Global trends, technology and the role of the treasurer in 2025 were hotly debated by treasurers at this year’s Treasury Leaders Summit in London. Treasurers representing industries from gambling to public transport put their heads together in an interactive workshop session, called CoLab to discuss their vision for the future of treasury, hosted by Matt Sims, managing director of HATCH.
A focus on technology and automation was agreed on universally, others argued over the impact of macroeconomic and global trends on treasury. Everyone agreed that treasurers of the future would need to be armed with a dramatically different skillset to those 10 years ago. Strategic thinking, external outlook, and strong communications skills all topped the lists of required assets. All the while treasurers will be required to become centres of excellence for regulation and technology.
Global trends are expected to dramatically change the role of treasury in the future. It’s no secret that the requirements of a treasurer are already seeing a big shift from being predominantly technical to becoming a strategic business partner.
Treasurers agreed that treasury operations would, in general, be smaller in the future as day-to-day tasks are increasingly automated. However, they also believed regulatory teams would get bigger. Treasurers will become “centres of excellence” for regulation and technology.
This shift will be influenced by the global move towards 24-hour processing. Previously banks used to work business hours, but technology is allowing things to become round the clock and faster. Issues of compliance were raised as some treasurers were concerned that instant payments may make controls harder to implement. Others said this would be combated by increasing more preventative measures, rather than focusing on disaster recovery.
Having real-time 24-hour processing may have a huge impact on the way the treasurer works and potentially their lifestyle. “Does this mean that treasury will have to stay on top of their funds over the weekend?” asked one treasurer. While apps will allow treasury teams to work remotely more easily, they may also see shifts in working hours.
Less static working hours will not be the only ‘new normal’ among millennial treasurers. “The idea of a job for life is gone. We now have to control processes around that,” said one treasurer. Once you have accepted that an employee may only stay for two to three years, you should then plan for their successor, for example. “The only thing worse than training staff, only to see them leave, is not training staff and then they stay,” commented one treasurer.
“Most people in treasury have an accounting or finance background. In the future, there will be people with IT backgrounds, there will be more of a focus on people with softer skills, relationship building, self-awareness, negotiation skills,” said one treasurer.
“That will become more important as some of the processing moves down the value chain. That influencing role will be more important than some of that strictly finance knowledge,” he continued.
The role of the treasurer in 2025
Having been asked to ‘bring to life what the treasury function will look like in 2025’, treasurers commenced by outlining the various job functions of today’s treasurer, ranking their importance on a scale of one to five based on a number of factors. These included automation, volume of work, importance to the function of today’s treasurer and business impact.
“We can’t be woolly about our roles – today or in the future – and we need to be ruthlessly analytical about our future for the role of the treasurer to successfully develop,” one delegate commented. “We have to define where we are now to be able to migrate.”
With this in mind, the group moved on to predict the scores for those same job functions in 2025, highlighting where changes are most likely to happen and how the role of the treasurer is likely to change.
- Developing skills
Using the information about the changing roles of the treasurer, discussion turned to the skills that will be needed by treasurers in 2025. The group concluded that the role of treasurers would be much more focused on change management and technology than it is today.
One delegate commented that the role will evolve from today’s process and number driven activity to a point where treasurers become internal consultants who focus on strategy and analytical change.
“Treasury consultants will be there to add value and deliver change, especially through the use of technology, which means learning how to analyse and interpret data better and take a more strategic view. Time will be spent analysing data, not generating it – that will be done by automated processes.”
It was agreed that treasurers will, therefore, need to develop their communication skills – something that’s vital if they are to turn output into something their wider business understands – and learn how to drive a cultural shift so that they ‘get a seat at the table’ within their organisations. This is essential if they are to deliver the true value of the unique understanding and insight treasurers have.
Further notable points made on the topic of skills development include:
- Change management is required to coax people through the inevitable changes we will experience and drive as treasurers. That means we could become people managers, not financial managers.
- Treasurers need to learn how to manage risk in terms of people, process change and adoption of technology. That involves learning how to ask the right questions and working out how to relinquish control and build trust in others, which is necessary in order to become effective change managers.
- Training has to evolve in line with the changing job functions. It’s essential that treasurers know the fundamentals of the job role in order to drive data processing change and successful/effective adoption of technology.
- It’s likely we’ll see a dramatic upskilling of the workforce as automation and artificial intelligence take over mundane tasks. This means managers will have to change their attitude towards staff and their training.
2. Focus on tech
Plenty of discussion revolved around digitisation and technology, and the future impact it will have on the treasurer’s role.
It was suggested that the better the understanding of technology and what it can do to drive business efficiencies, productivity and growth, the easier it will be for treasurers to both introduce change and manage the automation itself. It was also pointed out that treasurers shouldn’t be expected to learn technology, but again they should learn how to ask the right questions and trust specialists to deliver what’s required.
Finally, discussion covered the need for the overall treasury ‘sector’ to play technology catch-up and better align its offering to workplace trends – most notably remote working and bring your own device (BYOD). This includes the development and adoption of apps and implementing security initiatives.
The automation of many treasury functions will happen very quickly, “because we are already nearly there,” said one treasurer. Change management will become a key skill for treasurers. They will also need to look at how to get teams to trust technology and cultural shift towards looking at how to add value to the business.
“Your control should sit with the technology. We will have to revaluate what control really means,” said one prominent treasurer.
Over the next seven to eight years, debt and investment will be auctioned in real-time, predicted another treasurer. “There will be an intermediary, probably a software provider and that processes about 90% of transactions,” he said. Only very unusual transactions will need human input. For example, if you had a floating rate note today, you will auction it and someone will buy in real-time. This will be comparable to the level of automation brought into foreign exchange trading over the last decade.
Cash management is another area that treasurers believe will become streamlines and automated. “We will go down to minimum numbers of bank accounts and in-house banks. It will all be very simple. There will be no more massive daily cash function, trying to consolidate numbers from all over the place,” said a treasurer.
Procurement also joins the list of automated treasury functions. “The biggest problem is the upfront adherence to the rule that you must use a purchase order (PO). Operations hate that rule and they will do anything to bypass it,” commented a treasurer. “We are now tracking the number of POs that are initiated after the receipt of invoice which is quite an interesting statistic,” he continued. The automation of this process would mean that those who have no financial training will no long have to deal with the procurement processes, making the activity much smoother.
Technology developments are expected lead to real-time risk management, giving treasurers far more up to date and accurate data on financial risks. However, the treasurers were not sure if this would reduce or increase human input. The same was thought for insurance risks. While some traditional insured risks will become more commoditised, other risks such as cyber security may require more human activity.
In conclusion, it is clear that treasurers will need to deepen their technical expertise and boost their communication and relationship skills to thrive in the future treasury department. Treasurers agreed that automation would lead to a large upskilling of the treasury team as they take on a more strategic outlook.
All three workshop groups agreed that regulation and technology were most likely to increase by 2025. While automation may reduce the human input needed for many treasury tasks, increased data analytics, newer risks and 24-hour processing by banks may require more human activity than ever before.
Having real-time access to all bank accounts and 24-hour processing goes hand in hand with the millennial work ethic. The new generation of treasurers no longer expect to have a job for life, or even to stay in treasury for life and prefer more flexible working hours. They will also have a heavier reliance on financial service providers rather than the banks.
If these providers are to usurp the banks they must ensure their technology can fill the needs of this new generation of treasurers. One treasurer noted that many fintechs and treasury management system providers often do not have an app. This would be non-negotiable if treasurer were expected to stay abreast of their company’s funding and accounts over the weekend.