My Life in Treasury
An Interview with Maciej Müldner, CFO, Skanska Poland
This month, Helen Sanders, Editor, talks to Maciej Müldner, whom we have featured in TMI on a variety of occasions, including as winner of the Award for Innovation and Excellence in Risk Management, 2010. Maciej is unusual amongst treasury professionals in that he has successfully forged a varied career within the same organisation for much of his career, recently becoming Finance Director of Skanska Property Poland.
How did you first get into treasury, and what attracted you to the profession?
While I was at university, I started working part-time with an Austrian bank as a relationship manager, and spent eight years in banking, ultimately with Deutsche Bank. During this time, I became involved in various aspects of customer relationships, and therefore the corporate treasury function, including corporate finance, cash management etc. One of the most valuable elements of my time at Deutsche Bank was a training programme for senior relationship managers that taught us how to think like CFOs and therefore engage with, and support clients more successfully. This was a formative experience, and ultimately resulted in being offered a role by Skanska following the purchase of Exbud in Poland.
How did your career progress to the role you hold now at Skanska?
I have been very fortunate in that I have pursued my career in a single organisation, whilst fulfilling a variety of different roles. When I first joined Skanska in 2002, I was involved in a major treasury re-engineering project during a period where we were struggling for survival, so the project covered a number of elements, including financing, new guarantee lines, cash management etc. We restructured treasury significantly over three years, implemented a cash pool and payments factory, standardised bank relationships and revised the way that we were managing currency risk.
Our treasury function in Poland, which was also responsible for treasury relating to our German operations, had previously operated on a decentralised basis. Once we had bedded down our new group treasury policies and procedures, I was tasked with the mandate to centralise the Polish treasury operation. This resulted in building a team of 12 -15 treasury professionals from an original team of three or four when I started, which covered traditional cash and risk management functions, but also activities such as trade finance, credit and collections.
When the global financial crisis struck, we put a great deal of effort into counterparty risk, including indirect risk to sub-contractors etc. as well as direct trading partners. I was appointed as group head of risk management, in addition to my treasury role, including both financial and non-financial risks such as operational risk, project identification risk etc. This included developing a group-wide approach to assessing, mitigating and monitoring project risk, a key activity for a project-driven corporation like Skanska.
After two years of combining the regional treasury and group risk management role, we launched our business in Romania. As well as continuing in my risk management capacity, I was offered the opportunity to start the business there along with two other managers. This was a fantastic opportunity to build a business from scratch, whilst also leveraging Skanska’s strong brand name. I spent three tough but great years in Romania, during which time Skanska Romania became a fully-fledged business. We grew from six to 80 people, and built a complete CFO function, including treasury as well as accounting, controlling etc. It is very rare in a career that you are able to make decisions on everything from bank accounts to expenses policies, company cars etc. as well as strategic policymaking, so it was a very interesting time. I was also able to achieve my vision for a regional treasury centre in Poland, and we transferred the Romania treasury function to the existing Warsaw-based team, which proved very successful.
This year, I became CFO for the Polish commercial development business, so I have moved back to Poland. Although I am no longer involved in day-to-day treasury, it remains a major area of interest for me and I look back at the time I have spent dedicated to treasury during my career with a great deal of affection.
How do you think demands on treasurers have changed during your career so far, and what additional skills are required to meet these demands?
Treasury has become far more technology-oriented and treasurers need to be more familiar with back-office processes than in the past, which requires a new set of skills. Just as importantly, however, with the trend towards centralisation, it is important to avoid becoming disconnected from the business, a challenge that is also often faced by shared service centres. To achieve this, treasurers need to be proactive in engaging with the business and understand how the organisation works at an operational level. While the relationship between treasury and the wider business varies across corporations, at Skanska we take the view that treasury should be embedded within the business and support the needs of every relevant department and business unit as an internal client. Treasury is a complex and sophisticated discipline, but not well-understood by other parts of finance or more widely. Treasurers therefore need to be ambassadors to the business and be able to articulate the value that they offer, in terms that people understand.