How Treasury Management Ensures Organizational Resilience in Financial Crises

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How Treasury Management Ensures Organizational Resilience in Financial Crises

In today’s financial world, treasury roles are crucial for handling crises and technological changes. This shift towards strategic treasury management emphasizes the need for proactive planning and risk management. In this situation, one thing really shines: the resilience and adaptability required to manage crises effectively.

In this article, we will explore Matt Cornwall‘s path and the resilience, adaptability, and strategic thinking essential for managing financial crises. He faced and overcame many challenges with over two decades of experience spanning notable firms like Virgin Atlantic, Dixon’s Carphone, P&O, Capita, and Travelex.

The article provides a deep dive into treasury management’s critical role in ensuring organizational resilience and overcoming adversity. His insights into maintaining liquidity, managing cash flow, and strengthening banking relationships offer valuable lessons on managing challenges effectively.

Matt Cornwall’s Journey to Treasury Management

Matt began his career over two decades ago, starting in accounting. He then moved into corporate treasury right before the global financial crisis.

It wasn’t just about seeking new challenges but about embracing a future-focused role. In treasury, Matt found the dynamic environment he was looking for, moving away from the repetitive nature of accounting. This switch allowed him to delve into various tasks, from geopolitics to cash management.

Building a Career in Treasury

Matt stresses the importance of qualifications like the AMCT but puts a higher value on an open mindset and the eagerness to learn.

Key to Success:

  1. Engagement: Taking part in projects and enhancements.
  2. Experience: Leveraging practical experience.
  3. Learning Attitude: Maintaining a proactive stance towards learning.
Matt Cornwall's Journey to Treasury Management
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Overcoming Challenges at Travelex

His experience at Travelex was defined by resilience in the face of significant hurdles: a cyber attack, internal fraud, and the impacts of COVID-19. The company had to go through a severe disruption when a ransomware attack encrypted data across its global offices.

Conventional communication methods failed, forcing the team to rely on platforms like WhatsApp to coordinate their response.

Through these experiences, he demonstrated adaptability, effective crisis management, and the ability to maintain clear communication under pressure, which is essential for thriving in treasury roles.

Identifying Core Operations Amidst Crisis in Treasury Management

During the cyber attack that Travelex experienced, the immediate challenge was to figure out what core operations needed to continue. The company faced incomplete information and uncertainty about its capabilities and resources.

Despite these challenges, the following priorities were clear:

  1. Ensuring liquidity management to keep the business running.
  2. Maintaining payments and visibility over cash balances were still possible through operational banking platforms.

The Unexpected Challenges and Responses

The cyber attack revealed unforeseen challenges, particularly in human and stakeholder behaviors:

  • Senior management promptly engaged specialist consultants to manage the cyber attack’s immediate aftermath, adhering to legal requirements for reporting the incident.
  • Solidarity with banking partners was crucial. Despite initial concerns about system connections, banks showed support, understanding the mutual need for each other’s services. This cooperation was pivotal in maintaining operations and liquidity.

Additionally, the incident brought unexpected public attention, leading to a need for discipline and control over internal and external communications. The response to the crisis highlighted the importance of clear, limited communication to manage operations and mitigate panic.

Treasury Management Fundamentals

The crisis tested fundamental aspects of corporate treasury, including cash and liquidity management, financial risk management, and bank relations. Trust and cooperation from banking partners were vital, as there was an initial fear that connections might be severed due to the cyber risk.

Treasury Management Fundamentals
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However, strong relationships and the significant volume of transactions facilitated a more supportive response than anticipated.

Ransom Payment Challenges

A critical moment came when Travelex had to consider paying a ransom to resolve the cyber attack. This decision presented numerous challenges:

  • Barclays, Travelex’s main bank, explicitly warned against processing the ransom payment through their accounts, highlighting the legal and reputational risks involved.
  • The need to find an alternative method for the ransom payment showcased the complexities of dealing with cybercrime, including managing sanctions and legal restrictions.

Ultimately, Travelex’s parent company in the UAE facilitated the payment, illustrating the complexities and ethical dilemmas companies face during cyber attacks.

The Aftermath of the Cyber Attack and Subsequent Challenges

The organization faced a daunting task after the ransom payment. It wasn’t a simple fix; laptops didn’t just start working again, and data decryption was only the beginning of the recovery process.

The team had to work closely with cyber risk consultants to understand the next steps and manage the complex process of bringing systems back online. This period underscored the reliance on external experts in times of crisis and the importance of having a robust incident response plan.

Recovery extended well beyond technical fixes. Trust needed rebuilding, both within the team and with external partners. The organization also had to address reputational damage, ensuring customers felt more confident in their security and service.

Internally, maintaining team morale and solidarity was crucial. The leadership adopted a ‘stiff upper lip’ approach, focusing on resilience and a step-by-step recovery strategy.

The Aftermath of the Cyber Attack and Subsequent Challenges
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The Financial Misconduct

As if recovering from a cyber attack wasn’t challenging enough, the organization soon faced another dilemma. Financial misconduct was discovered within a sister company, which quickly spiraled into a scandal affecting the parent company and, by extension, the organization itself.

This scandal involved inflated financial statements and sophisticated schemes that bypassed auditors, leading to a dramatic loss in company value. The implications were severe:

  • The organization’s creditworthiness came into question, affecting relationships with banks and stakeholders.
  • Banks reevaluated their support, with some withdrawing it entirely, further straining liquidity.

This series of events forced the organization to operate under even tighter liquidity constraints, emphasizing the need for transparent financial practices and the importance of maintaining strong banking relationships.

The COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact

The challenges compounded with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit the travel and tourism industry particularly hard.

The organization faced:

  • A drastic drop in revenue, with a 90% reduction in a matter of weeks.
  • Significant cost reductions, including salary cuts and staff redundancies, are necessary.

The pandemic required quick adaptation to unprecedented conditions, demanding agility in decision-making and a focus on essential operations to ensure survival.

It also highlighted the value of clear and compassionate communication with employees during times of significant change and uncertainty.

Lessons for Treasury Management in Crisis

Through this turbulent period, the organization learned invaluable lessons in crisis management, resilience, and adaptability.

Key takeaways include:

  • It is important to have a comprehensive crisis response strategy that includes both technical recovery and human factors.
  • There is a need for transparency and solid relationships with financial institutions.
  • The critical role of clear, compassionate communication and leadership in managing through multiple, overlapping challenges.

Treasury Management Perspective for Overcoming Crisis

When an organization faces a sudden 90% drop in revenue, managing cash flow becomes its lifeline. During such a critical period, the focus shifts entirely to cash forecasting, a task requiring meticulous attention and involving the highest leadership levels.

The process involves:

  1. Daily prioritization of payments, ensuring essential commitments like staff salaries and taxes are met.
  2. The challenge of managing both predictable outflows and less predictable inflows.
  3. Making tough decisions, including staff redundancies and closing significant business divisions, is necessary to preserve cash.

This approach underlines the importance of strategic financial management and operational agility in maneuvering through crises.

Treasury Management Perspective for Overcoming Crisis
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Transitioning Through Administration

Travelex took drastic steps to manage its financial instability, including entering a pre-pack administration process for the main trading entity. This move, while difficult, was essential to preserve the company’s ongoing concern.

It involved transitioning operations to a surviving entity, thereby severing ties with long-standing creditors to avoid total collapse. This period also saw the organization opening numerous new bank accounts swiftly, showcasing the importance of strong banking relationships during crises.

Leadership in Times of Crisis

Throughout these challenges, leadership was crucial in maintaining team morale and operational continuity. Key leadership qualities included:

  • Transparency and honesty, balancing the need to share important information and withhold sensitive details.
  • Empathy, understanding the personal and professional concerns of team members.
  • Effective communication, ensuring clear, concise, and timely updates to keep the team aligned and motivated.

These leadership qualities are essential in fostering trust, resilience, and a sense of purpose among team members during times of uncertainty.

Advice for Treasurers Facing Black Swan Events

For treasury professionals facing unprecedented crises, the following strategies are vital:

  • Maintain a level head and a sense of humor to cope with stress.
  • Prioritize clear, succinct communication to guide teams effectively.
  • Empathize with team members, considering their perspectives and concerns.
  • Celebrate small wins to foster a positive outlook and team spirit.

These practices help treasurers build a resilient team capable of withstanding significant challenges, ensuring the organization’s survival and eventual recovery.


In conclusion, Matt Cornwall’s journey through significant crises at Travelex underscores the pivotal role of adaptability, clear communication, and strong leadership in treasury management. Facing a cyber attack, financial misconduct, and the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization learned the importance of resilience and strategic planning.

Key strategies like maintaining liquidity, managing cash flow, and fostering solid banking relationships proved crucial. Leadership qualities such as transparency, empathy, and effective communication were essential in overcoming these challenges.

These experiences highlight the necessity for treasury professionals to prioritize strategic financial management, operational agility, and team morale during crises. Cornwall’s story offers invaluable lessons on overcoming adversity, underscoring the significance of preparation, adaptability, and the human element in crisis management.


What is the role of technology in modern treasury management?

Technology is crucial in modern treasury management, as it streamlines processes, enhances data analysis, and improves risk management through automation and digital tools.

What strategies can help in managing liquidity during a crisis?

Strategies include maintaining a cash reserve, forecasting cash flow accurately, cutting non-essential expenses, and accessing emergency funding if necessary.

How can leadership qualities impact treasury management during crises?

Leadership qualities such as transparency, empathy, and effective communication are vital for maintaining team morale, making strategic decisions, and maneuvering through crises successfully.

What qualifications are crucial for a career in treasury management?

While qualifications like the AMCT are valuable, an open mindset and eagerness to learn often hold more significance in the dynamic field of treasury management.

How can treasury management mitigate the risks of cyber-attacks?

Proactive risk management, including robust incident response plans and maintaining operational continuity, is critical for treasury management to mitigate cyber attacks’ impacts.

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