My Life in Treasury
An Interview with Christina Easton, Managing Director, elemenTEL
In this edition, we have diverted a little from our usual ‘My Life in Treasury’ series to feature Christina Easton, owner and managing director of consultancy practice elemenTEL with offices in Seattle, WA and Pune, India. In this interview with Helen Sanders, Editor, Christina outlines some of the elements of her career so far, and shares some of her experiences based on working in treasury in three continents.
How did you come into treasury and what attracted you to the profession?
After college, I spent nine years with a bank that was ultimately acquired by Bank of America in the mid-1990s. Initially, I started in banking, working as an online sales rep then branch manager and investment/insurance specialist in the retail bank, but once I had completed my MBA, I wanted to take on a more demanding role. Subsequently, I moved internally into technology sales, selling treasury management solutions to small and medium-sized enterprises in the metropolitan area of Seattle. I also spent three years with Bank of America working in the UK, where I was involved in cash management sales, covering US multinationals with subsidiaries in Europe, which gave me valuable insights into international corporate treasury, pain points, and solutions. These experiences whetted my appetite, but I wanted to gain more direct, hands-on experience of corporate treasury, and implement the solutions that I had previously been selling.
How has your career progressed since then?
My opportunity to progress my corporate treasury ambitions came in the form of an offer from a client, Cisco Systems, where I became a programme (project) manager, based in Silicon Valley. This was the ideal appointment for me at that time as the role was senior enough to make decisions and take responsibility, whilst also providing the hands-on experience I was looking for. I would definitely recommend this to bankers that are seeking to transition to the corporate world, as it becomes more difficult to switch between bank and corporate later in one’s career. During my time in the role, we won the Alexander Hamilton Award for the project for which I was responsible, which was an important personal validation of the move I had made. Shortly thereafter, I was promoted to Global Cash Manager. After the birth of my first child, and taking some time off, I realised it was important for me to go back to work as I really value my career and wanted to continue to contribute financially to the family. I joined Microsoft in the summer of 2005 as Global Payments Manager in Treasury, where I worked with the various business groups to help monetise their online product offerings.
Three years later, having added twins to my family, I realised I needed to build more flexibility into my career if I wanted to have the work/life balance my family and I desired. This is often a challenge many women and their families face at some point.
I took a year off and enjoyed the role as a full-time mother; however, after a trip to India with my husband, and meeting with business leaders during this trip, I knew it was time to return to work. How could I get the work/life balance I desired, yet have a challenging career? I had built up a wide variety of experience through my career, and had maintained my professional network, which I decided to leverage at this point.
In 2009 I started my consultancy practice and soon found myself leading finance and treasury business transformations at Fortune 500 companies in the US. In 2014, we moved to Pune, India as a result of my husband’s career – where I continued my practice with US clients as well as networking with Indian multinationals, speaking at conferences and sharing my knowledge with start-ups and treasury professionals.
During the one and a half years we have spent in India so far, I have worked with a variety of US multinational clients who have treasury functions in India across a wide diversity of projects. Increasingly, corporations recognise the value of bringing in a specialist resource for particular projects, which is a far more efficient way of delivering success without being torn between handling day to day operational or management issues whilst implementing a project.
To what extent are large corporations harnessing the skills and experiences of women in the workplace through flexible working practices?
The difficulties that women in particular face in balancing their career with their family life is not discussed a great deal in the treasury media or other professions, but is an important issue. As I look at the US corporate world in the last 20 years, there is still a lack of flexibility and support for part time and/or work from home options across many companies at mid manager or director level roles, even though the technology is available to facilitate this flexibility. People are working differently than they had ever before. The way we communicate, live, and therefore work have evolved. In many industries and jobs, the 9-5 office environment is a thing of the past.
Many employers are providing options to accommodate flexible working arrangements with shared jobs, flexible hours and part-time roles. These employers have understood that they can get more commitment and productivity from people who are able to balance their careers and home life more easily, as long as the results are delivered.
For those living in the UK, flexible work options are no longer a perk, but a working right for employees across the board. In the US, however, that is not the case. Alternative work arrangements such as flexible work schedules are a matter of agreement between employer and employee.
Walt Disney and Google are companies known to promote flexible work schedules for their employees. I hope we will see more of this over the next several years around the globe for all employees, regardless of gender.