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Bringing ‘Tomorrow’s Answers Today’ to Treasury

An Interview with Peter van Rood, Group Treasurer, AkzoNobel

AkzoNobel is one of the world’s leading industrial companies. Headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, the company is the largest paints and coatings company globally and a major producer of speciality chemicals. The company employs 58,000 staff based in more than 80 countries. In 2008, revenues totalled EUR15.4bn and in 2009, EUR13.9bn, signifying strong performance during difficult economic conditions.

Over recent years, the company has undergone considerable change and expansion. Although the different parts of the business have a long and distinguished history, AkzoNobel itself was formed from the merger of Akzo and Nobel Industries in 1994. Since then, the company has been engaged in a series of acquisitions, most notably Courtaulds in 1998 and Imperial Chemical Industries Plc (ICI) in 2008. Organon BioSciences NV was sold to Schering-Plough Corporation in 2007. The latter two portfolio changes resulted in a much wider geographical spread, with some 40% of earnings being realised in emerging markets.

In addition to M&A activity, the company has also been undergoing a major cultural and business organisation transformation. ‘Tomorrow’s Answers Today’ is the strapline underpinning the company’s values, motivation and strategy, and applies to treasury as with every other part of the business. As part of this change programme, treasury is in the process of transforming itself from an operational department conducting payments to a strategic partner of the business, providing the financial efficiency and risk mitigation that positions the company for the next stage in its development. This has been a revolutionary project, overseen by Peter van Rood, who joined the company as Group Treasurer in September 2007. Every aspect of treasury has seen radical change and enhancement, including banking infrastructure, policies and processes, treasury skills, IT and the relationship with the business. Over subsequent editions of TMI, Helen Sanders interviews Peter van Rood on each aspect of AkzoNobel’s treasury transformation. In the first interview in this series, Peter introduces some of the challenges and changes that treasury needed to address.