Corporate TreasuryAgility and flexibility are guides for the future of the treasury function

Agility and flexibility are guides for the future of the treasury function

Standard Chartered’s Karen Hom sits down to discuss lessons learnt and of the new challenges emerging

As the pandemic slowly recedes, the treasury function has needed to evolve to meet new demands brought about by rapid change. In a video interview with The Global Treasurer, we sat down with Karen Hom, managing director at Standard Chartered to hear her thoughts on how the function has changed and what challenges treasurers face as new issues emerge.

“What we have seen is the pandemic has clearly gone on longer than anyone ever planned for,” she says.

Many of the challenges that treasurers faced earlier on in the pandemic was around the physical processes of the function. The treasury function needed to quickly adapt and digitise their workflow to maintain business continuity.

“During the pandemic, with everyone working from home, we saw a real need to reduce the documentation that traditionally was associated with transaction banking flows,” Hom says.

She adds the benefits of digitisation go beyond simply having the ability to manage the treasury function from home but have provided efficiency benefits to the business.

“We hope that the continuation of this push to reduce documentation as well as more growth on the payment side: automation of payments, instant payments and QR collection methods,” says Hom. “[This] takes away the paper and work on the reconciliation and makes companies more efficient.”

Indeed, the rapid changes brought about by the last 18 months forced many corporates to become more agile by changing business processes and adopting new technologies. Hom stresses the importance of keeping that agile mindset as the economy recovers.

“Everyone sees the benefits now of technology.”

“As customers and companies become more comfortable being agile there’s less resistance, [to going back] to the way they used to do things. It makes the industry more efficient, makes the whole collection and working capital process much tighter. It also helps companies use their liquidity better and overall be able to invest more in their business.”

ESG and the future of the workplace

As we have learnt to live with the pandemic, new challenges have also arisen. Discussions around ESG have accelerated since the start of this year and has become more acute as a UN report paints a dire picture of the years ahead.

“We’ve never heard so much talk about sustainability across the board,” says Hom.

“What’s exciting for us is companies now have the ability to build a sustainable treasury. They’re looking at how they can use data, technology and automation that they already have and be more strategic.”

She adds, “Every employee has a part to play in the sustainable growth of their companies in the future.”

Though the delta variant continues to keep many workers at home, a consensus seems to be building that the future of the workplace will be flexible. Hom says keeping that flexibility will be important in helping to improve employee mental well-being while also keeping a company competitive for talent.

“That agility gave employees the flexibility to think about work in a more holistic sense; how they bring work into their life instead of the other way around. We hope that this agility continues as companies have been successful in remote working options.”

“Companies are looking more for diversity of skill and diversity of ideas,” adds Hom. “It’s not just people who can read spreadsheets of forecasting or transactional processes.

Hom says she is optimistic for the next six months as M&A has picked up along with new investment but adds now is not the time to be complacent.

We’re all really hoping that we’ll go back to a stage where it’s more predictable. But this pandemic has taught us all to be more flexible in terms of even something as simple as our workforce and where we are manufacturing and how we are selling.”

 

Listen to our full interview with Karen Hom, managing director at Standard Chartered here.

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