A Treasury Optimisation Journey at Wolseley
by Royston da Costa, Group Assistant Treasurer, Treasury Systems & Development, Wolseley plc
Wolseley has a centralised approach to treasury management with a global treasury centre based in the UK. Over the past few years, we have undertaken a journey of ongoing improvements to enhance both financial and operational efficiency. This article details some of the milestones in this journey, how we addressed challenges along the way, and the outcomes of these initiatives.
Until 2006, cash, treasury and risk were managed using a series of spreadsheets, with a large number of labour-intensive processes, such as confirmation transmission and matching, and manual transfer of data to ancillary systems such as the general ledger, consolidation system and electronic banking. In 2006, we made the decision to implement a treasury management system (TMS), which was followed in 2008 by automated confirmation matching. These provided a platform that would enable us to develop more sophisticated treasury strategies and support the evolving needs of the business more effectively.
2010: Cash pooling
One of the initiatives on which we embarked to do this was a global cash pooling programme which we implemented with Bank Mendes Gans (BMG) in 2010. We had a variety of objectives: in particular, by improving group liquidity, we could leverage cash surpluses across the group to reduce the need for external financing and therefore reduce bank charges. We would also improve cash visibility which would enable us to manage our cash and risk more strategically. Centralising cash at a group level brought a range of challenges, such as how best to collate data, which bank solution to use, how to communicate with banks and dealing with legal and tax issues such as transfer pricing in each jurisdiction.
To support the project, we obtained senior management sponsorship, which was valuable in clearing organisational roadblocks. We appointed external consultants who already had experience of selecting global cash pooling solutions and engaged with our in-house legal counsel to ensure that we complied with local regulations, such as arm’s length rates. We worked closely with the banks to make sure that they fully understood our needs, and that we understood their proposition, and revalidated this regularly.
The solution involved two cash pools in Europe and North America respectively, each of which included multiple currencies. As a result, we improved our group liquidity position by €700m, which had a major impact on our financing needs and costs. We achieved better visibility and control over our global cash, therefore enabling treasury to manage our cash flow more effectively.
There were a number of factors that contributed to the success of the project. Obtaining senior management sponsorship was vital in ensuring that we had access to the right resources when necessary, and helped to ensure common objectives at a group level. Involving legal and tax early in the process meant that we could identify and address challenges such as local regulatory requirements early on and ensure that the cash pooling solution was appropriate to our organisational structure. As cash pooling represents a major change from a cash and treasury management perspective, it was important to spend time with subsidiaries to explain how cash pooling would work in practice, and the group-wide benefits of cash pooling. Finally, we had approached a number of our relationship banks as potential providers of our cash pooling solution, so it was important to debrief them fully on the reasons why we had not opted to work with them on this project.