The Treasury Recruitment Revolution: Adapting to the New Normal

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The Treasury Recruitment Revolution: Adapting to the New Normal

Welcome to the Corporate Treasury 101. This is the 4th and final article of our very special series with Mike Richards, the CEO of the Treasury Recruitment Company and the host of the captivating podcast, the Treasury Career Corner.

Throughout the previous three articles, we delved into the various stages of a career in corporate Treasury, covering topics such as getting started, standing out, excelling as a manager, and becoming an exceptional group treasurer.

This article brings a unique perspective on the treasury job market with a twist. Joining us today is Katie Hardie, a valued member of Mike’s team, whose wealth of experience in Treasury and deep knowledge of the market adds a fresh dimension to our conversation.

By reading this article, you will learn the following:

  • The ongoing battle for top talent in Treasury and how it affects employers and employees.
  • The unique challenges posed by the pandemic and its impact on the treasury job market.
  • Emerging trends in treasury recruitment and strategies for success.
  • Key differences between treasury markets in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe.
  • And much more, as we delve into the exciting world of Treasury and its ever-evolving landscape.

Whether you’re a seasoned treasury professional seeking new opportunities or someone intrigued by the prospects of a treasury career, this article offers valuable insights into the market’s inner workings.

So, let’s embark on this enlightening journey as we unravel the intricacies of the treasury recruitment landscape together.

The State of the Treasury and Recruitment Market

the intricate world of Treasury and recruitment is evolving, and the role of the treasurer has seen significant changes over the past few years.

Let’s dive in and understand these changes together.

Adjusting to the Changing Work Environment

Like many industries, the treasury market experienced significant shifts due to the pandemic. Mike recalls that the treasury industry was gradually recovering from a few flat years marked by recessions when the pandemic hit, and everything stopped.

Many treasurers who had plans to retire suddenly faced managing their teams remotely. However, as the world slowly adjusts to the new normal, new hybrid working models are emerging and gaining popularity among employees.

Interestingly, Mike notes that while traditionally, the desire for flexible work might have been frowned upon, it’s now seen as a necessary adaptation. It indicates that the work environment has drastically changed, and we must adapt.

According to Mike, only 5% of 600 people globally wanted to return to the office five days a week. This is a major shift that speaks to the changing landscape of work and the increasing demand for flexible work arrangements.

The Impact of Hybrid Working in Europe and the US

Katie, who has always worked remotely, brings a unique perspective. She notes that in Europe, the idea of hybrid working was already prevalent before the pandemic. However, the pandemic has further emphasized the need for flexible work arrangements. One of the key trends Katie has observed in Europe is that hybrid working policies have become a crucial factor for job seekers. These policies have also reduced the need for employees to relocate, making job transitions smoother.

Meanwhile, the situation in the US appears to be different. Mike mentions that some US treasurers plan to continue working remotely until the end of 2023, with a possible shift back to the office after that. This contrast between the US and Europe highlights the different approaches and views on the future of work.

The Growing Importance of Flexible Working Policies

The significance of hybrid working policies in the current work environment cannot be understated. As Katie points out, companies must ensure that their hybrid working policies align with their employees’ needs and expectations. A mismatch between what a company promises and delivers could lead to employee turnover, an issue companies want to avoid.

Reasons for A CFO/Team Lead to Insist on Physical Presence in The Office

On the other hand, Guillaume raises the importance of physical presence in client-facing roles. Despite the surge in remote work, the importance of face-to-face interactions shouldn’t be overlooked. Physical presence is crucial in client relationships, especially in client-facing jobs like consulting. Being physically present allows you to gauge the room’s atmosphere and include everyone in the conversation, not just the leader or group treasurer.

Now let’s dive into why top-level executives, particularly Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) or team leads, might prefer having their team members physically present at the office. These reasons stem from several key factors.

The Benefits of Physical Presence

Mike Richards explains that the traditional office setup brings certain advantages, such as:

  • Water Cooler Moments: These are spontaneous encounters and conversations among colleagues, leading to knowledge sharing, idea exchange, or even problem-solving. Such moments can be harder to achieve in a remote or hybrid work setting.
  • Physical Training: This is especially important for junior staff members. The firsthand observation, guidance, and interaction that can take place in a physical office space can be crucial for new hires learning the ropes. It facilitates a more immediate and effective transfer of skills and knowledge.

Mike also highlights that many treasurers have become “accidental managers,” leading sizable teams despite not having formal management training. These executives might find it easier to manage and interact with their teams in person.

However, he also mentions the concept of “virtual water cooler moments,” as shared by a former podcast guest, Luke Bloomink. These casual, non-work-related conversations occur online and can help foster team camaraderie even in a remote setting.

The Cultural Perspective

Katie Hardie brings in a different perspective based on her recruitment experience. She emphasizes the role of company culture and its development, which can be challenging in a remote work environment. When interacting with clients who are restructuring their teams or modernizing their Treasury and corporate finance departments, she often hears about the importance of:

  • Defining Company Culture: The office environment is key in defining a company’s culture and employer branding. When everyone works remotely, it’s harder to convey your company culture to current employees and potential hires. Physical presence can facilitate collaboration and foster a sense of community.
  • Balancing Needs and Preferences: Younger employees often appreciate the interaction and collaboration opportunities offered by an office environment. While they may appreciate the flexibility of remote work, they also want to understand the company’s culture, which is easier to grasp through in-person interactions.

However, Katie also notes that more flexible office attendance policies can have recruiting advantages. Candidates might be willing to commute longer distances if they only need to for a few days a week.

In summary, while remote or hybrid work models offer certain advantages, there are also legitimate reasons for CFOs and team leads to prefer an office setting. The importance of spontaneous interactions, hands-on training, and defining a strong company culture can make a physical presence in the office a beneficial aspect of work.

The Existence and Effectiveness of Fully Remote Treasury Departments

The host, Guillaume, raises an interesting question for his guests, Katie Hardie and Mike Richards: Are there treasury departments that operate entirely remotely? And if so, what are the implications and effectiveness of this setup?

A Shift to Remote Work

Mike Richards offers the first insight on this, acknowledging the existence of fully remote treasury departments. However, he points out that the effectiveness of this setup may vary. He speaks of some candidates who prefer a remote setting, but further exploration often reveals their reluctance to be strictly tied to an office.

Yet, the desire for human interaction persists. Mike points out the importance of personal interaction, even joking about buying his colleagues a glass of wine when they meet again. He argues that some roles may suit remote work more than others – such as in tax or financial control – but stresses that Treasury is an inherently social activity where shared ideas and collaboration play a crucial role.

Remote Employee in treasury recruitment
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels

The Value of Human Interaction

Echoing Mike’s perspective, Katie Hardie also acknowledges the productivity she enjoys in a fully remote setting. However, she has discovered the value of social interaction in a shared workspace setting. She speaks of how she thrives in an environment that fosters a cultural blend, making it a vital component of her work.

Katie believes a 100% virtual environment would be challenging, despite her familiarity with remote work. She highlights the importance of face-to-face interactions, even when working remotely, as she often travels to meet various stakeholders in her role.

Balancing Remote Work with Career Stages

Hussam emphasizes the importance of considering career stages and personal circumstances in the remote working debate. He confesses his love for working from the office and believes this preference is especially beneficial when new to a role. Hussam argues that proximity to colleagues promotes learning, where casual conversations can become opportunities for growth and mentorship.

However, he recognizes that people in senior roles or those juggling family responsibilities may find remote work more fitting. Hussam outlines the balance that must be struck: while new employees can benefit from learning in-office from more senior colleagues, the absence of this experienced personnel may prove challenging.

Hussam and Katie agree on the importance of company culture in this remote versus in-office discussion. They underline the role of effective communication in fostering innovation, especially in fields like Treasury, where brainstorming, risk management, and cash management strategies are crucial.

Understanding the Current Strain on Treasury Recruitment Market

Guillaume poses an intriguing question about the state of the treasury recruitment market. He wants to know if it is strained due to the growing preference for hybrid work environments among treasury professionals and how easy or difficult it is to currently secure a job in the treasury world. In response, Mike Richards and Katie Hardie offer valuable insights.

Changing Trends in Recruitment

Mike begins his answer by illustrating a recent shift in the job market through the story of a treasurer. They posted the same remote working job at three different points in the pandemic. Initially, they had over 150 applicants, but this number dropped to 50 mid-pandemic and fell to just 5 applications a few months ago. Mike attributes this decrease to a drop in the quality of candidates and the impact of the pandemic. He also introduces an interesting point about people being willing to consider new opportunities if the right role comes along, despite not actively seeking a job change.

Mike concludes that the talent pool has shrunk to a “talent puddle,” especially in specific regions. Therefore, recruiters and employers must entice potential candidates who are not actively looking for a job change but could be swayed by the right opportunity.

The Value of Headhunting

Building on Mike’s insights, Katie concurs that the desirable candidates are not desperate to leave their current roles but are open to the right opportunities. She estimates that 80-90% of her candidates are people she has approached herself, underlining the increasing value of headhunting in the treasury recruitment market.

Katie further discusses how the market can vary. For example, earlier in the year, a surplus of job opportunities in the Netherlands meant candidates could be selective, forcing companies to present a unique selling point to attract talent. This situation illustrates the need for recruiters and employers to sell their positions to potential candidates actively.

In summary, the treasury recruitment market appears strained, with a shrinking pool of available talent. However, Mike and Katie’s insights suggest that opportunities still exist for both employers and potential employees if they are willing to adapt their strategies in line with current trends.

How to Attract Professionals to New Opportunities?

In this podcast episode, host Guillaume raises a question to his guests, Mike Richards and Katie Hardie. The question boils down to How you attract someone to a new job opportunity, especially when they’re not actively unhappy in their current role?

It’s About Presenting Opportunities, Not Convincing

Mike Richards emphasizes that their role as recruiters isn’t to convince people to take up new jobs. Rather, they present opportunities that might be interesting to the individual. In other words, they don’t push anyone towards a decision they don’t want to make. When a potential candidate isn’t ready to move, they respect this decision and stay in touch until the person is ready for a new opportunity.

Mike underlines that recruiters have to:

  • Get to know candidates closely
  • Understand the person’s career drivers
  • Be patient and attentive to when the person might be ready for a change

He compares the recruiter’s role to that of a helpful resource ready to assist when the candidate or client needs them rather than pushing them for their gain.

Transparency and Understanding Candidates

Katie Hardie shares her approach to recruiting, which is rooted in transparency and understanding the candidates deeply. She talks about the importance of giving the candidates a complete, truthful picture of the role — its benefits, challenges, and frustrations. This helps the candidates decide if the role is a right fit for them or not.

Here are some key aspects Katie considers:

  • Understand what the candidates are looking for in their next role
  • Offer a comprehensive view of the job, including the great aspects and the challenges
  • Treat candidates with respect and honesty, similar to how she’d want to be treated

Katie believes it’s not just about knowing the candidates professionally but also understanding their situations, such as family life and work preferences. This deeper connection with candidates helps present them with opportunities that resonate with their career and personal aspirations. The relationship with a candidate doesn’t end with placing them in a new role; they often become long-term clients, reinforcing the importance of treating them with respect and transparency.

How Did the Pandemic Influence Job Mobility in The Treasury Market?

Hussam asks Mike Richards about the impact of the pandemic on job mobility in the Treasury employment market. Mike provides an in-depth response, touching on various factors.

A Shift Towards Specialist Roles

During the pandemic, companies were still recruiting but focusing more on specialist roles. Mike shares an instance of a major role he recruited for during the pandemic – a global Treasury position. This high-profile recruitment process took almost a year from instruction to the successful candidate’s start date. This was due to multiple rounds of interviews, the chosen candidate’s six-month notice period, and the general disruptions caused by the pandemic.

Increased Access To Professionals

The shift to working from home opened up new possibilities for recruiters. They found that professionals were more likely to answer their calls and respond to emails when they were working from home. This meant recruiters could reach out to people who might not have been as accessible in a regular office setting.

Delay In Operational Roles and The Logjam Of Talent

Due to the pandemic, more operational roles were paused as people found it harder to move jobs. This led to a kind of logjam of talent, as people put their job searches on hold. Now, as things start to move again, many people are looking for new opportunities.

Recruitment Challenges During the Pandemic

In a surprising twist, Mike brings up the issue of burnout during the pandemic. He highlights how some Treasury professionals faced immense pressures while working from home, juggling their professional responsibilities with personal commitments like homeschooling. This was causing some professionals to look for new opportunities, despite their companies not realizing the extent of the issue.

Recruitment Continues Despite Challenges

Katie Hardie also agrees with Mike’s observations and adds her perspective. She mentions that recruitment didn’t stop during the pandemic. Companies were willing to onboard and relocate people remotely once it was safe. The shift to hybrid working made candidates more available, making it easier for recruiters to schedule conversations at more convenient times.

More Flexibility with A Hybrid Work Model

With the hybrid work model, candidates are more flexible with their availability. Recruiters can now schedule calls during regular working hours instead of before or after work hours. This is a significant shift from the pre-pandemic recruitment process.

To summarize, the pandemic has caused shifts in job mobility in the Treasury market, leaning towards specialist roles and creating a talent logjam. The shift to remote work has increased access to professionals and changed recruitment dynamics, despite burnout and work-life balance issues. The shift towards a hybrid work model shapes the recruitment process, offering increased flexibility and accessibility.

Treasury Recruitment Interview
Photo by Van Tay Media on Unsplash

What Sets the Treasury Recruitment Market Apart During and After the Pandemic?

Now let’s explore the distinct nature of the treasury job market compared to the broader job landscape, particularly in the pandemic and its aftermath.

The Resilience of the Treasury Recruitment Market

Mike Richards shares that the treasury job market has shown more resistance and resilience throughout periods of economic instability, such as the recent pandemic, compared to other job markets. He uses the metaphor of operating at a “mid-level”, implying that the treasury job market avoids extreme highs and lows. This could be due to the critical role of treasury functions in companies – managing financial risks, investing funds, planning financial strategy, etc. So, even in tough times, recruiting for treasury roles remains crucial.

Mike also mentions how he saw different reactions in various geographic markets during the pandemic:

  • UK Market: According to Mike, the UK market is mature and accustomed to using recruitment services. UK firms continued their recruitment during the pandemic, reflecting the sector’s stability.
  • European Market: Europe is growing to recognize the value of recruitment services, with treasury professionals like Katie becoming known.
  • US Market: Mike refers to the US market as still developing, with a unique recruitment structure where recruiters earn solely from their placement fees. But things are changing, and companies are beginning to recognize the importance of specialized treasury recruitment firms to identify passive candidates.

Low Turnover and Constant Demand

Katie Hardie adds another perspective by highlighting that the treasury market is not a high-turnover industry. Treasury roles are vital in every industry, making their demand consistent. While other sectors like retail or hospitality might have experienced severe employment dips due to the pandemic, the treasury job market remained relatively stable.

Katie anticipates that even during a recession, the treasury job market would be affected, but not disastrously. The importance of the treasury function – managing the company’s money, financial risks, and planning – will always be there, ensuring a persistent need for treasury professionals.

To Summarize, while other job markets can fluctuate drastically, the treasury recruitment market remains resilient due to its essential role in organizations and the constant demand for treasury professionals. Even during tough economic times such as the recent pandemic, the treasury market shows a distinct ability to endure, making it unique compared to the broader job market.

Wrapping Up

In this rapidly evolving world, the treasury profession stands as an anchor of resilience, demonstrating a unique ability to weather the storm of economic instability. Whether it’s the impacts of a global pandemic or the prospect of a looming recession, the treasury job market has shown a remarkable ability to endure. Thanks to its integral role in any company, it resists extreme fluctuations commonly seen in other industries.

From the mature UK market’s unwavering trust in recruitment services to the burgeoning recognition in the European and American markets of the value of specialized treasury recruitment firms, there is a noticeable shift in the landscape. The treasury recruitment market is continuously evolving, responding and adapting to the shifting global economic dynamics.

As we progress, the need for skilled treasury professionals will not wane but become increasingly critical as companies navigate uncertain economic waters. Regardless of the future, one thing remains clear: the treasury function, and thus the treasury job market, will remain essential in our global economy.

For all the treasury professionals out there and those aspiring to enter this field, it’s your time to shine. Embrace the challenges, seize the opportunities, and contribute towards building resilient economies worldwide. More than ever, the world needs your skills, expertise, and passion. So let’s gear up for this exciting journey ahead!

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