Treasury, the discipline with no training courses
We find that the profession of treasurer has never really been properly or fully covered by business or financial management courses in universities. If it is covered, it is as add-ons to Masters Degrees, or as a sprinkling of courses that only partially cover the subject. This is not a complaint, but a fact that we need to accept. Over the last few years, courses have started to be offered in some countries and treasurer associations are playing the role of training providers to more young people. So, in fact, we already have specialist training opportunities, even though they may still be few and far between. In the final analysis, treasury and risk management can be learnt only at the coalface. This automatically means that students, trainees and budding future treasurers might well not know much about this fascinating world of corporate treasury.
As treasurer associations, it is our duty to provide specialist training courses to disseminate our knowledge and the mysteries of our trade.
But a Head of Treasury Department now faces two challenges: 1) attracting talented people (and training them, obviously), 2) then retaining them over the medium term. This will be no easy challenge, I fear.
So how could we attract talented people?
Talented persons do not come to you on their own initiative. To attract them you have to try to recruit them directly from the universities. And here it is perhaps up to the Associations to do the work that the poor, short-staffed treasurer is unable to do. Surely this is just the sort of role for which Associations were intended? I certainly think so.
We have to demystify the role of treasurer, but also we have to sell it properly to attract the best people to it. We can go to student fairs and exhibitions, taking treasurers with us, to promote our great profession. Sometimes treasurer are asked to give specialist talks as part university courses or a lecture. By promoting the work of EACTi and its members, we contribute to raising the profile of the profession and increasing its attractiveness. Offering free subscriptions to young students or recent graduates looking for their first job could give them a chance to find out about our special and mysterious world, surely? We should always make a point of inviting students in their final Masters year to our conferences, to tell them about what we do.
Millennials think differently
The millennial generation, which is now coming onto the market, thinks differently. It is well worth understanding them and finding out what they want. Their expectations are different to those of the baby boomers or the other "X" generation members who have the job of recruiting them. We need to think differently – not as we do, but as they do. Associations should, perhaps as part of their soft skills sessions, tackle this point: how to understand the millennials better, to attract them to the profession of treasurer.
It also seems to me that NTAs (National Treasurer Associations) have too slight a presence on the social networks. We can make improvements here to sell ourselves better. The aim is to create talent pools or potential candidates for the treasury profession. A talent pool has to be set up, and then has to be maintained. Treasurers going out fishing cannot catch the right candidate without bait. The bait is the quality of the job, the potential, the diversity, the variety, the ongoing evolution, the challenges, etc. The sad thing is that everything needed to attract people is already there. We have the right flies, but we have yet to cast the hook with the right, deft movement of the rod. Treasurers are pretty poor fishermen in my view. They need to be more proactive, not just reactive as often.
Mentoring, the way to success?
One other way of developing talent could come from mentoring. If our specialists accept to share their skills, experience and tips with younger treasurers, it should help creating a promising next generation on a fertile ground. Ideally, one “mentor” should attributed or allocated to a “mentee” to informally transfer part of his/her knowledge. Through face-to-face meetings, discussions and talks. The treasury associations could, for example, organize formal processes and defined structures to “educate” these young “protégés”. But such a mentoring structure requires dedication and generosity from mentors. Older treasurers should give back to the treasury community what they have received years ago. It should be seen as a normal transfer of expertise or as a legacy to the next gen. it will enhance younger’s motivation. They could help the talents to emerge and become the future treasury stars, tomorrow.
Today, these types of support aren’t formalized and highly depend on volunteering and relationships developed with elders. It is in my opinion one of the duty of our associations to set up more organized structures to welcome and to accompany younger treasurers in their early career stages.
And then how do you keep them once you've got them?
Retention is just as challenging. Once in the profession, initiatives such as those of the EACT Summit in March 2017 together with the election of a number of talented thirty-year-olds gives them greater involvement and can motivate them to stay in the profession. The quality of conferences could also be a motivating factor. It is up to our Associations to find ways of doing more. We need to expand the talent pools built up in this way to extract tomorrow's talent from them. Magazines, newsletters, websites, conferences, training courses, etc. are a set of tools that can be brought to bear and fine-tuned to make the job more attractive and sexy than it might appear to be. The profession is very sexy for those who know a bit about it. The problem is more with the image and perception rather than the content.
That's reassuring, surely?
Some treasurers, by extending their work into insurance, pension fund management, taxes, risk management (ERM), etc. have shown their staff how great a variety the job can offer and how attractive it can be. Good for them!
A generation “Y” person is looking for a better work/life balance, but still wants to work. The job's variety and career progression should be good motivators. Repetition is often what "tires" them. It is a fact that they tire more quickly than their elders, and millennials are worse still. To keep them, you have to give them variety. No easy thing!
Not training and preparing tomorrow's treasurers also gives rise to another risk, that of running into another type of illiquidity – the lack of talented people. Laying out a career for young treasurers and giving them a glimpse of an attractive path ahead would encourage them to give the job a try even if they didn't stay in it. We must not allow the fount of future treasurers to dry up because of an unenticing well. The diversity of profiles (as well as diversity per se) is perhaps one of the keys to success. Today, the skills needed for risk management should be an attraction because of the broad range of tasks that need to be performed. Profiles
that are more IT-oriented, for example, are in high demand, as are more mathematical and more engineering-related profiles, too. In the challenge of more predictive data analytics, the skills needed will change, and become yet more technical. It is probable that we will see treasurer version 5.0 emerge over the next few years with the rising importance of IT in the range of skills required in treasury. We talk about FinTechs but never of TreasTechs. The job will keep on evolving beyond a shadow of a doubt, demanding agility more than ever before, a sort of millennial DNA. Older people will also have to adapt to younger people, and not only to their external environment.
What should the Treasury Associations do?
We need to become aware of a problem that gives associations an opportunity to make themselves indispensable. EACT should take a leading role and coordinate local initiatives, spreading best practice. Publishing in publications other than treasury publications would make a big contribution to this. There are a thousand and one things that might be done to help our treasurer members first to attract and then to retain their young talents. This is a mission for associations, and their
members should push them harder to perform it, because many do not take this challenge seriously enough. The world is changing, and with it the way young people think. Tomorrow, careers will be built differently. Anyone failing to take note of this difficulty and carrying on as before is in danger of making a big mistake. For once, let us be more (pro)active in finding solutions and putting them into practice. Since it is ever more difficult to find people with known talent at an acceptable price, the technique of continuous training through employing trainees to be retained for a considerable time (or not, after a trial period) is a wonderfully efficient method. Let us give them a demonstration of the attractiveness of the job we love, the job that won us over.
Let us be more persuasive in promoting the work we enjoy. Some people stay in treasury, others move on. Plenty of people will pass through and more and more will leave us. We need to retain them (after screening them), and salary alone is not enough, because the coming generations have expectations other than just money which does not always provide satisfaction. A young finance professional is not a money-grabbing footballer driven only by Dollars. If you understand this point, and work on it daily in your department with your team (and this requires some effort) you will retain them, or at least some of the best of them. Believe me, this is a major challenge that many people often ignore. If you don't attend to it now there will be painful consequences and prices or salaries will rise over time. That is not the solution. Giving them a good job and making it into a super job, a function that evolves and expands, while sidestepping routine, will be a big help in retaining them. A team will be harder to put together in the future, and keeping it competitive will be more difficult.
Over to you! And over to our Associations to help you do it.
Honorary Chairman EACT