Continuing Wolseley’s Treasury Transformation
by Royston da Costa, Group Assistant Treasurer, Treasury Systems & Development, Wolseley plc
In November 2013 (TMI edition 221) Royston Da Costa published an article in TMI outlining the journey that Wolseley’s treasury has undertaken to enhance both financial and operational efficiency, leveraging a combination of treasury technology and banking solutions. In this edition, he provides an update on the most recent stages of this journey.
- Wolseley’s treasury has, since 2006, undergone a radical transformation to enhance its financial and operational efficiency
- In order to improve group liquidity and cash visibility a successful cash pooling programme was implemented in 2010
- Technological solutions such as electronic dealing from MyTreasury and bank connectivity have been harnessed to improve cash visibility further, and RegisTR and BELLIN’s tm5 provide the hub for treasury technology infrastructure
- The article outlines future plans including leasing, commodity hedging and improved cash flow forecasting
The journey’s starting point
Until 2006, treasury activities were managed using a series of spreadsheets, with a large number of labour-intensive processes, such as confirmation transmission and matching, and manual transfer of data to ancillary systems such as the general ledger, consolidation system and electronic banking. In 2006, we made the decision to implement a treasury management system (TMS), which was supplemented in 2008 by automated confirmation matching. We recognised that the TMS was an essential platform to enable us to develop more sophisticated treasury strategies and support the evolving needs of the business more effectively in the future, a view that has since been strongly validated.
Cash visibility and control
As the company has grown in both scale and geographic scope, managing group liquidity and risk has become a more significant challenge. Key to overcoming this was to maximise visibility over cash, which is a highly complex undertaking given that we have around 500 bank accounts with 78 banks, 41 of which are based in the United States. Historically, this involved obtaining balance information from business units by email and collating this centrally on a spreadsheet. A key step in achieving our treasury objectives was the introduction of a global cash pooling programme, which we implemented with Bank Mendes Gans (BMG) in 2010. We had a variety of objectives: in particular, by improving group liquidity, we could leverage cash surpluses across the group to reduce the need for external financing and therefore reduce bank charges. We would also improve cash visibility which would enable us to manage our cash and risk more strategically.
The solution involved two cash pools in Europe and North America respectively (now consolidated into one pool), each of which included multiple currencies. As a result, we improved our group liquidity position by €700m, which had a major impact on our financing needs and costs. We achieved better visibility and control over our global cash, therefore enabling treasury to manage our cash flow more effectively.
There were a number of factors that contributed to the success of our cash pooling programme:
- Senior management support. Obtaining senior management sponsorship was vital to ensure that we had access to the right resources when necessary, and helped to ensure common objectives at a group level.
- Expert advice. Involving legal and tax early in the process meant that we could identify and address challenges such as local regulatory requirements early on and ensure that the cash pooling solution was appropriate to our organisational structure.
- Education and co-operation. As cash pooling represents a major change from a cash and treasury management perspective, it was important to spend time with subsidiaries to explain how cash pooling would work in practice, and the group-wide benefits of cash pooling.
- Maintaining relationships. Finally, we had approached a number of our relationship banks as potential providers of our cash pooling solution, so it was important to debrief them fully on the reasons why we had not opted to work with them on this project.
Building on foundations
Our treasury technology framework and cash pooling programme soon proved to be firm foundations during a period of significant organisational change at Wolseley in 2011. This provided further momentum in continuing on our treasury transformation journey, including a renewed focus on treasury technology to improve cash visibility and efficiency.