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Shaping the future of treasury: Insights on team building, adaptability, and diversity

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The  2024 EuroFinance Global Treasury Americas West Coast conference brought together treasury experts from diverse industries to explore the evolving landscape of treasury roles, focusing on hiring practices, team building, and diversity and inclusion (D&I).

The insights shared highlight the importance of adaptability, strategic hiring, and the integration of diversity and inclusion practices in crafting teams that not only manage financial complexities but also contribute significantly to their companies’ strategic objectives.

Building effective treasury teams

Building an effective treasury team extends beyond simple recruitment; it involves curating a group that dynamically supports the organisation’s financial strategy while fostering innovation and strategic insight. Summa Simmons, associate vice president of treasury at Victoria’s Secret &Co., tackled this challenge head-on when she was tasked with assembling a treasury team from scratch following the company’s spin-off from LBrands. This unique situation presented an opportunity to redefine the treasury’s function and align it closely with the evolving needs of the business.

The treasury team at Victoria’s Secret & Co. was structured to bring a variety of perspectives to complex financial challenges, highlighting the importance of adaptability and a proactive learning orientation in the fast-paced retail industry. As the sector continually evolves with changing market conditions and advancing technologies, the team prioritised not only technical skills but also the development of soft skills like effective communication, leadership, and collaboration. These qualities are essential for a department tasked with influencing and integrating across various business areas.

The strategic approach to hiring focused on filling specific skill gaps and anticipating future needs, ensuring the team remained agile and responsive. The treasury team members were empowered through their involvement in strategic decisions and by encouraging ownership of projects, fostering a sense of investment and motivation to drive innovation within their roles.

Through these concerted efforts, the Victoria’s Secret & Co. treasury team became adept at managing the financial complexities of a major retail operation and significantly contributing to the company’s strategic objectives. The effectiveness of this team underlines the importance of thoughtful team composition in achieving superior financial management and supporting organisational resilience.

Adapting to industry demands

The treasury department at California-based Gilead Sciences has significantly expanded its role, extending beyond traditional boundaries to significantly support strategic decision-making. With a mission focused on developing treatments for life-threatening diseases, Gilead’s treasury is integral in supporting these goals through expert capital management and rigorous risk assessment.

Karina Inga-Kamienski, senior director of capital markets at Gilead Sciences, shared insights into the treasury’s evolution over her 17-year tenure at the conference. She described how the treasury has adapted to the dynamic demands of the biopharmaceutical industry, requiring a continuous enhancement of skills and adaptability to navigate the complexities of a global organisation engaged in extensive research and innovation.

The capital markets  team actively drives strategic initiatives that align with Gilead’s objectives to deliver innovative healthcare solutions. This integration of financial strategy with corporate goals has broadened the required skill set for treasury professionals at Gilead, emphasising the need for a culture of adaptability and continuous learning. This approach ensures that  treasury remains effective and aligned with the company’s mission, responding adeptly to the fast-evolving healthcare sector.

Unconventional career paths and leadership in treasury

Lee-Ann Perkins’ transition transition from a professional artist to Assistant Treasurer at Ankura Consulting underscores the diverse career paths that can lead to leadership roles in treasury. After a career-ending injury, she shifted to finance and treasury, where the unique blend of experiences helped her excel in treasury, where she focused on strategic goal-setting and continuous professional development. Her strong resolve and commitment to excellence, shaped by her artistic background, propelled her from an entry-level role to senior leadership positions.

Perkins has actively utilised her unique background to enhance financial management with creative and disciplined approaches at Ankura Consulting. She champions the treasury profession through various initiatives, including hosting workshops and seminars that underscore the critical role of treasurers in strategic financial oversight and corporate governance. 

Simultaneously, she identifies the proper onboarding and training of treasury personnel as a key challenge, particularly in a remote working environment, and thus, advocates for a hands-on, communicative approach to training that moves away from passive learning, allowing new employees to fully understand their roles and contribute effectively. This emphasis on active engagement ensures that team members quickly become integral parts of the core treasury operations.

Furthermore, Perkins’ leadership style is deeply rooted in mentorship and fostering team development. She personally oversees a mentorship program within her department, pairing seasoned professionals with junior staff to accelerate skill acquisition and professional growth. Recognizing the value of diverse experiences, Perkins actively recruits individuals from non-traditional backgrounds, arguing that varied pasts bring innovative problem-solving skills and fresh perspectives to treasury challenges.

Diversity and inclusion in hiring

The panellists emphasised that robust Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) practices are not just ethical but essential for building dynamic treasury teams that drive innovation and business success. Simmons outlined Victoria’s Secret’s proactive measures, which include crafting job descriptions that appeal to a broad audience and utilising structured interviews that mitigate bias. 

Inga-Kamienski highlighted the integration of case studies and scenario-based assessments during interviews to gauge diverse problem-solving abilities, ensuring a more comprehensive evaluation of potential hires. Meanwhile, Perkins shared Ankura Consulting’s focus on diversity in professional backgrounds, which enriches the team’s collective perspective and enhances performance. Together, these approaches exemplify a commitment to not only diversifying the workforce but also leveraging unique backgrounds to bolster team functionality and company-wide innovation.

The panel discussion underscored the critical role of strategic and inclusive hiring practices in shaping treasury teams capable of navigating the complexities of modern financial landscapes. The insights shared by treasurers highlight the profound impact of diversity, strategic foresight, and adaptability in treasury management. These principles not only ensure the efficiency and responsiveness of the treasury function but also its alignment with overarching corporate strategies, ultimately fostering organisational resilience and sustained growth.