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An unconventional approach to treasury organisation structure

Feature-image

In its pivot towards developing into a broader energy company, Norwegian multinational Equinor adopted a unique treasury structure to enable agility in dynamic environments.

by Anmol Karwal

Published: March 7th 2023

In an effort to accelerate its renewable energy business, the Norwegian integrated oil and gas company, Equinor unveiled changes to its corporate structure and corporate executive committee. Amongst these changes, Equinor strengthened the company’s focus on competence centres which was now also applied for the corporate treasury team by initiating an uncommon treasury structure with this introduction of “Competence Centres”. 

Strategic shift

With just 2% of revenue coming from Equinor’s renewable energy business, the company had taken drastic steps in the last few years to ramp up its exposure to this segment. However, in the midst of these changes, an energy crisis occurred forcing the company to again change its strategy towards traditional oil and gas business. 

These changes require a more flexible workforce which are the main benefits from having a set up with competence centres. These units are responsible for ensuring and securing the internal and external capacity and the competence needed, in accordance with business entity needs and plans.

“To deliver on our strategy, we need to prioritise tasks according to business needs in a more dynamic, efficient and responsive way. We want to enhance our capacity and competence by working more flexibly across value chains, functions and disciplines,” said Tor Stian Kjøllesdal, Vice President & Head of Treasury and Tax competence centre at Equinor, speaking at the 2022 EuroFinance International Treasury Management event. 

Tor Stian Kjøllesdal, Vice President & Head of Treasury and Tax competence centre at Equinor
Tor Stian Kjøllesdal, Vice President & Head of Treasury and Tax competence centre at Equinor

With the use of competence centres, both leadership roles and how the organisation works have changed with a clear distinction between “resource leaders” and “task owners”. The task owners are accountable for a defined task and prioritising business activity and delivery. They will collaborate with a resource leader in the competence centre to set up the right team to deliver the activity. 

Meanwhile, resource leaders in competence centres are responsible for both allocating the right people to the right activities and finding learning and development opportunities for their people. Treasury employees in a competence centre directly report to a resource leader.

“The structure is a two folded set of organisation, duality on leadership, a very close collaboration and an agreement between those that own the competence and capacity, and those that are delivering and doing the real work,” Kjøllesdal further said. 

These two leaders work hand in hand, wherein the resource leader allocates people according to business needs while at the same time giving people tasks that match their individual development plans. 

“Collaboration between them [task leader and resource leader] is the key to success. They need close alignment around prioritisation, resource planning.” Kjøllesdal told delegates. 

Benefits & challenges

Prioritisation of tasks has been the key benefit to the treasury team as an efficient and responsive way of strategizing resources in dynamic environments. Moreover, it has helped the treasury leaders to ensure people development and learnings across the treasury department as this structure allows employees to work more flexibly across value chains, functions and disciplines. 

Kjøllesdal mentioned that, “The focus on learning and bringing together expertise to solve problems in a holistic manner across the business will develop the future capabilities we need and drive our competitiveness.”

Furthermore, this structure has also cleared some capacity with the leaders that no longer have people’s responsibility and they have been more strategic and more focused on their treasury matters.  

However, Kjøllesdal told delegates that there are challenges with this transition. Dual leadership can be seen as inefficient and many people also lack belonging when not being part of a dedicated treasury team. Kjøllesdal was also clear on the fact that there are no perfect organisational models and a company needs to optimise their operating model based on what they would like to achieve. 

Next steps 

While this structure allows for more flexibility within the treasury team to explore different functions, Kjøllesdal mentioned that it is important to ensure stability in key treasury professional roles. Therefore, the treasury leadership is now looking to distinguish more between stable tasks and flexible tasks across treasury functions, while dividing staff into those categories based on preference and how they can learn and develop in those areas.