My Life in Treasury
Gareth Evans, Group Treasurer, Bupa
In this interview with Eleanor Hill, Editor, Gareth Evans, Group Treasurer of the leading international healthcare group Bupa, describes how his experiences on an industry graduate training scheme gave him an appreciation of the special perspective into a business which treasury provides, and what he learnt from his time leading the treasury team at Reuters during its integration with Thomson.
How did you come into treasury and what attracted you to the profession?
To be honest, I sort of fell into it. I was on a finance graduate scheme in industry. We had the opportunity to move around to different departments and treasury was an option for my final placement. It wasn’t an area I knew much about, but it seemed to provide a different lens into the business compared to many of the other accounting and reporting placements I had done. And I still love its lens on the business today.
How has your career progressed through to the role that you hold today?
I started on a sales and marketing graduate scheme with Glaxo Wellcome in the 1990s. Having spent time working within the marketing team, I moved across to the finance scheme where I qualified as a chartered management accountant. I suspect more people were looking to move the other way from finance into marketing, but I had worked on some financial analysis of the success of a marketing campaign and it was the financial side of things that interested me more. Those years on different accounting and reporting placements were a great opportunity to explore many areas of finance, including working as a group management reporting analyst, manufacturing finance analyst, working on a finance systems implementation project and finally in treasury. I still think graduate schemes like that are fantastic in terms of opening your eyes at an early career stage as to what’s possible.
I moved up within the GW/GSK team with exposure to most aspects of its work, ending up as one of the Assistant Treasurers, responsible for a specific region. During this time I also completed my AMCT and MCT qualifications. These exams, coupled with the great experience I was obtaining day-to-day, persuaded me to continue down the treasury path rather than move into a wider finance role. An opportunity then came up to head the treasury team at Reuters. That was a huge learning experience – leading a treasury team for the first time and also leading the team through a full integration process with Thomson.
I probably learned more in those years than at any other time. Both teams had to review all processes from scratch and collectively agree how best to structure the team, policy, systems and processes in the new company. While it was unsettling for the people involved, it was an amazing opportunity to be able to explore treasury processes from the ground up and debate all aspects of a treasury function in readiness for the new business.
For the past decade I have been Group Treasurer with Bupa. What I’ve always loved about treasury is the variety. Each year at Bupa has had a different focus: managing the implications of the global financial crisis, preparing for new EU insurance regulation, funding acquisition growth, root and branch process reviews, policy implementation, implementing a new treasury management system. I’ve also enjoyed other aspects of the role such as being a pension scheme trustee and sitting on the audit committee of one of our listed subsidiaries overseas. These activities keep life interesting and broaden my appreciation of how things fit together.
How have the demands and needs of treasury changed over the course of your career, and what particular skills does the role require today?
I’m not sure that the fundamentals have changed significantly in terms of needing to have a good feel for identifying and managing financial risk in a pragmatic way which supports the growth of the business. Certainly the area of regulation is one on which I seem to spend significantly more time in recent years. The insurance and financial services space is clearly full of important regulation from both a prudential and a customer point of view, but regulation in general has become a bigger area of focus for all treasurers in recent years – and probably rightly so.
I suspect I would have also said this when I started in treasury, but treasury clearly has a big role to play in supporting the digital agenda of the business. Customer payments and receipt processes are core functions , but treasury often also has a relationship with potential suppliers and needs a good sense of payment processes in general in order to be able to take part in any necessary discussions.