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Leading practices part 6B: Staff development

This is the seventh article in a series on leading practices in corporate treasury.

People make iconic treasury departments only if the treasurer adopts strategic human resource management as a responsibility and plays a proactive role in driving development that is good for the treasury team and for the organization.

So how can corporate treasurers optimize human resources and create an exceptional treasury team in a digital world?

Here are our recommendations on how corporations can apply cutting-edge practices for staff development to thrive in a competitive, remote and digitized work environment.

  • Commitment to teamwork: Corporate treasurers may be technically oriented or people oriented, but they function best when they are well-connected and networked across the company’s business.

Working together strengthens networking and connections. It is impossible to grow the treasury business without other people’s help. No treasurer makes it alone. Treasury leaders know that exceptional treasury departments are created by teams, with teams and through teams. This team-centric ethos must be inculcated in the treasury staff and also serve to guide their thought process.

Teamwork is focused on results and is the collaborative effort of a group to achieve a common goal effectively and efficiently, reaching success quicker and easier than individual employees trying to do it all by themselves. Commitment to teamwork requires that members of a team must be encouraged to get to know one another, trust and respect each other, pull each other up and support each other.

It is crucial that treasurers create and nurture an environment where employees can speak freely, engage in healthy debates or disagree respectfully, feel that they can tap into contrasting opinions and perspectives of their fellow team members, and stay receptive to ideas.

Treasurers that leverage teamwork to maximize shared knowledge in the workplace will blend complementary strengths, encourage healthy risk-taking and promote a wider sense of accountability and ownership.

  • Encouraging creativity: With the digitization and automation of treasury and the adoption of e-commerce and online models across many industries and geographies, creativity will matter more than ever before.

Merely waving a magic wand won’t make the staff creative. Creativity has to be forged and fostered and tomorrow’s treasury leaders have to be empowered to be more imaginative, bold and experimentative. Staff should be encouraged to practice and learn in environments where they can share new ideas and test them without the fear of failure. For example, tapping real-time data and analytics to make informed decisions or try out new ideas can help treasury teams take calculated risks that pay off more often than not.

Putting parameters on ideas can produce terrific results if the creative abilities can be channelled into worthwhile projects, outside-the-box thinking or innovations that help treasury or the organization fulfil their objectives. For instance, dedicating a specific budget for experimentation and new initiatives with well-defined goals and KPIs will lead to a more creative approach to treasury management.

  • Ongoing intellectual vigour, learning and upskilling: “The best and the most strategic treasurers never lose their intellectual vigour and curiosity, no matter their levels of expertise or how much information or data they have in their grey matter. They continue to show a penchant for treasury, the business and the economic environment, and range from disciplined to voracious readers,” stated Craig Jeffery, managing partner at Strategic Treasurer, a leading treasury consulting firm. ⃰

Treasury work is often about the magnitude and direction of numbers. It is also steeped in risk management and identifying and mitigating risks of various types, which calls for thinking about matters on a macro level and building a team that is replete with diverse skills, abilities and experiences across financial, technical and market disciplines. This means that the treasury staff must be able to step back and look at things from fresh perspectives, which requires exhibiting a tremendous amount of intellectual vigour and curiosity.

It is a good idea to brand and advocate intellectual vigour as a requirement for treasury staff who aspire to become treasurer or any other organizational leader or manager of significance. Treasurers must demonstrate learning by example. If they demonstrate a predilection for continual learning and development, it can rub off on the treasury staff.

One of the best methods of ongoing learning is to encourage treasury staff to strike up conversations with smart treasures and those in the treasury field who have a record of significant accomplishments. Corporate treasurers should invite bankers and consultants to share ideas with the treasury staff, seek their help to synthesize these ideas into action, and urge them to indulge in dialogue and debate on various topics and trends.

Workplace mentoring programmes can be a powerful tool for staff development. Mentor-mentee matching is an important part of an effective mentoring programme. Creating meaningful pairings taking into account the goals and skills of mentors and mentees and pairing them based on certain considerations to decide who would be best with whom is the foundation of a successful mentoring programme.

Competent treasurers know that there is great value in mentally stretching and challenging their staff as a continual learning mechanism. Putting them in charge of projects or initiatives helps improve their problem-solving and project management skills, grooming future leaders.

Establishing a learning culture is the key to future treasury business success, which is why treasurers must be proponents for continuous learning. Reinforcing upskilling and reskilling as a critical priority will help employees prepare better for the future.

Treasurers must help their staff climb the learning curve so they can develop the skills needed for their jobs – today and in the future. As treasury teams are increasingly being asked to be strategic thinkers and partners to the business, they would need to adopt a technology-first mindset to make more real-time and insightful decisions.

Upskilling will become an essential element to thriving in a technology-based future, and those treasurers who treat it as an employee benefit will be able improve employee engagement and retention.

  • Flexibility and adaptability: Workplace flexibility as a staff development policy enables organizations to attract, develop and retain skilled talent. Flexibility here refers to the ability to adapt to unexpected situations or new circumstances as they arise.

Corporations that create a flexible and adaptive culture can rapidly change their plans to examine the state of affairs, overcome unforeseen obstacles and anticipate the future.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, leadership teams had to respond to a crisis of immense magnitude that forced them to reinvent and adopt new ways of working. Adaptive and agile corporate treasurers reimagined the role of offices in creating productive and safe lives for their employees. They adopted flexible work arrangements, revamped core processes, and embraced remote work, videoconferencing, digital collaboration and technology tools as the new work norm that is now devoid of geographical or locational constraints.

Evaluating employee performance based on the quality of their work and their ability to achieve the goals set out for them rather than the number of work hours they put in is the key ingredient of workplace flexibility. This will go a long way toward keeping them engaged, accountable and productive. 

Corporate treasury departments can enhance workplace flexibility by intentionally recruiting individuals who exhibit higher levels of adaptability. Adaptable individuals adjust to the complexities of changing circumstances or disruptive times, thereby reducing the losses associated with change.

Flexibility is a corporate virtue because it seeks options and is quick to seize opportunities. Adaptability starts with flexibility and thrives when navigating the business through uncertain times. Only when treasury leaders act as change agents, trust their staff, keep an open mind and have a flexible outlook can they expect and enable their staff to respond quickly to change and stay adaptable.

To conclude, adoption of the leading staff development practices enumerated above is the key to building an effective and efficient treasury department and strengthening the organization beyond treasury. Remember, the more marketable the employees are, the more valuable they are to the treasury team and the corporation.


⃰⃰ Disclosure: Strategic Treasurer owns CTMfile.


Read more from this series:

Part 1: Bank account management

Part 2: Bank relationship management

Part 3: Cash concentration

Part 4: Liquidity structure

Part 5: Treasury owns cash

Part 6A: Staff development

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