How to accelerate your career in – or beyond – treasury

By Bob Stark March 25, 2016

You are a treasury rock star and your actions create (or protect) immense value for the organization. Yet, you find peers in other departments advance more quickly and gain promotions that seem to elude you. The problem isn’t you – it’s that treasury isn’t well understood in most organizations. We all know that corporate treasury is a very niche profession. The issue this creates is that the specific skills required to do well as a treasury professional are not easily transferable to a wide array of other career choices, including to be a CFO.

If you have your eye on a C-Level position in the future, at some point you need to plan an exit strategy to transition out of treasury. That exit can be made at a variety of places in the treasury corporate ladder, including from Treasurer to CFO. Wherever the transition comes, there are opportunities for treasury professionals to parlay accomplishments in treasury and make that experience broadly appealing to non-treasury experts.

1.       Embrace technology

If you don’t have experience implementing and using treasury technology, if you haven’t spent time uncovering new ways to replace old processes with new technology fueled solutions – you might as well start your LinkedIn background summary with “don’t hire me,” and add an emoticon of an abacus. Except…you wouldn’t do that because you probably think social media is a waste of time, and don’t own a smartphone. Obviously, I’m being a bit snarky to make a point. While we likely all agree that our society can be considered technologically obsessed, embracing technology personally and professionally is the price of admission. Being able to demonstrate that you understand the value of treasury technology, that you are able to drive process improvement, and that you can lead business transformation projects are key to positioning your experience in non-treasury terms.

2.       Collaborate

If you want to show diversity in your skill set beyond managing cash and knowing the most effective way to borrow money (which, by the way, treasury outsiders will never appreciate the complexity of) then take the opportunity in front of you: collaborate with other groups within your own organization. Your area of responsibility may determine the best level to correspond with, although stories of approaching the SVP of new market development with an idea to finance corporate expansion in LATAM at the company picnic may yield success, too.

For treasury, the best opportunities are often within departments that also deal with money – accounting, credit, supplier or customer owners. In many cases it is also a matter of listening before you share ideas – so you can understand if key suppliers in China are unable to meet growing demands by your company because they lack sufficient cash flow to invest in their own businesses BEFORE you try to pitch a potential supply chain finance program as a solution, for example.

Treasury is responsible for analyzing a lot of information that, when harnessed, can offer amazing insight for other parts of the organization. Building bridges to help others benefit from that information plus your amazing insight on what that means will only translate into greater opportunities for you personally.

3.       Communicate differently

There are so many articles and webinars about being proactive in treasury. Almost every day I read something about how treasury can become more strategic. Ironically, many of these pieces are littered with the words can and should, and not enough with we did this. The biggest obstacle for treasury is that to outsiders it sounds really easy. If a cash manager were to explain the benefits of a cash visibility project, they could rightly say the benefit is “being able to see 100% of their cash balances.”  However, those who don’t appreciate the nuances of bank connectivity will likely roll their eyes wondering how treasury wouldn’t effortlessly know how much money the company had in the bank.  

Similarly, the complexity of payments projects escapes most non-treasury professionals. For example, to switch disbursement banks, or to shift more payments to ACH from wires, or even a centralization project that combined supplier payments and treasury payments in a standardized workflow with a single channel to the bank – these will all sound very pedestrian when trying to explain to your friends, family, or pets. The same applies for fellow professionals, unfortunately. The best strategy talk about what you do in treasury in terms they understand. When speaking about the value of cash optimization, debt repayment, FX hedging programs, or multi-lateral netting – speak in the vocabulary of your audience (i.e. EPS, ROI, free cash flow).

If you put what treasury does in terms that your audience understands and regularly uses in their lives, the value of what you achieve will be appreciated – and so will you as you look to advance to the next level.

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