My Life in Treasury
Richard Cordero, Chief Operating Officer, European Association of Corporate Treasurers (EACT)
From a planned career in accountancy to committed treasury professional, via wine tasting and art appreciation, Richard Cordero’s life has been full of rich experiences. As he steps into retirement, will he stand still? Absolutely not, there’s far too much to see and do.
Eleanor Hill, Editor, TMI (EH): How did you come into treasury and how did your career progress?
RC: A life of accountancy beckoned for me after graduating in 1976 from École de Hautes Études Commerciales du Nord. Having earned a Master’s degree, in 1978 I moved into the accounting function of Usinor-Sacilor Group (part of ArcelorMittal Group since 2006). I was on track for a long-haul career in accounting, but just over two years in I had the offer of a role in treasury and, seizing the opportunity, I never looked back.
I clocked up more than 18 years as treasurer at Usinor-Sacilor, both in subsidiaries and at the parent company. When I left to join AFTE, the French Association of Corporate Treasurers, in 1996, it was with the mission to help French companies prepare for the introduction of the euro on 1 January 1999.
As the new Millennium began, I further leveraged my industry knowledge and experience, taking up a position with financial newspaper, L’AGEFI. As a corporate finance journalist, I played a big part in launching its treasury-focused website. Then, in mid-2002 I rejoined AFTE as an Executive Officer. In fact, I first encountered the EACT in this role, back in 2006, when I was representing AFTE in an observational capacity.
From around 2006 to 2013, I was also involved with the Comité consultatif de la législation et de la réglementation financières [CCLRF]. This is the body that is charged with monitoring documentation and text related to financial regulation of banks in France. It was an excellent networking opportunity, exposing me to corporate treasurers, banks and regulators.
In 2010, whilst with AFTE, I was elected Chairman of the International Group of Treasury Associations (IGTA). Then in January 2014, I took up the position of Chief Operating Officer at EACT.
EH: Why is the EACT so important today, and in what ways do you feel it might it evolve over the coming years?
RC: Professional advocacy is one of our key roles at the EACT. Political bodies and EU representatives, for example, may not be fully aware, when setting out to implement financial regulation for banks, of the potential impact on corporates. It is our essential responsibility to inform the relevant bodies of the possible consequences of their actions on corporates and their treasury functions, and to keep our members up to speed on what the changes mean.
During my time with EACT I have witnessed its evolution from a professional advocacy service for members into one that also encompasses diverse thought leadership. Jean-Marc Servat, who has been EACT Chair since 2015, has been instrumental in creating our Journeys to Treasury report series alongside our partners BNP Paribas, PwC and SAP, for example. And whereas most national treasury organisation conferences and events tend naturally towards a domestic focus, Jean-Marc’s work in steering the development of the annual EACT Summit now enables around 150 leading treasurers from many different countries to network, discuss issues and share ideas. Sadly, of course, this year’s event had to be postponed, but all being well it will be back next year to continue shaping the future of treasury.
EH: You’ve witnessed a great deal of progress in the profession over the years. Do you see a particular line of evolution for treasury and treasurers?
RC: I see four key areas, or in French, ‘savoirs’, developing. First is ‘savoir’ or treasury knowledge. That knowledge has then to be implemented; that’s ‘savoir faire’. You also have to know how to manage people – that is ‘savoir être’ – in the behavioural sense. From this comes the fourth pillar, ‘faire savoir’ where all of this must be communicated to others.
Today’s treasurer must have a mix of the four ‘savoirs’. The balance will be different according to the nature and seniority of their role. However, I can see that treasury can no longer function in isolation; the fourth element of communication, especially education of internal stakeholders – is only going to become more important.
EH: You’ve had a wealth of experiences to call upon. Could you pick a couple of your proudest career moments for us?
RC: Two in particular come to mind. The first was with Usinor-Sacilor, many years ago, when we negotiated a $200m medium-term note with Merrill Lynch. We spent one week in New York with our legal partners negotiating the agreement. It was my first agreement of this kind and I remember it being a very exciting moment; a great memory of my work as treasurer.
I’m also extremely proud of the first EACT Summit. We didn’t want to simply replicate existing events, such as the UK or French annual conferences, so we spent a long time fine-tuning our event, finding the right location, speakers and guests. It was a success, and so I would say this was another fine memory!