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Mapping uncharted financial waters: The odyssey of OSM Thome’s treasury department

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In just five years, Nicolas Panayi, group treasurer at OSM Thome, has built a robust and lean treasury department from scratch, optimising the ship management company’s setup within a rapidly growing industry, thereby winning the inaugural EuroFinance Agent of Change award.

The award was supported by J.P. Morgan Payments, as part of their commitment to champion Treasurers as they find new ways to create value, by speaking the language of their peers across the business, and leading with influence.

In the competitive arena of global shipping, OSM Thome’s story emerges with a unique narrative. It transcends from the day-to-day operations of ships and logistics, focusing instead on a significant internal transformation: the establishment of a treasury department. At the forefront of this financial evolution is Nicolas Panayi, whose background as a civil engineer adds an unconventional twist to his role. He has been given the critical task of building a treasury operation from scratch, illustrating the company’s strategic commitment to strengthening their financial framework and ensuring robust fiscal management.

From blueprint to reality: The conception of a treasury

At the 2023 EuroFinance International Treasury Management conference, Nicolas Panayi shared the genesis of his task with OSM Thome. The company, with its roots in Norway and a strategic position in Cyprus, identified the necessity for a centralised financial core. The intention for the treasury department was clear: it was to be established not merely as another unit within the organisation but as the central hub for financial strategy and management, providing clarity and direction for the company’s financial decisions.

In the foundational stages of creating the treasury department, Panayi was tasked with a significant challenge: to build a financial structure from scratch that could effectively manage liquidity, risks, and align with the strategic direction of the company. Panayi carefully assembled the treasury’s framework, ensuring it was robust enough to withstand the pressures of the financial markets while remaining adaptable to their constant evolution. His approach laid the groundwork for a department that was prepared for both the certainties and uncertainties of the financial world.

As Panayi navigated the complexities of building this new treasury department, he was also instrumental in orchestrating a seamless collaboration between the pre-existing departments of accounting, financial planning and analysis (FP&A), and treasury. He not only cultivated an environment of interdepartmental synergy but also tackled the technological challenges head-on, recognizing the need for cutting-edge financial software. He chose systems not only capable of meeting the current demands for cash forecasting and transaction management but also flexible enough to embrace the future advancements in fintech, ensuring the treasury’s ongoing effectiveness and efficiency.

Navigating change in a traditional maritime industry

The establishment of a centralised treasury in the time-honoured maritime industry posed multiple hindrances, one that Panayi met with strategic ingenuity. Panayi was tasked with instituting a framework that would not only streamline the company’s financial operations but also introduce a culture of dynamism in a sector known for its steadfast traditions.

Panayi recognized that central to this transformation was the need for clear communication and education about the value a centralised treasury could bring to the organisation. By actively engaging with stakeholders and deciphering their concerns, he was able to tailor a treasury function that addressed specific operational pain points. Panayi reflects on this process: “The first thing that came to our mind… was that there is a need to educate key stakeholders and colleagues about the importance of Treasury, and about the importance of how Treasury can add value to the organisation and deliver to the company’s goals.” This focus on stakeholder education was crucial in garnering support for the treasury’s role.

With a foundation of trust and the freedom afforded by the company to manoeuvre, Panayi distilled his strategy into three essential pillars: securing the right people, deploying the right systems, and establishing the right processes. This structured approach was pivotal in carving out a path from which the treasury could evolve alongside the company’s growth.

When confronted with resistance, Panayi persisted with patient explanation and strategic persuasion. He understood that change management, particularly in a traditional industry, was not about unilateral decision-making but about fostering an environment where the rationale for change was self-evident. His commitment to transparency and the consistent dissemination of the treasury’s benefits was instrumental in overcoming scepticism. “Help them understand. And then again, if you still see that certain individuals are very prone like that, they’re not really wanting to change… I find it my role and my responsibility to help people understand,” Panayi explains.

Through these concerted efforts, Panayi did not merely construct a treasury—he laid the foundation for a more innovative, agile, and integrated financial ecosystem within a traditional industry.

The Voyage continues: Charting the future

The journey of OSM Thome’s treasury is far from over. From its inception to a fundamental role in strategic decision-making, the treasury department has become a central component of the company’s financial infrastructure. The transformation from a conceptual blueprint to a cornerstone of strategic operations reflects Panayi’s forward-thinking leadership and underscores the company’s commitment to adaptability and continuous improvement.

With the recognition of Nicolas Panayi as an agent of change, the focus is not solely on his achievements but also on OSM Thome’s proactive approach to financial management. Looking ahead, Panayi told the delegates at the conference that his plan includes refining the treasury’s strategic functions, embracing cutting-edge financial technologies, and boosting OSM Thome’s operational efficiency on a global scale. Key initiatives will be to broaden the treasury’s role in corporate governance, enhance risk management frameworks, and adopt sustainable financial strategies that align with the evolving economic landscape.

The ‘Agents of Change’ award, an initiative by EuroFinance and supported by J.P. Morgan Payments, recognizes and celebrates the achievements of treasurers who significantly transform their organisation’s treasury function. This award not only acknowledges best practices in treasury management, but also honours those who have been instrumental in driving innovative and strategic changes within their departments. These treasurers are celebrated for their forward-thinking approaches, embracing new technologies, developing efficient processes, implementing strategies and for their forward-thinking approaches.