During the Luxembourg Finance Innovation Summit, which took place on November 15th, Benjamin Defays (Senior Treasury Analyst, Koch Chemical Technology International) was recognized with the "Outstanding Contribution to the Treasury Community" award. Today, he tells us about the transformation of the treasury function and the related challenges.

How has the treasury function evolved over the years?

Treasury has evolved from an operational function, rapidly heading towards what we define today as being a strategic role. Treasurers now have a key role to play within most organizations, acting as the go-to person sitting at the crossroad of the business’ activities with high-level discussions involving long-term decision-making processes with the senior management.

Although it has drastically changed over the last few years, it still has some legacy characteristics of the not so long ago unknown function, making the treasurer's role fall into two extremes: being a fully-fledged, value-adding business partner. That being said, for the treasurers to add value, we need them to be trained and to constantly remain focused on the markets trend. It requires both soft and hard skills which makes it a difficult function to staff properly, as skilled labor having the right values is a limiting factor in the economic world. We as treasury professionals, together with the European treasury associations, have the responsibility to take some actions to alleviate this shortage, for example by offering regular trainings (more info on www.ATEL.lu), meeting the students in various Universities talking about the function in hope to attract them,  building partnerships with recruiting companies and professionals, encourage employers to act as coaches/mentors with the more junior profiles, attending to the numerous treasury conferences in order to keep up-to-speed with the regulatory/technological environment and meet with peers in order to build connections and benchmark our processes, ….

We’re in front of what I like to call the “treasury market failure”, where the shortage of workforce is putting pressure on wages which is jeopardizing the competitiveness of our companies, hence the country’s financial ecosystem. We must act now and not rest on our laurels.

 

What were the main challenges treasurers had to face?

Take a look at the Treasury priorities list published by the various surveys in the past few years, and you’ll notice a clear fact: it changes each time!

Since I’ve been working in treasury, there hasn’t be a month that would look alike. It’s incredibly enriching, and I’m already excited to know what I’ll have learned on field in 20 years from today, because in treasury, amongst other functions, sky is the limit. 

A few years ago, the main challenges were aligned with the standard and old-fashioned treasury roles, namely cash forecasting, bank relationship and financial risk management. Fraud was barely mentioned, while it has now moved to the podium of challenges, being number one in some cases, together with cash visibility, cash forecasting and treasury automation, just to name a few. We could also point out compliance with regulation, working capital management, financial control, corporate governance, support on M&A activities, trade finance, credit management, … more and more treasurers also take over accounting responsibilities, as well as insurance & pension. Who said treasury was boring?

 

Which upcoming tech/trend has the potential to disrupt the sector again?

To say the least, there are enough disruptive technologies ahead of us to foster our thirst for change and innovation. Change is not just something nice: it’s something we have to embrace and integrate into our DNA. We should not be afraid of new technologies as these will support us in bringing more value to our businesses, and to our daily work as well, making it more exciting and rewarding. The challenge in this huge industrial move is to prepare ourselves with new skills. You’ll soon see new colleagues named RPA (Robotic Process Automation), blockchain, big data analytics with the support of AI (Artificial Intelligence), VAM (Virtual Account Management), Swift GPI… It’s not the first time in history humans have to adapt to technological evolution: we need to accept, understand and be part of this success story.

 

On a more personal side, what does this award mean to you?

Being recognized for something you do well feels good. Being recognized by professionals you admire is honorific. More than an award, this confirms that the actions taken so far go in the right direction, and therefore this is a great driver for further initiatives to help the treasury function remain sustainable in Luxembourg. I landed in treasury by chance, and sometimes wondered if this was the right thing for me to be doing for a living. I’ve always felt fortunate for being in this fascinating world, and this award now assured me that I belong here.


Publié le 11 décembre 2018