Navigating the Future of Treasury: Insights from Pieter De Kiewit
In the dynamic and ever-evolving world of corporate finance, the role of the treasurer is becoming increasingly complex. Amidst technological advancements and fluctuating societal norms, treasurers must navigate an intricate landscape that demands technical proficiency, robust interpersonal & treasury skills, and a firm grasp of the broader business context.
Today, we bring you an enlightening discussion with Pieter De Kiewit, the man at the helm of Treasurer Search, a niche recruitment boutique focusing on interim and permanent positions in treasury. With a team of 12 employees operating from the Netherlands and Germany, Treasurer Search has successfully placed hundreds of candidates, attesting to its expertise and influence in the field.
Driven by a passion for recruitment, Pieter elected to concentrate solely on treasury, blending elements of entrepreneurship, education, event moderation, and writing into his approach. He consistently marvels at the developments in the field, staying on the cutting edge of trends and changes.
This article offers valuable guidance for current and aspiring treasurers, HR professionals, and anyone interested in understanding the future of treasury work. By reading this article, you can expect to learn the following:
- What key skills should a treasurer in 2025 have or develop?
- What emerging trends or developments are shaping these skills requirements?
- What are the technical and soft skills or areas of expertise becoming more important in the Future of treasury?
- What are the benefits of having an international treasury team?
- How does someone’s culture impact treasury professionals in their day-to-day job?
- And, like always, much more.
Let’s journey together into this fascinating discussion and discover the characteristics and competencies that will define the successful treasurer of 2025.
Essential Skills for the Treasurer of 2025
The future of corporate treasury work lies in advancing technical skills and developing interpersonal abilities and self-understanding. Successful treasurers must identify their unique professional drives and career objectives before building on that foundation.
The Importance of Identifying Personal Drives
Pieter De Kiewit underscores the importance of discovering what motivates you. According to him, it’s not enough to merely amass a set of skills; one should first identify their professional identity. Are you a treasury technician, a business connector, or someone else? Knowing the answer helps shape your professional development.
The Role of Connection to Business
Successful treasurers do more than acquire technical skills; they understand the value of their work in the broader business context. They can translate their cash management, risk, and corporate finance expertise into insights relevant to the business. This ability, Pieter stresses, is key to ascending in one’s career, and it remains unchanged over time, be it 2025, 2020, or even 2015.
Essential Soft Skills
While technical skills are necessary for treasury work, Pieter argues they are insufficient for career growth. Advancement, he suggests, relies on enhancing one’s interpersonal skills and forging meaningful connections with colleagues. Treasurers must learn to communicate complex ideas effectively and to engage their audience with compelling narratives.
Making Treasury ‘Sexy’
Pieter De Kiewit points out that treasury can sometimes be perceived as a dry, technical field. But those who can make it engaging and “sexy” are the ones who progress in their careers. The goal is not to abandon technical detail but to present it in a way that resonates with the people you work with.
Emerging Trends in Skill Development
Regarding emerging trends in skill development, Pieter observes that traditional paths, like earning university degrees, still hold their value. However, he notes that many are exploring diverse avenues such as webinars, tutorials, and other events for continuous learning.
He also sees a shift in the type of skills needed. While technology remains prominent, other skills like risk management are gaining traction. In a rapidly changing environment, the treasurer of 2025 should be adaptable and ready to acquire new skills to keep pace with changing demands.
Addressing Counterparty Risks and Skill Development in Treasury
The field of treasury has seen a significant shift in focus as banks’ default and counterparty risks have taken center stage. The insights provided by Pieter De Kiewit offer an in-depth perspective on the challenges and solutions in the treasury world, focusing on education, agility, skill development, and self-awareness. The conversation reveals a unique blend of hard and soft skills, shaping the future of treasury and recruiting.
The Importance of Agility and Education
Pieter emphasizes the necessity for professionals in the treasury field to be agile. Agility is about having the right mindset, personality, and competencies to deal with changes, not just knowing everything. He shares some critical aspects:
- Changing Environment: The ability to adapt and readjust when plans go wrong.
- Avoiding Rigidity: Being a guru or expert isn’t always right for many positions; flexibility is key.
- Intelligence Quotient (IQ): IQ remains a good predictor of success, as it often reflects the ability to apply concepts to new situations.
For Pieter, attributes like agility and cognitive abilities are not soft skills. They’re innate talents that cannot be acquired easily.
Focus on Skills Development
Pieter provides valuable advice on skills development for trade professionals, urging them to understand their strengths and weaknesses and then work on areas of improvement. He breaks down the approach into several facets:
For Analytical Types:
- Study Business Concepts: Learn how the company operates and connects it to risk and structuring solutions.
For Communication-Driven Individuals:
- Listening and Communication Skills: Understand the goals and language of business leaders, translating them into actionable strategies.
- Adapt Your Message: Learn to present information that resonates with different personality types (e.g., result-oriented CFOs).
The Role of Self-Awareness
Pieter stresses the importance of self-awareness, urging professionals to recognize their strengths and weaknesses. He warns against living the ambitions of others and emphasizes staying true to what drives you. Identifying personal drivers leads to a more fulfilling and successful career path.
The Variation of Treasurer Roles Across Industries and Skill Requirements
The role of a treasurer can vary significantly across different industries, influencing the required skill set. While treasurers have the flexibility to transition quickly between industries, the tasks they perform can diverge greatly.
The Influence of Industry on Treasurer Roles
In nonprofit organizations, for instance, the role of a treasurer differs significantly from a profit-driven company. The same holds when comparing different profit-driven industries. For instance, in the commodities trading industry, risk related to the core business is paramount, and treasurers often interact directly with traders. The treasurer’s decisions can impact the traders’ bonuses, and thus, there’s a need for treasurers who understand ethics and can hold their ground.
On the other hand, in the telecommunications industry, managing payments becomes more critical due to the volume of customers making monthly payments. Treasurers must understand how to automate and organize millions of payments each month.
While a treasurer cannot train for a specific industry, they often gravitate towards industries where their skills are best utilized. Therefore, the industry does impact the role and requirements of a treasurer.
Requirements for Treasury Professionals
When companies recruit treasury professionals, they consider the candidate’s career stage and specific skills. For young graduates, an eagerness to learn and adaptability are valuable qualities. At a mid-career level, companies look for direct, applicable skills — like implementing a new system or ethical considerations — because these professionals will implement and manage specific processes.
However, as treasury professionals ascend to a director or group treasurer position, their role evolves from a technical expert to a strategic leader. They’re expected to lead a team, understand the strategic implications of decisions (like acquisitions), and communicate effectively with the CEO and CFO. Technical skills are still important, but the ability to inspire, analyze the business, and manage a team becomes crucial.
This progression also demands that treasurers take responsibility for their career advancement. While mid-career professionals may receive guidance from their superiors, high-level treasury professionals must actively seek opportunities and demonstrate their readiness for greater responsibility. Those aspiring to become a group treasurer must take charge of their career and claim the role they desire.
Career Evolution for Highly Technical Individuals
One of the most challenging aspects for technical individuals is determining how they should navigate their careers. Many people excel in their specific fields, such as engineering, finance, or technology. However, as they advance in their careers, they often face the daunting task of transitioning from technical roles to leadership positions, which can be quite a different experience.
Understanding Your Professional Ambitions
Pieter De Kiewit begins by emphasizing that not everyone has the ambition to keep advancing in their career. He likens this to a dentist’s career, who might know exactly what they’ll do from their twenties until retirement. He argues that it’s essential to recognize that moving up isn’t a default path and should be a personal choice.
For those who do want to evolve in their careers, Pieter suggests several strategies:
- Finding Your Niche: If you are technically skilled in a specific field, seek out companies with the most exposure, such as banks or international trading companies.
- Understanding the Pieter Principle: Pieter mentions a concept known as the “Pieter principle,” which posits that people often advance in their careers until they reach a point of incompetence. It’s crucial to recognize this possibility and avoid it if possible.
- Diversification: If you reach the peak of your career in a particular field, diversification might be the answer. Pieter cites examples of experts in trade finance who also teach, write books, or engage in speaking events. Becoming a global or national expert in one field might be enough.
- Acceptance of Reality: Pieter stresses that the difficult part isn’t understanding these concepts but accepting them. Some individuals might struggle with the fact that a junior colleague could soon become their equal or even their boss.
Overcoming Cultural Barriers in Multinational Treasury Departments
In an increasingly connected world, treasury departments in multinational companies face unique challenges. With team members from diverse cultures, assembling a productive and harmonious workforce can sometimes seem daunting.
The Intricacies of Global Treasury Teams
Pieter De Kiewit sheds light on the complexity of this situation. The very nature of treasury being international means it operates across borders, often encountering different business approaches that vary from country to country.
Pieter recounts a fascinating example involving European treasurers working for Japanese companies. One might assume that fiscal optimization would be a shared goal across all business cultures, but surprisingly, this is not always the case. In Japan, for example, paying taxes is seen as a way to contribute to society, a mindset strikingly different from the Western viewpoint.
Cross-Cultural Misunderstandings and Their Effects
Misunderstandings often arise from differing attitudes, leading to frustration and feeling unheard within international teams. Pieter gives an example where European treasurers, spotting an opportunity to reduce banking fees, were silenced by their Japanese bosses. The Europeans perceived a lack of response as a cultural difference: Japanese businesses, placing a high value on long-term relationships, chose to maintain their ties with their banks rather than cut costs. However, they did not directly communicate this decision, confusing their European colleagues.
This example highlights the importance of cultural sensitivity and understanding within multinational teams. Recognizing these differences can prevent confusion and frustration, fostering more efficient teamwork.
Cultivating Self-Awareness in a Multicultural Environment
When asked how treasury professionals can avoid such cross-cultural misunderstandings, Pieter emphasizes the importance of self-awareness. The onus should not solely rest on one party to adapt; all members should strive for better understanding and adjustment.
Drawing from personal experience, Pieter observes that Dutch professionals are often perceived as loud and direct, while their Romanian counterparts are seen as quieter but highly resourceful. In such scenarios, it would be helpful if the Dutch professionals, recognizing their tendency to dominate conversations, allowed their Romanian team members to share their ideas more freely.
Pieter points out that women often excel in navigating these complex cultural dynamics. While this does not imply a direct correlation, it suggests that certain skills, such as listening and observing, could benefit cross-cultural communications.
He also notes that many professionals from Eastern Europe and Asia, who typically work longer hours, progress more quickly due to their work ethic and adaptability. This observation is not a value judgment but a testament to how understanding cultural differences can contribute to a more inclusive and efficient work environment.
The Advantages of International Treasury Teams and Essential Skills for Success
Let’s explore the potential benefits and challenges of having international treasury teams. Pieter De Kiewit believes this structure offers key advantages, particularly when dealing with cultural differences.
Enhanced Business Understanding
The first significant advantage is gaining an in-depth understanding of global business operations. Pieter suggests that the treasury should mirror, guide, and support the business. Knowing the company’s activities worldwide, the treasurer becomes better equipped to provide valuable financial advice. This perspective includes supporting colleagues from Brazil to India to Greece while understanding their distinct business practices.
Improved Banking Negotiations
Banks operate differently in various countries. When a treasurer is aware of these differences, they gain the ability to negotiate more effectively. Pieter emphasizes that no universal approach works best; the local method tends to be the most suitable for each country.
While international understanding is vital, treasurers should stay true to their company culture. Pieter highlights the importance of ethics and morals, which vary globally. Remaining ethical in business practices, regardless of the location, strengthens the company’s reputation and ensures that the treasurer’s actions align with the company’s values.
Necessary Skills for International Treasury Teams
Alongside the advantages, there are essential skills to work in or lead an international treasury team.
- Self-Awareness and Reflection: Pieter believes self-awareness is critical, which involves personal reflection and evolving based on learning.
- Active Listening: Listening, and more specifically, active listening, is vital. While advocating for growth is necessary, understanding others’ perspectives takes precedence.
- Curiosity: A successful treasurer needs a natural curiosity and a willingness to learn about developments in their field. This curiosity involves reading, listening to informative podcasts, and staying informed about the world of treasury and beyond.
- Ability to Digest Information: Digesting and interpreting large amounts of information is crucial. Pieter suggests keeping track of news and relevant updates in treasury and other fields is essential. The challenge is to know what’s important and relevant and how it changes over time.
- Inquisitiveness: Being inquisitive and thinking beyond the obvious is key. It involves understanding the broader picture, not just limited to the treasury but other relevant topics.
The roles within international treasury teams come with challenges and rewards. Adapting to this role means being ready to improve continually, being open to diverse business practices, and honing skills that align with global business understanding.
The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in Recruitment
As the field of recruitment continues to evolve, the emphasis on diversity and inclusion is becoming more pronounced. Not only are clients increasingly demanding it, but it also plays a pivotal role in shaping the overall success of an organization.
Understanding the Need for Diversity
According to Pieter, the push for diversity is not merely a trend. Instead, it reflects a deep-seated and sincere desire for inclusivity. However, he acknowledges that this effort is not without its complications. One such issue revolves around whether or not positive discrimination should be promoted. This question arises when clients, to boost diversity, specifically request more female candidates and tend to prefer them when other qualifications are more or less the same.
Another challenge lies in the implementation of anonymous CVs and match reports, in which details like gender, age, and nationality are excluded to prevent any unconscious bias. This approach may complicate the candidate selection process, yet Pieter has observed good, objective matches.
Tangible Benefits of Diversity
Despite these challenges, the benefits of fostering a diverse workforce are undeniable. Pieter notes a noticeable increase in stability within teams that embrace diversity. Moreover, diverse teams bring fresh perspectives and novel ideas, enriching the treasury teams’ skills and strengthening their connection to the business.
Pieter stresses that he hasn’t conducted formal research on this subject. Still, he cites numerous examples that highlight the positive impact of diversity, including the noticeable improvement in his diverse team. Comprising members from various nationalities, including Syrian, German, Bulgarian, and Dutch, Pieter’s team has become more robust, intelligent, and engaging, showcasing the inherent value of fostering diversity.
Unique Challenges of Recruiting in Treasury
The hiring process in the treasury department is a complex matter that demands a specific approach tailored to this field’s unique needs and challenges. Pieter De Kiewit provides valuable insights that underscore the crucial differences in recruiting for treasury roles compared to other financial functions.
Unique Features of Treasury Recruitment
Unlike more structured departments like accounting or IT, where standardization in education and career paths is widespread, treasury departments in various companies can be quite diverse. Despite companies having similar operations, their treasury teams might be distinctly different in structure.
Moreover, Pieter explains that few individuals consciously choose a career in treasury, creating another challenge when recruiting for these roles. It’s often more about finding the right personality and examining beyond standard skills since specialized skills like cash management are usually not taught in universities.
Ownership and Engagement in Recruitment
Ownership is critical to recruitment, particularly when hiring for treasury roles. It’s observed that some senior treasury managers or ‘hiring managers’ might delegate the responsibility of finding new staff members to internal recruiters. However, this may not be an optimal solution.
The reasoning behind this is quite straightforward. An internal recruiter may not fully understand the needs of the treasury department and feel the urgency to fill the vacancies. Consequently, the responsibility to find suitable candidates should remain with the hiring manager.
The Role of the Hiring Manager
Recruiting staff often seems like a chore to many hiring managers. Despite this, they mustn’t avoid their responsibilities. Writing job descriptions, screening applications, and conducting interviews are all crucial parts of the process that shouldn’t be completely delegated.
This approach also relates to the fact that many internal recruiters may not understand treasury lingo. Treasury-specific terms like ‘RCF,’ ‘cash pooling,’ or ‘TMS’ might be difficult to understand, leading to overlooking potential candidates.
Balancing Internal and External Recruitment Efforts
While internal recruiters are undoubtedly valuable and understand company culture well, they can’t shoulder the entire recruitment process alone. There’s always a balance to be found between the hiring manager’s involvement and delegation to internal recruiters.
Qualifications and Skills for a Successful Treasury Manager
To thrive as a treasury manager, one must navigate an array of skills, qualifications, and knowledge areas. According to Pieter De Kiewit, there’s no standard path into the treasury, making it a unique blend of soft and hard skills.
Formal Qualifications and Treasury Certifications
Formal qualifications in treasury add value but are not the ultimate guarantee of success. Rather than being a golden ticket to the top, they are the foundation upon which one can build a successful treasury career. However, qualifications should not overshadow other potential candidates who might lack formal certificates but possess relevant experience and skills.
Pieter identifies a few recognized qualifications in different regions. In the U.S., there’s the Certified Treasury Professional (CTP), while in Europe or globally, there are the Association of Corporate Treasurers (ACT) modules. Germany has the Verband Deutsche Treasurer (VDT) and the Registered Treasurer in other regions. Other valuable qualifications include the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and the Financial Risk Manager (FRM) by the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP).
The road to equating these certifications with established titles like Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is long, but the journey has begun.
Essential Hard Skills
In addition to these qualifications, Pieter emphasizes some crucial hard skills. The top of this list is proficiency in Excel, widely regarded as the most used treasury management system. Strong Excel skills and some Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) knowledge can make you stand out in any treasury department.
Going beyond this, understanding the operations “under the hood” is vital. Treasury management systems (TMS) may vary, but implementing or using one gives a comprehensive understanding of TMS functionality and, by extension, an insight into others.
Role of Accounting Skills in Treasury
Accounting skills, particularly those related to hedge accounting, are appreciated in the treasury. However, they are not always a must. These skills become necessary only in specific assignments, notably those involving complex books stuffed with derivatives. However, Pieter warns against forcing oneself into a heavy treasury accounting role if it doesn’t resonate with one’s interests. Such a path, though potentially lucrative, might not be sustainable.
As the requirements for successful treasury managers evolve, the unique blend of qualifications, hard skills, and an understanding of accounting principles provides a strong foundation for prospective candidates in this field. However, remember that these are guides, not the ultimate keys to success. One’s journey and experiences also play a significant role in shaping a successful treasury career.
Attracting and Retaining Top Talent in Treasury
In the complex business finance landscape, top talent’s significance is paramount. According to Pieter De Kiewit, attracting and retaining top talent in treasury involves a host of best practices. Let’s examine these strategies and why they’re crucial for an organization’s success.
Fostering a Modern Labor Market Approach
The key to maintaining a robust team is applying a modern labor market approach. This involves operating with employees at the same eye level and encouraging mature communication. Pieter points out that it’s essential to understand employees’ individual goals and what they consider rewarding.
Pieter emphasizes the importance of open conversations about what’s important to the team and the individual. Is the focus on career progression, monetary benefits, or family? Finding common ground is crucial in creating an environment conducive to productivity and fulfillment.
Traditional Approach Vs. Modern Method
While the traditional approach prioritizes the employer’s needs, the modern approach highlights the employees. It encourages a mutual dialogue instead of dictating terms. According to Pieter, companies where management decides unilaterally are unlikely to retain talent. In contrast, organizations that treat their employees as equal partners in dialogue are more likely to succeed in employee retention.
Innovative Employee Policies: The Nike Example
A case in point is Nike’s approach to vacation days. The company does not track its employees’ vacation days worldwide. Instead, it fosters a culture of responsibility where employees ensure their work is complete before taking time off. This policy might seem unconventional, but it signifies trust in employees’ ability to behave responsibly.
Recognizing Employee Diversity
Furthermore, Pieter talks about the importance of acknowledging diversity among employees. This doesn’t just mean race, gender, or nationality. It’s also about understanding that a 30-year-old employee may have different motivations than a 60-year-old colleague. The task and the individual’s ability to perform should precede age or any other factor.
The Impact of AI on the Future of Treasury: Perspectives from Pieter De Kiewit
According to Pieter De Kiewit, the future of artificial intelligence (AI) in the treasury is anticipated to have profound impacts. This revolutionary transition, however, might be slower than expected due to various factors.
Acceptance: The Key to Progress
Pieter underscores the significance of acceptance in determining the pace at which AI will influence the treasury. He likens this situation to the acceptance of self-driving cars in society today. While the technology already exists, widespread usage is hindered due to regulations and various societal attitudes toward this innovative feature.
Similarly, AI’s potential to automate standard tasks in treasury is evident, but it hasn’t been wholly accepted yet. According to Pieter, group treasurers and CFOs might not be ready to let go of their control, implying that a period of research and experimentation is on the horizon.
The Unique Challenge: Handling Large Sums of Money
A factor that makes treasury unique is dealing with substantial sums of money. This aspect often adds complexity and raises the stakes. Therefore, introducing and implementing AI in treasury will require meticulous care and high precision.
The Exciting Yet Gradual Transformation
Despite the anticipation surrounding AI’s role in transforming treasury, Pieter believes that change will be gradual. He points out that there have been multiple instances in his 30-year career when people anticipated significant shifts, yet the change was not as swift or as radical as projected. This does not undermine the potential impact of AI on treasury; rather, it suggests that substantial transformations may take longer than anticipated.
The landscape of corporate treasury work is evolving rapidly. In light of this transformation, the treasurer of 2025 must adapt to the changing demands and trends. The successful treasurer must blend unique technical skills, strong interpersonal abilities, and a keen self-awareness.
Identifying personal drives and professional objectives forms the bedrock of a rewarding career. Alongside acquiring technical skills, understanding the broader business context to provide valuable insights is a crucial skill treasurer must master.
Soft skills, particularly effective communication, and storytelling, will also play a pivotal role in career growth. The ability to present complex, technical information compellingly will be what sets successful treasurers apart. Thus, continuous learning and adaptability become essential characteristics in this evolving landscape.
Recruitment for treasury roles should strongly emphasize the right personality fit. Understanding treasurers’ diverse skill sets and fostering diversity and inclusion within teams will pave the way for fresh perspectives and improved problem-solving, resulting in a more stable corporate environment.
As AI permeates the Future of treasury, acceptance and careful implementation will be key. Given the enormous sums of money that treasurers handle, AI integration must be approached cautiously and precisely. While AI promises to reshape the Future of treasury, changes are anticipated to be gradual, requiring an ongoing commitment to learning and adaptability.
The treasurer of 2025 must be a well-rounded, adaptable professional open to continuous learning and innovation. They need to navigate the challenges and opportunities in the dynamic world of treasury with poise and confidence.
A final word of wisdom from Pieter De Kiewit emphasizes the importance of staying true to oneself and focusing on what brings joy. A balance between personal happiness and professional fulfillment is vital for an enriching career in treasury.