Doing More with Less:
Treasury Priorities in the Middle East
The following is an edited transcript of the first part of a roundtable held in Dubai in April 2016, kindly hosted by D+H and chaired by Jags KothandaPani, Citi. In this first part, the panel focuses on the changing role, priorities and challenges of treasurers in the Middle East. The second part, to be published in the next edition of TMI (edition 245) explores the role of technology in facilitating treasury objectives in more detail. Edited by Helen Sanders.
Jags KothandaPani, Citi
Corporate treasury in the Middle East has never been more challenging and engaging, with real-time visibility of global cash balances, solutions around trapped cash in certain countries, the need to ‘do more with less’, and the pressures created by M&A amongst the most pressing topics. Treasurers are also expanding their role in many organisations, which is creating new challenges as well as opportunities. There are also broader themes that have an impact on treasury, such as the emergence of fintech and the changing regulatory environment.
Adam Boukadida, Etihad Airways
Our treasury function at Etihad incorporates the ‘typical’ responsibilities of group treasury, but also areas such as group insurance, which includes medical cover, aviation insurance cover for our fleet, and liability cover for passengers and staff. We manage corporate finance, including financing our fleet, and a payment solutions team that looks after all the incoming cash into the organisation globally as well as payment fraud. We have a team of around 50 people, which is fully centralised. One of our challenges is to manage the speed of growth, which is around 20% each year. Through both direct growth and our minority stake holdings in other airlines – eight currently – we have a hybrid growth strategy of which treasury is a key part.
James Adams, Chalhoub Group
Our treasury function at Chalhoub Group is very young: two years ago, we had no Group Treasury, although we have been established for over 60 years and have grown to become the leading partner for luxury across the Middle East, active in 14 markets. Before I joined the group, each company operated independently from a cash and treasury management perspective, but now we have a centralised treasury function with a team of seven which provides policy guidance and centralised FX hedging and risk management. We also have a group-wide view of cash management and a central treasury system, although local teams still manage their cash including local financing as required. Other activities that fall under our remit include managing the employee end of service indemnity investment fund and card acquiring for our retail point of sale.