Insights & InterviewsQ&A with Ashwin Ramji, global assistant treasurer at World Vision

Q&A with Ashwin Ramji, global assistant treasurer at World Vision

The Global Treasurer spoke with Ashwin Ramji about running treasury in a non-profit environment

Few NGOs require a team of treasurers to manage the organisation’s cash. World Vision an international NGO receives donation valued in the billions every year, coming from over a dozen countries. The Global Treasurer spoke with Ashwin Ramji, global assistant treasurer at World Vision to discuss how he manages a non-profit treasury department and the challenges coronavirus is creating.

What are the differences in treasury between a for-profit company and an NGO/ non-profit?

The principles are generally the same, but our relationships with “customers” tend to be different, which can impact our planning as multiple parties are involved to match the sources and uses of cash. Both for-profits and not-for-profits (including NGOs) manage bank relationships, cash and liquidity, investments, and such risks as foreign exchange or commodity price volatility. But, unlike for-profits, we do not have shareholders, investor relations, earnings releases etc.  Every year, World Vision publishes both an Accountability Report and an annual report that reflects our commitment to being transparent and accountable to our stakeholders, and our desire to learn from them as we seek to be even more effective in pursuing our mission.

How are funds moved between donor countries and recipient countries? Is there a middle country?

Global Treasury coordinates the movement of cash from our fundraising offices to offices managing our field programmes. The Global Treasury team works closely with fundraising offices to ensure that the organisation collectively meets both donor requirements as well as the timing of field programmes. At times, multiple banks may be involved, and sometimes those banks may be located in different countries. Global Treasury’s presence ensures that the transfer of funds is handled effectively and efficiently, including maximising the safety of funds while minimising transfer and conversion costs.

You talked about dealing with 13 ‘donor’ currencies. How do you deal with FX?

World Vision is present in approximately 100 countries, many of which engage in local fundraising to various degrees. Collectively, 13 currencies, including the US dollar are utilised by offices that are primarily focused on fundraising. There are typically FX considerations when funds raised in one country are used to support projects in other countries. Global Treasury works with both fundraising and field offices to forecast cash flows to ensure that transfers are as efficient and effective as possible, including managing FX concerns. At the direction of these offices, Global Treasury sets budget rates for planning purposes, and where appropriate protects the value of remittances through vanilla forwards or an actively-managed portfolio of stop-loss orders, and settle contracts in a timely manner.

Are large grants or large donations with certain stipulations siloed from more general donations?

World Vision works carefully with every donor to ensure adherence with specific requirements. Even if funds do not need to be siloed, World Vision ensures it understands donors’ objectives and can demonstrate impact through robust financial reporting capabilities. Global Treasury works closely with the financial leadership across its fundraising and field offices, as well as global financial reporting personnel, to ensure that its efforts are aligned with desired outcomes.

Given World Vision’s long history, are there a lot of legacy systems in place?

World Vision strives for wise stewardship of its donations. This requires a delicate balance of ensuring systems are up-to-date, providing transparency to our donors and maximising funding to programmes for the communities we serve.  We continually assess our financial systems to confirm that investments provide positive results. Our decision to invest in Kyriba reflects this. The system is enabling Global Treasury to consolidate payables processing, bank connections, and operations, while also streamlining funds transfer processes and gaining greater control of costs.

How does donor scrutiny to keep costs down affect how treasury operates?

Global Treasury works with various teams across the global finance function to meet donor requirements and desired outcomes. This may include improving the cost of funds transfer and overall treasury management. This focus on efficiency and effectiveness has driven our recent initiatives, including bank rationalisation, improving policies and processes, and implementing Kyriba as the organisation’s global treasury management system.

You mentioned World Vision works in a fairly decentralised model, does that work best? Are there any aspects you may look to centralise?

World Vision works to understand both the donors’ desired outcomes and the specific needs of the children, their families and communities we serve. We employ effective development and relief practices using a model based on empowering and partnering with local communities to overcome poverty for good.  Some functions however, need to be centralised to ensure standardised and consistent processes.  Global Treasury is an example of a centralised function.

World Vision like many for profit businesses is going to have a short-term cash flow problem. How does a non-profit tackle this?

World Vision has worked hard to establish processes and implement technologies that allow us to navigate through the current state of heightened uncertainty. Our most important consideration right now is knowing where our cash is and how it is being put to work so that we can remain flexible and adapt to changing conditions. Global Treasury is excited that we have already implemented key processes through Kyriba, and are gaining improved visibility of World Vision’s cash.

What general thoughts do you have on what treasurers/ the treasury department should look out for during these times?

Global Treasury’s leadership decided a few years ago to transition key processes and systems online using robust cloud-based technology, so the team is now well-positioned to deal with the disruption that many companies now face. The current coronavirus pandemic has created added challenges such as the increase in cyber attacks.  Now that more people are working online from home, treasurers must remain vigilant to scrutinise every transfer and payment.

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