It seems that the evangelization of corporate treasury is necessary and that it is necessary to preach the "good word" because the function has lost its aura and its power of attraction over the last few years, while the function has evolved incredibly.
It is paradoxical to see a function evolve so strongly and lose its power of attraction. It is the duty of treasurers' associations and all stakeholders to remedy this situation and to restore the image of treasury to bring back to it students, financiers in search of training and others. And finally, the profession is facing a huge need for more diverse (soft and hard) skills than ever before. The risk is there, and therefore it is time to react.
The treasury function, like many other businesses, has a problem of available resources. There is a lack of staff and resources to properly staff our treasury departments. The COVID crisis and lockdowns have not helped the situation and have even made it worse. Home working is becoming such a precondition that no one successfully hires in treasury without offering at least some work to be done from home. The lack of resources is compensated by a sharp rise in wages and inflation. Companies compete to attract talented treasurers and it is not an ideal situation. In this context, training is necessary and even vital. Unfortunately, there is also a crisis of vocations. So, we have less students in treasury courses and in Universities (for treasury masters when they exist) and more competition with banks or fintech's who are big consumers of this kind of resources. The problem is the lack of attractiveness of treasury courses / training. The profession appears to be less "sexy" and attractive than it used to be. Paradoxically, the function has never stopped growing and expanding.
It seems obvious that this is a major challenge for treasurers' associations. They must play their role as federators, as attention-grabbers and as creators of vocations. Vocation is something that is created. It does not come naturally and without effort. It therefore seems to me that we should, like other stakeholders, help to make the profession sexier, to better describe it, to better promote it in order to attract more young and future treasurers. The task is not simple but achievable if we work on it in a coordinated way.
One of the avenues to explore is to describe the incredible evolution of the profession, its scope, variety, importance and the areas affected, those that attract, such as crypto-currencies (which excite young generations), M&A transactions, private equity, IT coding (i.e. data coding), cutting edge technologies, sophistication of the function, IPOs and listing on stock-exchanges, rating agencies and initial rating search, application and compliance of new regulations with especially the ESG aspect (which has become an unavoidable element for young people who want "more responsible" and above all more virtuous business companies, etc... They want to “be part of it” and want more rhythm, dynamism, novelty, modern technologies, less repetition, less EXCEL sheets, less manual boring work and more automation, AI, and data mining. They want more hybrid roles with broader skills. These different talents could then have a role to play, give them the importance they all hope to have. We need to play on these elements and expectations of young people to attract them and not do what we've always done. That time is definitely over, although many treasurers don't know it...
Isn't it paradoxical to have a function that has evolved so much and expanded in terms of scope, making it more interesting than in the past, a function that is more computerized (i.e., more and more IT tools used) and technical than before, and a profession that has been brought to the forefront because of repeated crises? Obviously YES: it is paradoxical and surprising. If the profession is less attractive, it is because we do not make it or present it correctly and as it is. It is a question of image. And image is something that needs to be worked on and maintained.
People would say we all need people who are “wildly inquisitive”. The skills will be most important in the finance sector in the coming years, for various reasons. Having a critical mind, asking better questions, and approaching things with a growth mindset are increasingly important, an excellent communication capacity and a power of persuasion to convince management of actions. In terms of hard skills, it is the same problem. We need more diversified skills like IT and coding skills, to face new challenges. We need more analysts, people able to understand, explain, recommend, and eventually act.
Treasury departments are increasingly looking for 2 key elements when recruiting. First, the ability to digitally utilize and harvest the wide body of codified information so that real trends and insights can be gleaned from it. Anyone can have access to an overwhelming amount of data, but it takes an analytic mind to be able to scrutinize that data and convert it into meaningful answers for an organization. The second factor is search for people who can learn, are wildly inquisitive and brave enough to ask questions to better understand and recommend ad hoc solutions. Treasurers need to go beyond conventional wisdom. Diversity of backgrounds, diversity of profiles and cultures may help finding the right talents, ready to learn about a broadening profession. Curiosity remains a key quality to have to face challenges and cope with them.
As we can see, Treasury Associations and their members must work to better "sell" their profession and attract more young talents. This is one of the major challenges, yet it is rarely highlighted. As if it wasn't a problem when in fact it is a weak link in the chain. We must now ask ourselves how to remedy it intelligently. We must demonstrate and explain why our profession is one of the most interesting, changing, evolving and dynamic, with an enormous financial importance. To be complete, we must also admit that the CFO's could also enhance the value of this profession and help to make it more attractive. Here we are far from this desired, desirable, but still idyllic situation, alas.
François Masquelier, CEO of Simply Treasury
Disclaimer: This article was prepared by François Masquelier in his personal capacity. The opinion expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the European Association of Corporate Treasurers (i.e., EACT).