Treasury Maturity: Strategy for a Future-Proof Treasury with Lee-Ann Perkins

💲 We simplify Corporate Treasury Concepts - 🎙️ From the podcast Corporate Treasury 101

Treasury Maturity: Strategy for a Future-Proof Treasury with Lee-Ann Perkins

Lee-Ann Perkins about Treasury Maturity and Future Proofing

Welcome to the Corporate Treasury 101. In this article, we will explore the concept of Treasury Maturity and uncover the essential elements for a Future-Proof Treasury Department with Lee-Ann Perkins. We will explore the importance of Treasury Maturity, strategies to mitigate risks, and embracing innovation in treasury management.

We are excited to introduce our esteemed guest, Lee Ann Perkins. She serves as the Assistant Treasurer at Specialized Bicycle Components and is a valuable member of the NACHA Advisory Board. With her extensive experience and passion for treasury, she is the perfect guide to help you navigate the path to treasury excellence.

She will share valuable insights and practical advice to empower you to enhance your treasury department and thrive in the ever-changing business landscape.

By reading this article, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of:

  • The Characteristics of An Effective Treasury Department
  • The True Meaning and Implications of Treasury Maturity
  • Proven Methods to Create Shareholder Value Through Treasury Operations
  • Strategies For Ensuring Future-Proofing in Your Company’s Treasury Department
  • Key Areas to Focus on In Advancing the Maturity of Your Treasury Department
  • Lee-Ann’s Invaluable Advice for The Younger Generation of Treasury Professionals
  • And Much, Much More.

So, let’s embark on this insightful journey together and learn from Lee-Ann Perkins about treasury maturity and how to future-proof your treasury department.

Also, Check: Interest Rates and Inflation: Why is it important for Corporate Treasury?

What is a Treasury Department Composed of according to Lee-Ann Perkins?

Let’s start with what makes up a treasury department. Is it just a bunch of people doing the same tasks in one room, or is there more to it? According to Lee-Ann Perkins, our guest and treasury expert, there’s much more to it than that. According to her, the treasury is often an undervalued and overlooked department in many companies. This is because it’s somewhat newer than traditional finance roles such as tax and accounting. However, she points out that it’s gradually receiving the attention it deserves, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, let’s get into what a treasury department typically looks like.

Key Roles in a Treasury Department

Traditionally, the treasury department consists of analysts or accountants carrying out tasks such as bank reconciliations and daily cash inflows and outflows monitoring. This helps ensure the company has the required cash levels for its operations. This is crucial work, but as Lee-Ann explains, treasury departments are evolving to play a more strategic role within the finance function.

The structure of the treasury department should align with the company’s strategy. This is encapsulated in the idea that “structure follows strategy, form follows function.” Therefore, the setup of the treasury department is crucial for its success, and it should be guided by the department’s goals and the company’s overall direction.

A Lean Team of Motivated Professionals

Treasury departments often consist of lean teams. However, these teams usually have driven, curious, and self-motivated employees who continually strive to learn and improve. Employees in a treasury department often handle multiple processes, but it’s crucial to maintain the segregation of duties within the finance function. This typically means having separate front, middle, and back office operations.

In terms of hierarchy, the treasurer usually reports directly to the CFO. Underneath them, there could be various levels of management and analysts.

The crucial point, as Lee-Ann Perkins emphasizes, is that the structure of the treasury department should always reflect the strategy of both the department and the company. This alignment is the key to having a well-functioning, future-proof treasury department.

What Would a Bare-Bones Treasury Department Look Like?

Imagine this: you’re asked to form a treasury department but with the bare minimum of personnel. Can it be a one-person band? How can you ensure that it’s still efficient and effective? These are the intriguing questions posed to Lee-Ann Perkins; her insights provide a valuable perspective on these matters.

The Impact of Lean Staffing

The first thing that Lee-Ann points out is that “lean,” commonly used to describe treasury departments, can sometimes be a synonym for “understaffed.” While it’s true that these departments often operate with minimal personnel, she raises the concern that it may not be doing justice to the company or the treasury profession.

Why? Because the treasury department is no longer just about cash management as it might have been 30 years ago. It has evolved to encompass so much more. There are five specific areas of treasury where professionals bring their education and experience to benefit the company.

Essential Roles in a Minimalist Treasury Department

Let’s consider the basics. If you were to construct a bare-bones treasury department, you would need to separate at least two roles: cash management and operations. Lee Ann emphasizes that segregation of duties is crucial, particularly when dealing with tasks like making payments. This is primarily due to the increasing threat of fraud in the treasury sector.

Having more than one person involved in these key areas is good for the company and the professionals themselves. However, the risk increases when fewer people oversee crucial functions.

The Downside of a Small Treasury Team

Lee Ann also discusses the challenges of having a one- or two-person team. For instance, every team member needs time off or vacation, and it’s unrealistic to expect just a few people to manage a department 365 days a year. Life happens, after all.

This leads to the conclusion that having the right people in the department is essential. In addition, having experienced treasury professionals can significantly benefit areas where resources are stretched thin. The bottom line is that having a separation of duties and experienced professionals in your treasury department is necessary, even if you’re running on a lean staff.

How Does Automation and Regional Differences Influence Treasury Departments according to Lee-Ann Perkins?

There’s a lot to consider when dealing with treasury departments, especially when discussing automation and regional disparities. It’s crucial to grasp these factors, from whether you can afford to automate processes to how treasury departments function in different regions. Hussam and Lee-Ann Perkins delve into these issues, providing insightful perspectives to help us understand better.

The Impact of Automation on Treasury Processes

Indeed, the level of automation in your processes can significantly influence your treasury department. For example, suppose you have someone manually performing tasks like opening bank accounts, analyzing statements, and other day-to-day operations. In that case, Hussam highlights that you may not have the flexibility to offer time off if you’re tight on cash.

Why is that so? Because you need to know your cash position every single day. A lack of personnel or the inability to cover shifts due to the absence of automated processes can leave you vulnerable.

But there’s another challenge that Lee-Ann brings up. Smaller treasury departments often focus more on urgent and less on important work. This approach hampers the maturity and growth of the department. The message that emerges here is the need to take treasury functions more seriously and to back them up with professionals who can help the company achieve its goals.

Regional Differences in Treasury Departments

Hussam then brings up another interesting point: regional differences in treasury departments. He mentions that, based on the podcast’s experience, the US seems more advanced in its treasury capabilities. Is this reflected in how treasury departments are structured in different regions?

In response, Lee-Ann Perkins points out that it can depend on whether you have a centralized or decentralized treasury structure. From her experience, she’s noticed countries outside the US with more advanced treasury setups, though it can vary depending on the company.

Another influencing factor is the level of involvement desired by the finance team and the CFO. For example, CFOs with banking, private equity, or accounting backgrounds can have different perceptions of the treasury department’s role and worth to a company.

Advocating for Treasury Departments

Now, let’s talk about taking action. If you’re a treasurer, Lee-Ann Perkins emphasizes your need to promote the function, highlight its importance, and advocate for adequate staffing and training. This advocacy is crucial to ensuring that treasury units across different regions are equally staffed, educated, and capable of providing the same value.

To conclude, automation in treasury processes and the regional differences in treasury departments significantly impact their function and effectiveness. As a treasury professional, it’s important to understand these factors and advocate for changes that promote the function’s growth and maturity. Remember, as a treasurer; it’s your role to champion the function and help it gain the visibility and expertise necessary for companies to mature and excel.

How Has Technology and Recent Events Changed the Face of Treasury Departments?

Technology plays a crucial role in shaping industries in the ever-evolving business world. Treasury departments are no exception. Advancements have significantly influenced them in technology, especially automation. Further, recent events, such as the global pandemic, have spotlighted their crucial role in the organization. Let’s explore the insights shared by Hussam and Lee-Ann Perkins on these dynamics.

The Transformation Brought by Technology and Automation

Hussam points out how rapid technological advancements, particularly automation, reshape industries. So naturally, this piques curiosity about whether treasury departments have also been evolving in response. Lee Ann affirms this and shares her firsthand experience.

Over her career spanning 19 years in treasury, Lee-Ann Perkins observed immense technological evolution. Take SAP, for instance, a tool widely used in treasury. She witnessed its transformation from a basic tool to an advanced one that aids in real-time data analysis, helps automate processes, and improves accuracy.

She further emphasizes that automation has largely been built with the treasury function in mind. Whether they have a dedicated treasury department or not, companies will always be involved with banks, payments, vendors, and lending. The goal then becomes interacting with these entities in an easier, more automated way. Banks, too, contribute by investing in research and creating automated products to assist the treasury department.

However, it’s important to remember that embracing automation is a process. It requires time, compliance, and an awareness of associated risks. Support from IT departments is also crucial. Still, the changes she’s seen in automation are exciting and create opportunities to make treasury professionals’ jobs easier and more impactful.

The Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic

In addition to technology, an unexpected factor that has increased the visibility of treasury functions is the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the worldwide challenges, the crisis presented an opportunity for treasury departments to showcase their usefulness.

During the depth of the pandemic, the US government provided financial assistance to companies. It was up to the treasury departments to liaise with the banks providing these loans, complete the necessary documents, and ensure that the cash was deposited in the bank when needed. Treasury departments that had proactively nurtured relationships with their banks were better positioned to raise funds when most needed.

The pandemic also allowed treasury departments to leverage the systems and plans they had put in place over the years. For instance, in normal times, cash flow forecasts would be created once a week. During the pandemic, however, they were produced daily, sometimes even twice a day.

In conclusion, technology and unexpected events like the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly changed the face of treasury departments. Technological advancements, particularly automation, have helped make processes more efficient and accurate. But on the other hand, the pandemic has provided an opportunity to highlight the essential role that treasury departments play within an organization. As a treasury professional, understanding these dynamics is essential for driving your department’s growth and success.

What Role Does Technology Play in Structuring Treasury Departments and Their Functions?

Guillaume and Lee-Ann dive into a profound discussion about the impact of technological advancements on the structure of treasury departments and their daily functions. Their conversation elucidates the importance of automation and the effective management of resources in the treasury.

The Importance of Technology and Automation in Treasury Departments

Guillaume highlights how the current economic climate underscores the crucial role of treasury departments. He mentions the potential millions in returns that can be made from effective cash management and foreign exchange (FX) hedging. He advocates for the treasury department to transition from a cost center to a profitable one, given proper management and a clear vision for the future.

The discussion naturally returns to technology, and he queries the best technological structure for treasury departments. He brings up the Treasury Management System (TMS) and wonders whether treasury professionals need to develop skills in specific platforms like SAP or advanced setups like payment factories.

In response, Lee-Ann Perkins firmly believes that automation is critical for any treasury function to mature. However, too much work is involved in managing the inflows and outflows, too much risk, and too much manual work to get out of the weeds without using a technology system.

She also points out that TMS systems are no longer the massive capital investments they used to be. Nowadays, many cloud-based systems are modular, meaning you can purchase only the components your company needs.

Critical Components for a Treasury Department

Lee Ann lists a few foundational pieces that a treasury department should have:

  1. Cash Positioning: This is the minimum requirement, achieved through a TMS or a direct connection to your bank for daily reports. Knowing where your cash is, in what currency, and in what country is essential to run the treasury effectively.
  2. Cashflow Forecasting: Lee-Ann Perkins emphasizes the importance of a 13-week rolling cash forecast. Companies that rely solely on spreadsheets for this purpose may struggle. This is especially true in times of economic difficulty, where forecasting becomes a lifeline. Various cost-effective solutions can provide necessary information within minutes, preventing data from becoming stale.
  3. Fraud Mitigation Technology: In the world, we live in, fraud is a daily occurrence. Hence, incorporating fraud mitigation technology should be a top priority.

Besides these foundational components, Lee Ann suggests that treasury departments must sharpen their technology skills. For example, the days when Excel proficiency sufficed are long gone. Instead, Treasury professionals must understand how various systems work and extract information in real-time without relying on others. Hence, staying agile, curious, and updated with evolving technology becomes crucial behavioral traits for treasury professionals.

What’s the Quick Win for Treasury Professionals Looking to Upscale Technologically?

The dialogue continues as Guillaume and LeeAnn Perkins delve into the subject of technological proficiency and how treasury professionals can take advantage of the resources available to them for a quick win.

Improving Technology Skills for Quick Wins

Guillaume ponders the quick wins for those listening who realize the need to upscale technology-wise. Then, he asks Lee Ann where they should focus their efforts, whether in terms of automation, learning a new programming language, or any other approach she might suggest.

Lee Ann suggests project management training, if available within the organization, due to the project nature of most technology implementations. In addition, she points out the benefits of reaching out to vendors of treasury workstations or cloud-based software for training. Many vendors offer free training or resources on their websites, which could be a quick win.

Understanding how the programs you use regularly function, particularly for your daily or weekly tasks, is also valuable. IT teams within your company might offer training, too. Another handy resource Lee-Ann Perkins mentions is YouTube. YouTube videos made by professionals who understand how systems work can provide useful learning experiences, even if you’re not looking to become a programmer.

Learning from Online Platforms Like YouTube

Guillaume expresses curiosity about what kind of tutorials Lee-Ann Perkins watches on YouTube, asking her about the recent topics she’s been learning from.

Lee Ann shares that she recently tried to understand Python, a popular programming language, by watching videos on YouTube. She quickly concluded that it might not be her strong suit, but she still found value in the attempt. Besides that, she has been using YouTube to understand her TMS system better and gain more in-depth knowledge about the economy, interest rates, and how these factors affect their foreign exchange program.

She also discusses using YouTube to comprehend more about accounting, especially in the current economy. This includes how global economy changes and interest rates affect their foreign exchange program and how this relates to accounting and financial statements. Her goal is to understand how she can use the tools in the treasury to impact EBITDA and manage their covenants effectively and positively.

Defining Treasury Maturity and Identifying Red Flags in a Non-Mature Department

In this section of the dialogue, Guillaume and Hussam query Lee-Ann Perkins on the concept of treasury maturity. They also delve into the warning signs of a department lacking this maturity.

The Meaning of Treasury Maturity

Guillaume is interested in defining treasury maturity. Therefore, he requests Lee Ann’s perspective on what it means and how it could be determined.

Lee Ann defines treasury maturity as the evolution of a treasury department and its processes over time. A treasury department might be very manual at its most basic level, lacking controls, set structures, policies, and procedures. This department would be inefficient and considered at a base level of treasury maturity.

On the other hand, a mature treasury department achieves great efficiency, incorporates automation in all activities, and is procedural-driven. Automation also ensures that processes can be replicated consistently across all regions and areas of the company. Standardization of processes is vital for company operations, particularly for accounting departments and auditors who need to review the processes regularly. Lee-Ann Perkins emphasizes that automation is crucial for the maturation of a treasury department.

The Red Flag in a Non-Mature Treasury Department

Hussam queries about potential red flags in a non-mature treasury department. He asks Lee Ann about any tasks that must be automated, which some departments might currently lack.

Lee Ann highlights the lack of controls as a red flag in any treasury department. She emphasizes the importance of the segregation of duties, especially when managing outbound cash. She explains that having a single person responsible for entering and approving payments is a significant risk. This is not about distrusting employees but protecting systems from external threats like hackers or BEC scams. Therefore, ensuring the segregation of duties, particularly on the payment side, is the first area to look at for automation. This helps to provide security and efficiency for the treasury department.

Transitioning from a Non-Mature Treasury Department to a Mature One

Hussam seeks to understand the process of evolving a treasury department from a non-mature, without enough automation and the right controls, to a mature one. Lee Ann responds with an elaborate answer, providing a blueprint for a company willing to embark on this maturity journey.

The Objective of Treasury Maturity

Lee Ann begins by setting the ultimate goal of achieving treasury maturity: creating an “anti-fragile” department. This kind of department can withstand shocks and influences, both external and internal. The team in this department must be proactive, well-educated about treasury, and attentive to global events. Thus, the aim is to create a robust, informed, forward-thinking treasury department.

Hiring the Right People

According to Lee-Ann Perkins, the first step is in the hiring process. The treasury department should consist of professionals who:

  1. Are dedicated and enthusiastic about the job.
  2. Have a transformative mindset and love learning.
  3. Are aware of and can leverage technology and automation.
  4. Seek to build a solid foundation for the department to grow from.
  5. Can manage everyday tasks while also keeping an eye on the future.
  6. Stay aware of global events, upcoming fraud schemes, changing compliance requirements, and new technologies.
  7. Can plan for future uncertainties, exhibiting a risk-aware mindset.

Evaluating the Current State and Planning for Improvement

Next, Lee Ann talks about understanding the department’s current maturity level. It’s fine if the department is at a low maturity level as long as it is acknowledged. From there, the department can plan for growth.

She advises that the team should identify the weaknesses or the things they’re not doing right, such as failing to ensure segregation of duties or neglecting compliance with the regulations of their jurisdiction.

In addition, they should understand the department’s strengths, career ambitions, and goals and use this knowledge to plan for the journey toward maturity.

The Role of Automation and Systems

Lee Ann reaffirms the importance of automation and systems. But the challenge lies in getting the required resources to implement these systems.

She underlines the need for people in the department who possess influencing skills to secure resources. Successful treasury departments have professionals who can influence and narrate compelling stories behind the data. They’re not just technology or risk management experts but also great leaders and change management specialists.

The department must hire for the present needs and future, considering all the necessary skills and abilities to help it reach a mature state. Lee-Ann Perkins views this approach as a comprehensive solution to transform an immature treasury department into a mature one.

Characteristics and Best Practices of Future-Proofed Treasury Departments

Guillaume is curious to understand what a fully mature and future-proofed treasury department looks like, particularly those considered best in class. In response, Lee Ann describes an ideal treasury department’s features and the latest advancements.

The Foundation: Full Optimization and Defined Objectives

Lee-Ann Perkins kicks off by laying out the basics:

  • A top-tier treasury department is fully optimized. It has effectively integrated automation, hired talented treasury professionals, and honed its operations.
  • These departments have clearly defined objectives that align with the broader company strategy and contribute to creating shareholder value.

Serving as a Think Tank and Center of Excellence

The role of an advanced treasury department extends beyond its fundamental duties. It often operates as follows:

  • A think tank: Treasury departments in this category lead the company with their expertise, guiding processes, expansion strategies, new payment methods, and even changes to the customer base.
  • A center of excellence: Such departments have nurtured strong relationships with banks and vendors across the globe. This network enables them to offer solutions to the company as needs arise.

Adoption of Advanced Treasury Practices

Mature treasury departments don’t just follow the trends; they stay ahead by adopting innovative treasury practices:

  • They use in-house bank structures to streamline operations.
  • They consolidate bank accounts into virtual structures, providing a more unified view of funds.
  • They establish effective pooling arrangements to optimize cash flow.
  • They have a handle on their foreign exchange programs to mitigate currency risk.

Alignment with the Company’s Strategy

The ultimate goal of a mature treasury department is to align its operations with the company’s strategy. Lee-Ann Perkins summarizes this crucial point by emphasizing that a department’s structure and procedures should adapt as the company’s strategy evolves. As the company grows and changes, so should the treasury department.

In conclusion, a best-in-class treasury department is not just an operational unit but a strategic partner that drives the company forward. This department is fully optimized and agile, has clearly defined goals, serves as a think tank, adopts advanced treasury practices, and aligns its work with the broader corporate strategy. As a result, its actions ultimately contribute to creating shareholder value.

Treasury Maturity Future-Proof Strategy analogy as per Lee-Ann Perkins
Image by Kris from Pixabay

Creating Shareholder Value as a Treasury Department

The host, Guillaume, wants to explore more about the role of a treasury department in creating shareholder value. In response, Lee Ann Perkins expands on how treasury departments contribute to shareholder value through their various interactions and operations.

Front-Facing and Interfacing Roles of the Treasury Department

Lee Ann begins by reiterating that the treasury department plays a dual role. It’s both front-facing and interfacing.

In its front-facing role, the treasury interacts with banks, vendors, investors, rating agencies, and shareholders. These interactions directly impact the company’s reputation and value, emphasizing the department’s criticality.

On the other hand, as an interfacing department, treasury is integrated with other company sectors. It’s not a standalone unit but works closely with other departments such as tax, accounting, financial planning & analysis (FP&A), legal, investor relations, sales, and supply chain. This interdependence allows the treasury to be involved in diverse areas contributing to the company’s success and future-proofing.

Treasury’s Contribution to Shareholder Value

According to Lee Ann, the treasury department is instrumental in protecting and growing shareholder value. Here’s how:

  • Safeguarding the company’s financial assets
  • Impacting Earnings Per Share (EPS) positively through effective financial management
  • Controlling the company’s financial risks
  • Protecting the financial returns and assets

Role of Treasury in Protecting Company’s Reputation

A unique aspect of the treasury’s role is the protection of the company’s reputation. As the treasury department is in the public eye, mishaps such as fraud or control lapses could introduce reputational risk. This risk could, in turn, impact the shareholder value negatively.

Balancing Positive Influence and Risk Mitigation

The treasury department carries significant responsibility. It can influence the company positively but also bears substantial risk. To mitigate these risks and manage outcomes, having the right people and foundation within the treasury department is crucial. This way, they can reduce risks and ensure that their actions lead to positive outcomes, thereby enhancing shareholder value.

Adapting to Rapid Technological Advancements in Treasury and the Role of BIC

Hussam, the host, raises an intriguing question about the pace of technology advancement and its impact on the treasury department, especially regarding future-proofing. Next, Lee Ann Perkins provides her viewpoint, focusing on embracing technology, future-proofing strategies, and the importance of the Bank Identifier Code (BIC).

Understanding BIC in the Context of Treasury

For those who might not know, a BIC is a unique identifier for banks used in financial transactions. Each bank and its branches have a unique SWIFT code or BIC. When a company creates its own SWIFT BIC, that code and SWIFT address belong to it. So, when payments go in and out, they connect to the SWIFT BIC, which acts like the company’s address with SWIFT.

Embracing Rapid Technological Changes

As you know, technology is moving fast and is continually evolving. And this holds in the treasury sector as well. Fintechs are regularly launching, new Treasury Management System (TMS) versions are appearing, and AI is revolutionizing the field. Hussam wonders whether it’s possible to ever future-proof yourself well enough with technology moving this fast.

Lee-Ann Perkins embraces these rapid changes with enthusiasm. She recognizes that while it’s impossible to entirely future-proof your technology due to limited resources and the pace of change, staying ahead still has a lot of value. It’s about having fun with the process, learning, and growing along the way.

Future-Proofing the Treasury Department

Discussing future-proofing in the treasury is about anticipating future requirements and risks to ensure the company’s longevity. This starts with a clear foundation. Let me break it down for you:

  • Strong Foundation: Your treasury system should have a solid base that allows room for growth and scale. Continually changing systems aren’t viable, so your foundation needs to be robust and adaptable.
  • Cloud-Based Systems: Given the fast-paced technology era, a cloud-based system is a must. Such systems are easy to build upon and scale as technology changes. Big companies often bring updates and changes to your system, but the treasury department needs to stay up-to-date with the training.
  • Bank Agnostic Solutions and Own SWIFT BIC: Lee Ann suggests two more ways to future-proof your treasury department. One is to be bank agnostic with your solutions. The other is to have your own SWIFT BIC (Bank Identifier Code). For example, if you change TMS systems, you won’t have to reconnect all your bank accounts. Instead, you move your BIC to a different treasury workstation.

Embracing Technology for a Better Impact

To conclude, it’s all about your mindset and not being afraid of technology. By embracing technological advancements, you can find ways to improve your company. Lee Ann mentions ChatGPT, one of the advanced tools she enjoys using, and looks forward to seeing its implementation in treasury as it develops. As treasury professionals, your job is to learn what’s out there and how it can better impact your company if you embrace it.

The Role of Diversity and Inclusion in Future-Proofing an organization

In this part of the conversation, Hussam and Lee Ann Perkins discuss the role of diversity and inclusion in future-proofing an organization. Lee Ann highlights the importance of having a diverse team with different thoughts, education, experiences, and personalities to ensure the company’s adaptability and sustainability in the face of future changes.

Importance of Diversity in Future-Proofing

Hussam asked about the role of diversity and inclusion in future-proofing organizations. Lee Ann strongly agrees, stating that the team drives change and improvements. This is true for all company parts, not just the treasury.

She believes having a diverse team is essential for a well-functioning treasury department. She emphasizes that diversity extends beyond just having different cultures or backgrounds. It’s about diversity in thoughts, education, experiences, and personalities. Different opinions and viewpoints can challenge the status quo, stimulating innovation and improvement.

The Concept of a DREAM Team

Lee-Ann Perkins devised an acronym for the ideal staffing approach in a treasury department, calling it a DREAM team. Let’s unpack what each letter stands for:

  1. Diversity: This is about ensuring different thoughts, education, experiences, and personalities within the team. A diverse team can bring various perspectives and opinions, fostering creativity and innovation.
  2. Recognize everyone’s competitive advantage: Your team has unique strengths. Recognizing and utilizing these to benefit the team and the company is important.
  3. Enjoy continuous learning: The team should consist of people always eager to learn and adapt to new technology and changes in the treasury field.
  4. Agility and adaptability: Team members should be unafraid of change and able to adapt quickly to new situations. This is especially important in a continually evolving field like treasury.
  5. Mentoring and learning: The team should be open to mentoring others and being mentored. With the rapid changes in the treasury profession and team dynamics (especially with remote work due to COVID), it’s essential to have people willing to help or ask for help.

Lee-Ann Perkins believes that a DREAM team, starting with diverse thinking and experiences, is what companies need for future-proofing. Such a team would be tenacious in problem-solving, energetic, engaging, and motivated to excel. They should also be willing to lend a hand to others and able to tell the story behind the data, translating complex treasury concepts into understandable terms.

The Role of Networking in Developing Critical Thinking and Innovation in Treasury

In this part of the discussion, Guillaume asks Lee Ann Perkins about resources to help treasury professionals develop critical thinking and innovative approaches and challenge the status quo. Lee Ann emphasizes the importance of networking in treasury, considering it a vital resource for personal and professional growth.

Building a Network for Career Development in Treasury

Guillaume asks where one could go to train and develop skills in critical thinking and innovation. Specifically, he asks about resources to help challenge conventional thinking and think outside the box in treasury.

In response, Lee-Ann Perkins stresses the importance of networking. She shares her experience of moving to the US from South Africa and how building a network of professionals was crucial in helping her understand treasury, develop her career, and seek help when needed.

Lee Ann points out that networks can assist when stuck with a technical question, trying to learn something new, or navigating one’s career. She believes networking is key to growth in any area of life, especially in a technical field like treasury.

Learning Through Networks

Lee Ann’s perspective is that a lot can be learned through channels like YouTube, bosses, and peers within a company. However, she believes most learning comes from the professional network one builds. Therefore, she encourages treasury professionals to broaden their networks purposefully, get a mentor, coach, and mentor others.

Echoing a saying from Mike Richards, “Your network is your net worth,” she emphasizes that networking is not just about receiving but also about giving back to the community. In her view, by offering help to others, treasurers can uplift themselves and the treasury function.

In conclusion, Lee Ann suggests that you should turn to your network if you’re a treasury professional looking to grow and have questions. And if you don’t have one, start building it today. Your network is one of the most crucial resources you have at your disposal for personal and professional development in the field of treasury.

Role of Treasury Associations in Expanding Networks and Enhancing Skills

Guillaume and Lee Ann Perkins discuss the role of National Treasury Associations (NTAs) in helping treasury professionals expand their networks and develop their skills. Lee-Ann Perkins shares her experiences with various treasury associations and how they’ve significantly contributed to her professional growth.

The Importance of National Treasury Associations

In this segment, Guillaume asks Lee Ann about the presence of treasury associations in the US, similar to those in Europe. He mentions NTAs and the EACT, the European Association of Corporate Treasurers, as examples of these professional organizations.

Lee Ann affirms their existence in the US, recounting her initial journey into the treasury world. She tells us that her first boss, whom she admired greatly, had a CTP (Certified Treasury Professional) qualification, managed by the Association of Finance Professionals (AFP). This is the primary treasury association in the US.

Leveraging Treasury Associations for Career Advancement

Lee Ann shares how she earned her CTP qualification in the US and Canada and has volunteered on treasury committees with the AFP since 2008. During COVID-19, she pursued a fellowship and a treasury license through the Association of Corporate Treasurers (ACT) in the UK, further extending her network and knowledge.

The ACT qualification, she says, was one of the most difficult yet rewarding experiences. While acknowledging that YouTube was a significant aid in her studies, her network was the most vital resource during her learning journey.

Building a Diverse Treasury Network

Lee Ann emphasizes that building a diverse network of treasury professionals to lean on is crucial. She has mentors from the ACT in the UK and has built a vast network of individuals globally. She also recognizes the growing recognition of treasury as a profession worldwide, citing the existence of treasury associations in South Africa and Australia.

Lee Ann encourages treasury professionals to join their local treasury associations. Not only will it help in gaining knowledge and building a strong network base, but it can also lead to lasting friendships. In addition, associations provide a great platform to learn, share, and network with like-minded professionals, ultimately aiding career progression in the treasury field.

Balancing Low-Risk Appetite and Agility in Treasury Operations

In this conversation, Guillaume questions Lee Ann about how treasury operations can adopt a low-risk appetite approach yet maintain agility and flexibility toward innovation and change. Lee Ann provides insightful responses based on her rich experience in treasury management.

Navigating the World of Risks in Treasury Operations

Lee Ann emphasizes that dealing with risks and uncertainties is part of the job of treasury professionals. She uses a powerful metaphor, “A tsunami starts with small detectable waves,” highlighting the need for early detection and mitigation of risks. She emphasizes that it’s crucial for treasury professionals to:

  1. Recognize the ever-present nature of risks: Treasury professionals must be aware of the various risks around them, whether from market fluctuations, organizational changes, or global events.
  2. Understand the source and impact of risks: Knowing where the risks originate and how they affect the company and its operations is essential to develop efficient risk mitigation strategies.
  3. Acknowledge that risks don’t respect organizational structures: Risks can affect all company parts, irrespective of hierarchical or geographical divisions.

Implementing Global Solutions and Treating Causes, Not Symptoms

When devising risk mitigation strategies, Lee Ann suggests that these strategies should not be narrow in scope. Instead, they should be global and designed to protect the entire company. Furthermore, treasury solutions should treat the root causes of risks rather than just addressing the symptoms. Finally, this approach requires a thorough understanding of the risk landscape and innovative thinking to devise robust mitigation measures.

Embracing Change and Anticipating Risks

While the treasury department’s role is inherently risk-averse, Lee Ann emphasizes embracing change and innovation. She suggests that treasury professionals must remain agile and flexible, ever prepared to adapt to new circumstances. If they resist change, they risk becoming obsolete.

Drawing parallels with the COVID-19 pandemic, Lee Ann envisions the treasury department as the “vaccine” rather than the “medicine.” It should proactively put measures in place to mitigate future risks rather than merely reacting to issues as they arise.

This proactive approach extends to all facets of treasury operations, including working methods, foreign exchange processes, automation and tool implementation, and hiring practices. In addition, by anticipating and preparing for potential risks, treasury professionals can ensure the department and the company remain resilient and agile in the face of uncertainty.

Successfully Future-Proofing Treasury Operations: A Personal Experience

In this segment, Hussam asks Lee Ann to share her experience of successfully future-proofing a treasury project. Lee Ann recounts a specific example that demonstrates the importance of identifying a problem and implementing strategic solutions to future-proof the treasury department.

Addressing Liquidity Challenges through Future-Proofing

Lee Ann starts by highlighting the liquidity challenges faced by her global company. They were uncertain about the location and currency of their cash, making it difficult to deploy funds where they were most needed. Recognizing the need for change, Lee Ann’s team embarked on a future-proofing project.

  1. Assessment and Setting Goals: The treasury department thoroughly assessed the existing processes and identified the end goal—to improve liquidity management and accuracy.
  2. Automation and Technology: Lee Ann’s team realized that relying on spreadsheets and manual cash inputs was no longer sufficient for a size company. They recognized the need for automation tools and explored treasury software providers.
  3. Hiring the Right Talent: They hired a professional with expertise in implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to support the project. This individual played a crucial role in sourcing the appropriate ERP solution.
  4. Defining Requirements: When attending treasury conferences, Lee Ann’s team approached software providers with a clear list of requirements. They sought a fit-for-purpose, cloud-based treasury workstation that met their needs while remaining within budget.
  5. Research and Evaluation: They conducted thorough research and evaluated different providers based on their requirements and financial constraints. They found a suitable provider who offered the necessary functionality at an affordable cost.
  6. Project Management and Implementation: Lee Ann’s team approached the implementation process with strong management skills, ensuring the project was completed on time and within budget. They successfully automated their cash management processes, gaining visibility into cash locations and deploying funds effectively.

Expanding Future-Proofing Efforts: Introducing AI Forecasting

After successfully implementing the treasury management system (TMS), the team identified the need for a forecasting tool to enhance their cash management capabilities. In addition, they sought a solution that could integrate with the TMS or work alongside it.

  1. Requirements and Evaluation: Similar to their approach with the TMS, the team attended treasury conferences to find a cloud-based AI forecasting tool. Again, they emphasized the importance of project management to ensure smooth implementation.
  2. Efficiency and Impact: Once the forecasting tool was integrated, the treasury department significantly reduced the time spent on forecasting—from five days a week to just one. The tool provided accurate and timely forecasts, benefiting the treasury department, management, and decision-makers who relied on cash positions.

COVID-19 and the Importance of Proactive Planning

Around three months after implementing these future-proofing measures, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. As a result, the board required more frequent forecasting, which would have been challenging without the automation processes. Lee Ann recognizes the fortuitous timing of their efforts, as they had proactively planned and matured the treasury department earlier.

By implementing processes and procedures during favorable times, they were prepared for the challenges of the pandemic. The project’s success was attributed to the collective efforts of the team and their commitment to the common goal. In addition, the treasury department, CFO, and board benefited from the improved processes and automation.

Lee Ann concludes by emphasizing the importance of putting plans in place before the need arises. Future-proofing involves anticipating challenges and proactively mitigating risks, and improving operations.

Implementing Treasury Solutions: Resource Limitations and External Assistance

In this section, Guillaume commends Lee Ann’s impressive example of selecting and implementing various treasury solutions. He highlights her proactive approach to attending conferences and exhibitions to interact with vendors and make informed choices directly. Guillaume then asks Lee Ann about the resources involved in this process and whether it was a collaborative effort or handled internally.

Taking the Lead in System Selection

Guillaume acknowledges that Lee Ann’s approach resembled a system selection or mini Request for Proposal (RFP) process. Lee Ann confirms this, explaining that they decided to take matters into their own hands due to limited time and resources. As a result, they attended treasury conferences and exhibition shows to interact with vendors directly, ask questions, and evaluate solutions based on their specific requirements.

Limited Resources and Collaborative Efforts

Guillaume inquired about the resources involved in this project and whether Lee Ann and her team accomplished everything themselves or sought external assistance. Lee Ann acknowledges the resource limitations faced by many treasury professionals. Her team consisted of only three individuals, which she considers relatively larger than what some companies have. However, they still faced challenges due to their limited capacity.

  • Utilizing Project Management Skills: Leveraging her education and the experience of their treasury manager, Lee Ann’s team applied project management skills to coordinate and deliver the project within the established timeline effectively.
  • Collaboration with TMS Provider: Given the limited internal IT resources, Lee Ann’s team relied heavily on their TMS provider for assistance throughout the implementation process. The provider was crucial in creating a comprehensive schedule and ensuring the project remained on track.
  • External Assistance for AI Forecasting: Lee Ann highlights the generous support from the AI forecasting tool provider. The provider visited their offices and dedicated a day to help set up the tool, ensuring it met their specific requirements.

Pride in Successful Project Execution

Lee Ann concludes by expressing her pride in the project’s success and the collaborative efforts involved. Despite resource constraints, her team effectively managed the implementation of treasury solutions. In addition, she remains grateful for the external assistance the TMS provider and the AI forecasting tool provider provided, which contributed to the project’s overall success.

Treasury Maturity Resource Limitations and External Assistance by Lee-Ann Perkins
Photo by olia danilevich on Pexels

Advocating for Treasury Solutions: Building Trust and Presenting the Benefits

In this section, Guillaume commends Lee Ann on her impressive accomplishments and asks her about the process of advocating for and selling treasury solutions to the leadership team. He acknowledges that implementing these solutions comes with a certain cost and emphasizes convincing the leadership before the results are evident.

Building Trust and Demonstrating Reliability

Lee Ann explains that it all started with building trust when she joined the company. First, she worked on establishing a strong working relationship with her boss, the CFO, by consistently delivering results and proving that she could be relied upon to get things done. Next, Lee Ann’s ability to gain the CFO’s trust allowed her to take charge of treasury decisions and effectively communicate her maturity strategy.

Aligning Vision and Gaining Buy-in

Lee Ann emphasizes that her vision for the treasury department aligned with the company’s overall strategy, which resonated well with the CFO. She had the support of the CFO as long as he didn’t have to execute the strategy personally. By demonstrating that her proposed initiatives aligned with the company’s goals and having the CFO’s trust in her decision-making, Lee Ann could advocate for treasury solutions effectively.

Presenting the Business Case

Lee Ann highlights that advocating for resources required presenting a strong business case to the C-suite. First, the treasury team gathered all the necessary facts, including the time and financial requirements of the project. Then, they prepared a comprehensive presentation highlighting the project’s importance, its benefits to the company, and the team’s dedication to finding a solution.

  • Quantitative Analysis: Lee Ann ensured that the quantitative aspects of the project made sense to the C-suite. She conveyed the project’s significance by presenting solid numbers and demonstrating the financial value and return on investment.
  • Engaging the Treasury Team: The entire team was involved in the presentation, showcasing their dedication and expertise. This demonstrated a collective commitment to finding the best solution for the company.

Addressing Liquidity Concerns

Lee Ann explains that liquidity was a significant concern for the company, and the treasury solutions presented an opportunity to address this issue. She emphasized the limitations of using spreadsheets and the growing need for a more robust system. The leadership understood the importance of investing to reap future dividends and mitigate liquidity challenges.

Collaborative Negotiations

Lee Ann and her team negotiated with the solution providers to overcome budget limitations. They aimed to reach mutually beneficial contracts that allowed for monthly payments and provide flexibility in case funds were not readily available. This collaborative approach ensured that the treasury solutions were feasible within the budget constraints.

Influencing the C-suite

Lee Ann emphasizes that selling the project involved influencing the C-suite by demonstrating that the proposed solutions would ultimately benefit them. By conveying that the solutions addressed a problem the company faced and offering a viable solution, Lee Ann was able to secure the necessary support and resources for the project.

In summary, successfully advocating for treasury solutions involves building trust, aligning vision, presenting a strong business case, addressing concerns, and negotiating mutually beneficial contracts. In addition, Lee Ann’s approach demonstrates the importance of establishing credibility and effectively communicating the benefits of the proposed solutions to gain support from the leadership team.

Successfully Implementing Treasury Solutions: Timeline, Tools, and Key Advice

Guillaume asks Lee Ann about the timeline for implementing the various treasury solutions. Lee Ann responds that it took 8 months to identify the problem and have a fully operational cloud-based AI forecasting tool.

She highlights that this timeframe is relatively short, considering the complexity of the project and the additional workload it placed on the treasury team. Despite the challenges, they accomplished their objectives within the given timeline.

Impressive Forecasting Tool: DataRails

When Guillaume expresses curiosity about the remarkable forecasting tool Lee Ann uses, she reveals that it is called DataRails, an Israeli-based company. She credits DataRails for saving her time and effort during the COVID period and emphasizes the benefits it provides:

  • Centralized Platform: DataRails offers a centralized platform that facilitates collaboration in real-time.
  • Automation and Efficiency: The tool automates repetitive tasks, streamlines processes, and ultimately improves the accuracy of financial models.
  • User-Friendly Implementation: Lee Ann highlights that DataRails is easy to implement and use, even enabling them to program specific tools and modules as needed.

Key Advice for Treasury Maturity and Future-Proofing

In the concluding part of the conversation, Lee Ann shares important advice for treasury professionals who aim to mature their departments and future-proof their functions:

  1. Success Lies in Strategy: Lee Ann emphasizes the significance of being strategic and paying attention to details when working on treasury projects. Understanding the desired outcomes and formulating a well-thought-out strategy is crucial for success.
  2. Advocate for the Treasury Profession: Lee Ann encourages treasury professionals to be advocates for their profession. Recognizing the potential and future growth in treasury, they should promote the value of treasury and contribute to its positive image.
  3. Maintain Integrity and Positive Mindset: Lee-Ann Perkins advises treasury professionals to uphold integrity in their work relationships and to cultivate a positive mindset and attitude. Passion for what they do and resilience in the face of challenges is essential for personal and professional growth.
  4. Support and Mentor Others: Lee Ann emphasizes the importance of reaching out to and supporting those entering the treasury field. As others have done for them, she encourages treasury professionals to advocate for and mentor emerging talents.

In summary, Lee-Ann Perkins’ experience demonstrates the significance of efficient implementation timelines, powerful tools like DataRails, and the importance of strategy, advocacy, integrity, positivity, and mentorship in treasury maturity and future-proofing efforts. These principles allow treasury professionals to navigate challenges, drive innovation, and create successful and resilient departments.


In conclusion, maturing your treasury department and future-proofing its functions are essential for Treasury professionals. Throughout this podcast, Lee-Ann Perkins shared valuable insights on implementing treasury solutions, advocating for change, and embracing innovation. Key takeaways include:

  1. Identify Challenges: Recognize the specific risks and issues your treasury department faces to find effective solutions.
  2. Collaboration and Resource Management: Build trust and secure support from key stakeholders, like the CFO, to obtain necessary resources for treasury initiatives.
  3. Select The Right Tools: Carefully choose technology solutions, such as treasury management and forecasting, to enhance efficiency and accuracy.
  4. Strategic Implementation: Plan carefully, involves relevant stakeholders, and maintain effective communication during implementation.
  5. Continuous Learning and Mentoring: Embrace a growth mindset, foster a learning culture, and share knowledge to support the long-term success of your team.

By following these principles, you can navigate the evolving treasury landscape, adapt to changes, and position your department for future success. Stay curious, seek growth opportunities, and be a mentor to others in the field. With the right mindset, knowledge, and tools, you can build a resilient and forward-thinking treasury department that thrives in today’s dynamic business environment.

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