade in the New York area for over 30 years, my brother was well-known. On that Memorial Day weekend, we were visited by many of his associates. Not just tile guys, but the Foreman from the Laborers, and a superintendent from a General Contractor, to name a few. There were even guys who had worked with our father in the business-and some even remembered when I had helped out on a few jobs, way back when! Connections between people-that’s what it’s about.

Next lesson: how is your health? Construction is hard work, yeah. But it isn’t a substitute for quality exercise and eating. Billy wasn’t in bad shape, but he wasn’t in good shape, either. He loved to eat; cooking was his hobby. He didn’t exercise. And he had coronary artery disease. In fact, he may have had a health crisis that triggered the crash. We don’t know for sure. But we do know that he was not taking care of himself and now, he’s gone. Are you taking care of yourself? (If not for yourself, then for those who love you.)

“Divorced with no kids” sounds like an easy estate to deal with, right? Well, it would be if

  1. there had been a will (there wasn’t)
  2. there had been up-to-date beneficiaries on his life insurance policy (his ex-wife is still listed, although that wasn’t his wish; he just “never got around to” changing beneficiaries even though they’d been divorced for several years), and
  3. all his records had been kept in one place (not even close).

Looking through files and folders is never easy, but having to weed through pay stubs from 1986 makes the process even harder. I realized that my finances and directives are in a similar state of disorganization. I am currently creating what I call the Red Envelope, where all of that information is being placed to make the process easier for whoever needs to deal with it. We need to do this for the benefit of those around us. If you are a business owner or the head of a household, this becomes even more important.

By now, you may be fed up with my personal ramblings. But remember what my brother did for a living. He was a regular guy, he was just like you and the guys who work for you and with you. I am hoping you can learn from him so your team is better off.

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