AFTE, the French association of corporate treasurers, held its annual conference (the “Journées de l'AFTE”) on 16-17 November in Paris. After a fully digital edition in 2020, this year’s edition was back to a “real-life” physical format at the Palais Brongniart in the heart of Paris – though livestreams were also available for those unable to attend.
The event proved highly successful. It attracted over 1,500 attendees – the same level as in 2019 – and 65 partners signed up within a matter of days to reserve their booth at the conference.
The motto of the conference was “the treasurer of the world after”: a recognition that the pandemic profoundly and irreversibly changed our lives and ways of working. To help them navigate into this new world, conference attendees had the privilege of hearing an impressive line-up of inspiring keynote speakers: Patrick Pouyanné, chairman & CEO of Total Energies, Nicolas Dufourcq, CEO of Bpifrance, Gilles Grapinet, chairman & CEO of Worldine and Virginie Guyot, a former fighter aircraft pilot and first female leader of the Patrouille de France in the French Air Force.
The Covid crisis has undoubtedly accelerated the changes already underway. This is particularly true in terms of digitisation and inclusion of environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria, two areas that were at the heart of the conference.
Digitisation is increasingly affecting treasury organisations in their overall ways of working as well as of managing cash and risks and, even more, payments. As for ESG, from green finance to sustainability linked bonds and bank financing, it now has its full place alongside the traditional risk-return approach of finance.
Beyond these core themes, the conference also focused on how to best address the aftermath of an unprecedented economic crisis: managing the repayment of ‘Covid’ debt, being ever more inventive in the management of working capital or improving efficiency through shared service centres. All these themes, among many others were discussed by over 70 speakers during the plenary sessions and 15 workshops and roundtables over the two-day conference.
Last but not least, the conference was also the opportunity for AFTE to celebrate its 45th anniversary. The association was created in 1976 and is as such the world’s oldest corporate treasury association. With just 6 founding members at its inception, AFTE rapidly evolved into a major player of the French financial scene with now over 1,500 members, 15 technical committees and 9 regional delegations organising over 200 events annually.