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Key questions and golden nuggets from ACT’s International Treasury Week

The Association of Corporate Treasurers International Treasury Week four-day virtual event had an amazing 3,400 attendees and the presentations/webinars/discussions produced some memorable moments, insights and questions in many key areas of corporate treasury, and some hilarious images.

Talking to you from ……?

The problem with meeting virtually is that the participants  give viewers an insight into their home/office or choose a virtual background. Thankfully most chose a view of their office/room. Highlights were:

  • Caroline Stockmann who kept changing her virtual background: a church or monastery??, a park??, a jungle? I kept wondering where she’d appear next.
  • Other speakers gave us views of their home, but boringly we never saw their kids (although some could be heard); Backgrounds included:
    • Sitting rooms: an elegant Vogue designed room;
    • Their favourite picture, e.g. a bowl of fruit
    • back garden, e.g. Mark Carney’s huge, beautiful pine trees
    • bookcases which are so boring, but nowhere as boring as strip lights in one ceiling
    • Naresh Aggarwal had variable lighting in which we could only see his outline.

Building and maintaining team spirit

Many speakers mentioned this in various ways. Important ideas included:

  • having Friday night drinks, pub quizzes, etc. to generating team spirit
  • the ACT’s mental well-being talks and materials were popular
  • supplying face masks for use when have to be in the office
  • subsidising travel costs, e.g. paying for a taxi when have to visit the office to avoid public transport
  • use your spare time take an ACT Diploma (what spare time??)
  • keep calm and be open-minded.

Key corporate treasury focuses

Corporate treasurers had very similar pre-occupations:

  • Liquidity and funding, e.g. cash in the right place at the right time to support the business
  • Uncommitted liquidity: NB don’t have excess as it can be expensive; only drawdown RCF in small tranches when need
  • Worry less about yield and more about how safe
  • Worry about how safe is your currency mix?
  • Cash flow from subsidiaries is vital and ensuring that have enough cash to operate
  • The vulnerability of the supply chain and how to improve.

New drivers

The COVID-19 crisis has brought an increased focus on:

  • Getting closer to and understanding the CFO and the Board, e.g. understanding the “Ladder of influence”
  • Rejigging and making controls “tighter”
  • Digitising functions
  • Keeping an open mind to new suggestions
  • Know Your Suppliers and protecting them has become critical, e.g. pay early where vital
  • Way data is structured and how use it, e.g. I am focussing on “the underlying core of clean golden data”
  • Keeping contact with business units on daily basis
  • Cash pooling: increasing the frequency of pooling
  • Focusing on the basics: “Making sure that we can do what we need to do next”
  • System and process resilience in basic working capital management and the supply chain.

Transition from LIBOR

The most impressive performance after Mark Carney’s remarks about climate change, etc., was Edwin Schooling Latter’s (Director of Markets and Wholesale Policy, at UK’s Financial Conduct Authority) description of the current position in which he described the When, Why, What and How of the current position on the transition from LIBOR. Stunning and well worth a listen, here.

Key points made during this session included:

  • Don’t wait for legislation to emerge; the only way to have control is to be pro-active and not relying on fall-backs
  • Be prepared by pricing all transactions and investments in the new rate(s), and work out where is your risk
  • Work with your banks proactively; don’t wait for them to come to you; together you can develop a solution
    • Make sure you can run every aspect of your business without LIBOR
    • Come up with a robust plan to discontinue LIBOR
    • Don’t get left without a plan at year-end.

The future of international trade

This was the saddest session with Rebecca Harding, CEO, Coriolis Technology, expertly described the current position in which:

  • Trade is still geopolitical and will continue to be politicised
  • COVID-19 crisis is also being politicised
  • Multilateral organisations are under attack, e.g. WHO resigned that morning.

It emerged that the panel thought that governments support of their economies could be a source of conflict, e.g. China v. USA, etc. So trade is going to become even more political.

One key thought from Winny Li, Group Treasurer, PPD Global was:

  • We need to really think about and understand what is baseline and what is the new normal?

Getting ready to restart business

This final session chaired by Caroline Stockmann (from a happy beautiful sunset) and the chairmens of the EACT – Jean-Marc Servat (outside a theatre), IGTA – Helmut Schnabel (from a serious office), and NACT – Tom Deas (from a luxurious sitting room), shared their reflections and thoughts on how to restart business which included:

  • Corporate treasurer role is now the second most important role, second only to the CEO
  • Corporate treasurers are key players in the new normal, but they need to grasp the opportunity (Surprise, surprise, but they have been saying this for years – what will change NOW?)
  • Replacing a one hour commute with a dodgy Internet connection is causing real problems
  • Corporate treasurers are getting used to engaging with the screen
  • Corporates, their suppliers and their banks need to work together to support the whole ecosystem of the supply chain
  • Government support will be linked ESG to reporting and actions, Canada is just the first
  • Just-In-Time working supply chains will be replaced with Just-In-Case more secure chains
  • World needs to become less dependent on outsourcing because of the lack of resilience, e.g. use the cyclical business model
  • Business life is much more than the transactional level relationships created in a Zoom/Team call
  • Biggest problem with the new working remotely is that deep relationships that you can rely on and trust in a crisis don’t develop.

Highlights of ACT International Treasury Week

The question: The fundamental question for your CEO: What is your transition plan to reach net zero carbon transmissions by 2050?

Focus on the basics: “have enough liquidity and the building blocks to survive”

Make sure you can run every aspect of your business without LIBOR

Build back better: This came up repeatedly, so many want this crisis to be an opportunity to change

The problem: “The (world’s) problem is how to increase GDP but not increase CO2?”

THE image:

CTMfile take: A very successful and informative week. Great stuff

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