The first treasurer I worked for always said, “cash is king” and “you understand a business if you can follow the money.” With these ideas treasury is a great learning ground to develop strong business skills, since your daily work and projects take you to a company’s cash. The areas with cash are where the action takes place. One of the downsides of treasury can be the narrowing of career opportunities within one’s organisation and in the market. My dad has two maxims that have been helpful in my career. The first is, “your career is like an egg”. This means that at the start of your career you are at the bottom of the egg with limited skill and experiences, so there are few opportunities. As you gain experience and skills there are more opportunities and career paths for you as you move up the egg. Finally as you advance in your career and move to the top of the egg there are fewer opportunities since you become very specialised and more expensive.
However, the skills developed from treasury activities such as cash planning, bank account structure building, project financing, liquidity funding, capital moving, debt agreement reviewing, bank relationship managing, and financial reporting provide experiences and knowledge which few of your business peers will possess. This becomes your value proposition to your organisation or the market. There can be ‘life beyond treasury’.
I personally found my experiences around planning projects, executing objectives, developing and managing relationships, selling stories, leading others, and driving change gave me an opportunity to step outside the financial arena with a move to an operational leadership role. This began in the fall of 2012 and still continues today. I cannot thank enough three executives who were willing to provide this opportunity and new challenge for me: GM, JZ, and DC. I am now in my third operational leadership role. I believe the value add I have provided to the operational environment is based on the foundation of understanding cash management, finance, legal agreements, costs of capital, corporate structure, and shareholder expectations. These concepts and transferable skills were all learned in the treasury environment. Moreover, I have learned many new concepts and business practices due to this change. This leads me to my dad’s second quote: “You can have ten years’ experience or ten one-year’s experience.” This highlights the difference between doing the same thing year after year, or being exposed to new challenges, learnings, and opportunities in your current role or career path. It was this reflection that guided me to step outside my area of expertise.
Why move out of treasury?
Why should you consider a move out of treasury? To answer this question, it helps to ask a few other questions first.